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What a Garden Taught Me About Fear

Spiske

There is something so inviting about the feel of warm earth between your fingers. It tugs at our agrarian roots, reassuring us that the cycle of life continues – seed, seedling, plant, produce, seed.

 In Central Oregon, late May to early June are safe times to consider planting a garden. But, many veteran gardeners enter heated debates as to whether one should wait until the snow is off the peaks of the Black Butte Mountain. Something about the magic of that mountain gives protection for the gardens resting in its shadow.

This year, I felt brave, put spade to dirt, and against all reasonable advice planted – tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, squash… A banquet of vegetables and herbs.

I meticulously covered each raised bed and pot with warming cloth, confident that I had taken every precaution to assure gardening success, until…

The nightly news revealed a storm lingering off the coast, warm air meeting cold resulting in potential thunderstorms. Now the thing you may not know about Central Oregon is that thunderstorms are often accompanied by significant hailstorms. And when I say hail, I don’t mean a few little hailstones falling to the ground. I mean there is so much hail that it looks like it snowed. The ground is covered, the deck is covered, and yes – your raised bed garden is covered. But not just covered, it is destroyed! Pitted leaves, broken branches, young shoots shred. For a gardener, it is devastating – your heart sinks with the forecast.

Luckily, the storm was forecast for the following afternoon giving me enough time to insulate the garden against its formable enemy. I called a friend to borrow drop cloths, plastic sheets, or vinyl tablecloths- anything that could act as a barrier against the potential insult of frozen stones.

And then it happened, my mind raced to that place of looming disaster. The place where fear taps you on the shoulder and claims defeat. Instantly I was taken back to the last time a hailstorm destroyed my garden. I was 7-days post emergency surgery. It was a time of vulnerability, a place of weakness. And now I was reliving the situation, fear was winning.  

My mood shifted from peaceful joy to panic. What if the storm wipes out the garden? Why did I plant so early? How could I let this happen again?

That evening I planned and strategized how to protect my crops, how to defend against the looming storm.

The next morning brought with it a beautiful sunrise and a sweet revelation – what if the thing I was the most fearful of never happened? What if the storm passed, no hailstones – just a gentle rain that nourished the ground?

I took a deep breath, released the tension in my shoulders, and chuckled. The revelation brought an indescribable calm and then a somber thought. Even if the storm strikes, the garden is pelted, the loved one dies, the healing never comes, the career, reputation, possessions are all wiped away – God remains God.

He’s still in control.

He continues to love me.

My relationship with Him never changes.

Satan will lie to you, hoping you believe the story he has contrived from the memories of your past. The story is filled with half-truths, distortions of reality, and just enough facts to keep you engaged. But his goal is to keep you fearful, fretting that something may happen, anticipating the unknown. And as long as he can keep you focused on him, you lose sight of your Father.

Isaiah 43:1-3(a) tells us,

1But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

New International Version (NIV)

A soft rain fell on and off throughout the day, the sun played hide-and-seek, and then grey clouds gave way to a beautiful blue sky. The storm adverted for today. My fear never recognized.

I don’t know what you are facing. But I am confident that God stands with you. Fear does not have to cripple you, it has no power over you. In fact, most of our fears will never be recognized. But when we do have to face them, remember we never face them alone.

God promises to:

Still the waters.

Extinguish the fire.

Never leave, forsake, or abandon you.

You can trust Him.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,

God Never Promised Easy

Photo by Unknown

Margie has been a part of our family since I was a child. She was my mother’s best friend and the grandmother I never had.

She was a big woman with a round face encircled with tight gray curls. She was most frequently seen in public with a wig pulled neatly on her head, short brown hair going in every direction. Yet in the comfort of her home, her wig would be quickly pulled off and tossed on the kitchen table.

I think Margie was my mom’s only friend, the one she would call sister. She was a confidant, the person my mother could rely on when everything around her was falling apart.

When my father lost himself over another love, Margie helped to bring justice – an icepick does wonders to car tires and the angry wrath of a dishonored wife. When it was time to celebrate birthdays, Margie helped to plan surprises, wrestling oversized birthday cakes in the back of her small car. And when my dad found his senses, Margie was the first to encourage mom to forgive.

Margie was a stable force in my family.

