Monthly Archives: September 2011

Pioneer Women: Alone on the Range

To read installment one of this series, click here.

Installment two of this series can be found here.

She stood outside her dilapidated home and took in the view. Amber fields, ripe and ready to harvest waved at her. The milk cow mooed in the distance. The hot breeze that assaulted her disheveled hair into a tangled mess whispered mockingly in her ear. “There’s no one out there. No one to offer you sympathy over how tiring it is to tend to your children while you attempt to clean up the house. No one to discuss the latest fashion. No one to hear what a great dinner idea you had.”

I wonder if, as this strong woman fought off the urge to dwell on these thoughts, she began questioning why she’d ever put herself in this position in the first place. Didn’t she know she’d be away from civilization, sometimes for months at a time, when she packed up her wagon and headed west? Surely she looked past the sparkle of adventure in her husband’s eyes and voiced her concerns for getting help in medical emergencies. Almost undoubtedly, she never talked to him about the nagging fear she wrestled into submission each mile she put between herself and the home she left behind. The fear that she would be isolated, an island in a sea of wheat, with no one to share the sweetness of friendship.

The fear was not a new one. She’d fought it as a child when her siblings said she was too little to play with them. She’d choked it back when she was a young woman trying to not look foolish while her peers giggled comfortably with each other. At church dinners when everyone else had someone to talk to and she could only seem to get in the way, she willed herself to hold back the tears. In fact, perhaps it was because of her need to get away from all the people who made her feel so alone that she decided to escape the misery and bury herself in the busy life of a farmer’s wife on the prairie.

Yet the feeling of being alone seemed to haunt her no matter what setting, season, or circumstance. Even as her children ran busily around her, her husband shared the day’s events with her over dinner, and she walked the streets of the nearest town, she felt that no one was truly enraptured with her life, feelings, or dreams. No amount of busyness remedied the ache in her heart. The more she tried pushing it out with a longer to-do list, the more hopeless she felt.

At last, she listened harder to the whispers in her mind. A promise from a still, small voice sounded just a bit louder than all of the hurtful ones that plagued her days, urging her to listen to His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Her cynical heart scoffed at this statement. Hadn’t even those she loved done one or the other to her for as long as she could remember? Hadn’t she done it to those she loved? How could it be possible that anyone would always be there? Yet there He was again saying the same thing, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

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“I will never leave you nor forsake you” – a timeless promise from God alone that is just waiting to speak to women at any time in history. No one is exempt from those feelings of loneliness, but the same percentage of us want to admit it’s true. We’re all created with a gaping hole in our lives that only God can fill. We try with all we have to deny it in so many ways, but God waits patiently for us to believe He’s there. It’s a difficult process to embrace the truth, yet it’s necessary to find peace in fully knowing that if we are pursuing after God, He is faithfully with us each intricate step of the way.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Perspective

It’s been one of those days. Not terrible, but just enough annoying little things to grate against my sanity. When there’s yet another car repair in less than two weeks time, I force my chin up and remember that God’s gotten us through worse. When Little Man is having a rough day and prefers whining to his normal cheerful chatter, I tell myself to not lose my patience.

But that flesh part of me is begging to succumb to the pity party. So I try something that goes against my normal tendencies and pray for perspective.

This image I saw floating around facebook the other day flashes back into my mind. It could be worse, and I’ll joyfully go without my morning glass of milk and scrounge up leftovers for lunch.

Yet again, selfishness fought to take over my thoughts, and again God gave me perspective through a name this time. Youcef Nadarkhani, a believer in the same Jesus who listens to my petty complaints, awaits possible execution in an Iranian prison. At the very same time I’m drawing with sidewalk chalk on a sunny day with my son, he’s separated from his wife and two children, on the verge of becoming a martyr. The only sure way he will be released from prison is if he denies his faith in Christ. His response to this ultimatum:  “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?…I cannot.” (Foxnews.com)

So I hug my son tight and assure him of my love. I thank God that at least we have a vehicle. I fight back tears as I’m humbled to realize that perspective and gratitude are key. Each breath that I take, each moment I spend openly praying and reading my Bible, each dollar I spend on our needs instead of wants – they’re gifts with which I’ve been trusted, not to be taken for granted.

Tend to Your Garden – Part 2

If you missed the confessional on my sad first attempt at gardening in last week’s post, you can check it out here.

I realize as autumn begins and the remnants of my garden are now uprooted with the soil sitting dormant, I had even less of an idea of what I was doing than I thought when I started this little plot in my backyard a few months ago.

The day that my dad came with the tools to put the foundation together, I frantically  went to the greenhouse to pick out something to put inside of it. There was no plan. I just wanted a garden. So I returned home with five different vegetables to nurture and harvest, and little to no idea of what I needed to do to make that happen. I knew nothing about the spinach, broccoli, or carrots, but I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. I’d give them soil, sun, and water. What more did I need to know?

It turns out I needed to know a little more than