Reflections of her through the eyes of my childhood mind always bring memories of her hands. I know it is a strange focal point but you have to understand, her hands represented so much to me…

They were large and powerful from years of manual work, wrinkled and weathered from time spent in the sun. They told her story, each line, freckle, and crack.

She would envelop you when she gave you a hug but those hands…

They provided direction, one placed on each shoulder, making certain you were not losing track – carried off your path. Their strength helped to reassure you when you were off balance. They were weighty and a constant reminder that she was available, ready to support, a fixture in your life.

Margie raised her children alone, worked hard to provide for her family and her children’s families. She scratched, saved, and sacrificed to make ends meet, and yet each day she woke early, faithfully, determined to make the most of each minute.

Her life was not easy. Yet, she had an inner joy. A peace that was consistently visible, even during sickness, recurrent delays, and frequent hardships.

As a young woman, I spent time with Margie. We would sit on her front porch, drinking tea from her favorite plastic glasses, and she would teach. Not the type of stuff you learn from the halls of academia but the curriculum that life experience brings, suffering brings, the lessons that you can only know when you’ve been pushed beyond yourself.  

One afternoon while she was shelling peas, recently picked form her garden, I asked Margie, how do you do it? How do you get up every day, face the struggles you do, and still have a smile?

She looked up from the bowl nestled between her legs, peaked from under her sunhat, and said,

God never promised easy!

He told me He would be with me, through it all, and that’s all I need.

Sisters, life can be so hard at times. Whether from personal crises, poor choices, or natural catastrophes.

It is hard being human.

But we have to be honest, God never promised easy. He never promised our dreams or desires were going to materialize. He never guaranteed wealth, status, or professional success. He promised us that he would be with us through our lives, despite personal disappointments, in the face of our struggles. And, He assured us that he would never leave us, never forsake us. 

John 16:33 tells us,

I have told you these things so you may have peace in Me. In the world you will have much trouble. But take hope! I have power over the world!…

New International Version (NIV)

And Matthew 28:20 adds,

… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

(NIV)

Margie trusted that God’s power would prevail in her circumstances. Her faith was demonstrated in her attitude, the way she walked through the world.

But how about you and me? Do we believe that God will provide? Do we trust that His power is sufficient for our challenges, that He loves us enough to come through, that His plans are the best?

I encourage you to take time this week to search your heart and determine what you believe about your Father. Challenge yourself to face what you are placing your trust in and wrestle with what you’re allowing to direct your life. You may be surprised at what you discover.

BeLOVED, God never promised easy but please don’t forget,

You are loved,

You are His daughter,

You are His BeLOVED!

Be Blessed,

Value…

Photo by T. Colomb

As women, we deal with an ongoing dialogue in our minds, a struggle of the heart. Our conversations may use different words but they all cause us to question our sense of worth, our positions in the world, our value.

Take a few minutes to watch this video by Jeremy Anderson and when you’re done come back and join me here.

Jeremy uses a dollar bill to drive home his point about true value.

No matter what we do to the dollar – crumple it into a ball, stomp on it, or rip it in two, it never loses its innate value. It will always be a dollar.

He goes on to shares that life can throw some hard blows; our circumstances can take a real toll. But regardless of what we face, what we have experienced – we remain, YOU remain valuable.

Powerful words!

YOU.

HAVE.

VALUE.

At the end of the clip, Jeremy shares a few steps we can take to recognize our merit,

Pick yourself up… dust yourself off… and keep on moving.

These are all encouraging statements. Yet, I can’t help but feel that he may have left out something important.

Jeremy fails to share how we are to accomplish these tasks. How do we recognize our significance by picking, dusting, and moving?

I want to suggest that it isn’t enough to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move especially if we continue to face the same old direction or continue to look for meaning in our careers, possessions, or status. Merely hoping our broken thinking or Satan’s lies will no longer influence us is not an effective plan. We have to change the scale by which we measure ourselves.

When it comes to a dollar bill, it has worth because, at some point in history, our founding fathers said a dollar is worth a dollar. It is more than just ink and paper, it can be spent.

In the same way, we have value, not because of our form and features, our possessions, or our cleverness. We have value because our Father has deemed us valuable.

 In Genesis 1:27, we are reminded,

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. His creation, in His likeness, His image. And that truth is unchanging.

New International Translation (NIT)

We are created in God’s image, an unchanging truth. And because we bear His image, our identity, our purpose, and futures are orchestrated by God’s great hand. We can rest in this truth regardless of our pasts, faulty thinking, or Satan’s lies.

So the next time you are tempted to doubt your value. When the challenges of life attack your very core, please remember…

You bear the image of your Farther and in Him you are valuable. It is an inherited trait, a gift from God.

Be Blessed,

Pride Comes Before a Microwave Fire

Microwave fire
Photographer Unknown

I’ve always considered myself an intelligent person. Not a brainiac by any means but someone that exercises good judgment, can organize a plan and can see my way clear to plan completion.

That was until last week!

Last week provided a new perspective on my abilities and judgment.

Here’s what happened.

My friend was making fabric surgical masks. You know the kind you can put a filter inside to give greater protection from our invisible viral enemy. She made them from fun cotton fabric and gifted me with a blue floral one.

She had neatly tucked a filter into the pocket and reassured me that it would protect me from all that attempted to assault my respiratory system. What I failed to recognize was the filter had been constructed from a vacuum HEPA-filter made from polyurethane.

Okay, you may already be jumping to the conclusion but just hold on…

My husband and I grabbed our masks and ventured out to our favorite grocery store, a brief trip to a local superstore, and a final stop at the gas station. We headed home and once there unloaded the car, put away our treasures, and washed our hands. And then it dawned on us. Our masks!

We heard we were supposed to clean them after each use so, after a little internet research and a consult with my microbiologist friend; I tossed them into the microwave, set the temperature to “high” and the timer for 2 minutes.

I had moved out of the kitchen and down the hall when I noticed an odd smell. I followed it back to the kitchen and to my shock, smoke was billowing out of the microwave. I opened the door and a cloud of white filled the kitchen. (Just as a side note, it is VERY hard to get the smell of burnt fabric out of your hermetically sealed virus protected home.) Our masks sat in the center of the turntable, a singed pile of smoldering fabric. I grabbed the masks, tossed them in the sink, turned on the faucet, made my way back to the microwave, and turned the fan to high. The smoke was still lingering as my husband rounded the corner, “What happened?” he asked. I responded with uncontrollable laughter “I sterilized the masks!”

He responded, “You microwaved the masks?!!” This time his question caused me to pause and I took a better look at the charred remains. And there it was the answer right in front of my face, the filters! I had forgotten to take out the filters!

Polyurethane does not hold up well when you microwave it.

Mystery solved!

So, that’s my story.

Okay, if I’m being completely transparent there is just a little more…

And here is where the story turns from laughter to humble admission.

If we back-up to the discussion my husband and I had about cleaning the masks, I failed to share that he had challenged me about my proposed cleaning technique (that was the reason for his questioning after the incident).

He had learned all that was needed to kill the virus was a quick spin in the dryer, a short stent hanging in the sun, or a spritz of disinfectant. But, my science-y friend had given an expert response and I was going to follow it.

Proverbs 16:18 reminds us,

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

New Living Translation (NLT)

In my case, pride came before a microwave fire.

Looking back over my life, it has been filled with times when self-importance came before harsh words that hurt my husband. Smugness came before decisions that resulted in devastating outcomes eroding my self-worth and value as a woman.

Conceit,

Vanity,

Egotism drove me to actions that forced a wedge between God and me.

Pride leads to destruction, every time, all the time. And the outcomes can be life-altering.

Our microwave was fine. All that was required was a little all-purpose cleaner and eventually, the burnt smell left our house. My friend gave me a second mask, a sweet puppy print.

But sometimes in life rebounding from our prideful behavior and their outcomes are not as easy. We can’t just sanitize our souls, air out our hearts and walk away. Sometimes, we have to get face down in front of our Father and repent of the attitude that keeps us trapped.

I encourage you to take a few minutes today to look at your heart. Do you harbor pride, cling to conceit, vanity, or an inflated ego? Are their outcomes in your life that you can trace back to your stubbornness?

God offers freedom from pride’s bondage.

He waits for you to reach out and confess. And every time we genuinely repent, He forgives and restores.

Andrew Murray, in his book Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness, shares,

Pride needs to die in us for anything of heaven to live in us.

BeLOVED, I am praying that pride is banished from your life so the blessings of heaven can overflow.

Be Blessed,

Signature - Allison

Distance is Not Isolation

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Photo by Unsplash

Sixty years is a long time to share life. A lot of time to build memories and recognize dreams.

Few couples reach this milestone, but that’s exactly how long Harold and Grace have been married. Their celebration coming right in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such a beautiful remembrance amid a time of great sorrow and pain.

But that was Harold and Grace’s life, a love shared during times of great challenge. Harold served in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict. Grace was an elementary school teacher and both lived in a world of racial unrest and discrimination. They rose above the limitations of that day and created a life filled with memories – the birth of their girls, their weddings, the birth of grandchildren, and vacation experiences that brought insight about the world around them.

When asked what kept their marriage strong, Harold responded,

I did whatever Grace told me to do.

Harold is a strong 90+-year-old. He drives, walks several miles a week, and continues to be involved in his church, the lives of his grandchildren, and his veterans’ group.

Grace is a feisty chocolate-loving-80-something. She loves to craft and can often be seen following her man as he logs his miles. She is the cornerstone of the family, gently influencing her daughters and fussing over the lights of her life – her grandchildren.

There had been a discussion of a trip for this milestone anniversary. But the pandemic was threatening to derail any plans for a celebration.

Until…

Their oldest daughter stepped in. She was not going to allow a virus to isolate her parents during one of the most important days in their lives.

Thankfully, virtual meeting technology saved the day!

From around the Northwest and across the street, we gathered to honor Harold and Grace and recognize their special day. A slide presentation filled with family memories graced the screen. Their wedding stories meticulously shared. Reflections of their first home and the construction of their current home all laid out like it happened just yesterday. And every facial expression, every teary eye was shared, live-streamed on the screen.

The virus required us to be distant, separated for our safety, but we were not isolated. We shared life, we exchanged laughs, we felt loved – we were physically apart yet together.

We are learning through this season of social distancing and self-quarantine, that there is a significant difference between distance and isolation.

Space and time can keep us apart, distance us from one another, but it does not hinder our ability to form relationships, to share our hearts, our thoughts, and our lives.

Seclusion, protection, loneliness are all synonyms for isolation. These words paint a picture of the outcome when we stand-alone. No one to speak truth into our lives, share our victories or dispel the lies. No one to hold on to when life gets tough, just separated, and alone.

Proverbs 18:1 tells us,

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

God created us, from the very start, to be in communion with Him and one another.

So, as we continue to create safe spaces to fight this invisible enemy, don’t let Satan’s lies keep you isolated. Remember to,

  • Reach out to loved ones, neighbors, friends (through technology, a note, a wave, and a smile)
  • Spend time with God, reading His word and reflecting on His goodness
  • Consider small acts of kindness (a chalk message of encouragement scribbled on the sidewalk or notes of “We Can Do This” attached to your neighbors’ doors)

And if you start feeling like the four walls of your world are going to completely close in, take a deep breath and be assured,

You are not alone.

Distance is not isolation.

God is with you.

(38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

Blessings His BeLOVED,

Signature - Allison

A Taste of His Miraculous

IMG_20190412_065907829-EFFECTS
Photo by A. McCormick

I woke this morning with this nagging sense of sadness. It sat with me as I ate breakfast, followed me throughout my morning, and then nestled close as I sat to read.

I wrestled to identify a reason for the emotion. Until, I stopped and reflected on our new reality – a world of imposed limitations, social distancing, forced confinement. And now, experts are telling us it could be weeks before we flatten the curve and move towards our post-virus norms.

Certainly, a reason to be sad.

A friend shared,

We are relational people.

And as relational beings, we mourn the loss of our freedom, the touch of a friend, the interaction of our tribe. If we are honest, we are all a little sadder, a little out-of-sorts, as we adjust to the rhythms of today.

I continued to sit curled in my office chair until I noticed our dog, Titus, pacing the floor. A clear indication it was time to go outside for a walk.

We made our way out the garage door into the sun peeking through gray clouds and the wind swirled in the trees. We headed down the street and crossed the intersection when I caught a glimpse of the trees lining the normally busy street.

The trees had buds gracing the ends of their branches. Some ready to open while others tightly closed waiting for warmer weather. We moved from tree to tree, admiring the uniqueness of each.

And as we moved, I noticed something had changed in my heart. The sadness had shifted and in its place was an overwhelming sense of calm. A peacefulness in my world despite all that was wrong in the world.

Titus finished all he needed to do and we turned the corner to head home.

thomas-galler-5wuNddHCWfY-unsplash
Photo by T. Galler

A single bird’s song could be heard in the distance. The dirt in the flowerbeds adjacent the sidewalk disrupted by the crowning of crocus and daffodil. The earth was coming alive.

Such a contrast – the beauty of God’s magnificent creation on display despite the circumstances of our world.

We made our final turn towards home and I realized, this simple walk had helped shift my sadness to overwhelming satisfaction and peace. My perspective changed to focusing on the creator instead of the brokenness.

Sadness, fear, and anger are all natural reactions to our new lives. But, we can’t allow these feelings to hold us captive in a world that still contains so much beauty – God’s masterpiece revealed in such personal ways.

  • A surprise discovery of children’s artwork on the sidewalk.
  • A hummingbird, motionless on a branch.
  • The silence of early morning – void of the noise from cars and trucks.
  • Lingering over a warm cup of tea, no demands, an opportunity to just be present.
  • Time, unscheduled and unhurried, spent with loved ones in person, through technology, and in the memories of our minds.

These are all gifts our new reality offers us. Wonderfully orchestrated by our Father.

Frank Peretti, author of This Present Darkness shares,

God does not waste an ounce of our pain or a drop of our tears; suffering doesn’t come our way for no reason, and He seems efficient at using what we endure to mold character. If we are malleable, He takes our bumps and bruises and shapes them into something beautiful.

I am confident that God is going to use the outcomes of this virus to mold our character, shaping us into something beautiful. But only if we are malleable. Only if we are willing to see beyond our limited perspectives to His amazing plan. Only when we surrender to His authority and love.

Today we may not be able to comprehend what beauty can come from such devastation but God asks us to trust Him. Trust that His ways are not our ways and that He remains in control – even in the face of the chaos we are experiencing.

Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us,

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sisters, how are your hearts, your attitudes, your mindset?

Has sadness, fear, or anger overcome you?

Do you need to experience God’s amazing perspective-shifting love? A little taste of His miraculous in the face of the mundane of your days.

I encourage you to spend time with your Father today. Settle into a comfortable chair, plug in your favorite worship music, and prepare your heart to be moved from anxiety to calm. God is waiting for you to surrender those things that keep you wrestling. He offers in their place His peace, a peace that is beyond our mind’s ability to understand.

BeLOVED, you can trust your Father!

He loves you,

He cares about you,

He provides.

Be blessed my sisters and know that I am praying for you,

Signature - Allison


Do you need some encouragement today? Consider listening to this song by Jeremy Riddle.

We Are Not Alone

2014-10-21-fathercomfortingchild
Photographer Unknown

A doctor had to give a painful shot to a four-year-old girl. When she learned what the doctor was about to do, her face showed anxiety and her body tensed. As the doctor picked up what looked to the little girl to be a needle large enough to kill an elephant, she turned her eyes to her father, who then took her hand and fixed his eyes on hers. An expression of confidence and calmness came on her face. She knew she was not alone and found comfort, not in her father’s spoken answer, but in his presence with her in her time of need. (1)

Dear friends, it is no surprise that we are living in difficult times. The burdens of life are inescapable. Our lives, careers, families, and faith are being tried and challenged daily.

But as the story illustrates, we are not alone.

Despite the painful shots of life that come and pierce our hearts, we have a loving Father who is by our side who is willing to take our hand and comfort us in our time of need.

“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.”

Psalm 119:7

 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

 

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:1-2

These truths are but a few of the many anchors that keep us moored when the burdens of life blow upon us. But they only serve their purpose when our eyes are fixed on the One who calms the waves of the sea (Mark 4:35-41).

“But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!”

(Psalm 141:8)

God calls us to look to Him, trust Him, and lean on Him daily.

Let me ask, when trouble strikes, where do you go or to whom do you trust?

Do you trust in self-reliance or do you trust in the LORD who holds all things in His hands?

Do you seek shelter in self-pity or do you take shelter in the Most High?

When darkness falls, do you walk in the light of your own counsel or do you seek out the word of God to light your way?

Let us search our hearts and answer these questions because if we don’t, the burdens of life will come and they will answer them for us.

May the LORD bless you and keep you.

Jim


Jim is a former Marine and retired California police officer. He has a passion for sharing his love for Jesus through writing and teaching.

(1) Green, Michael P., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, page 21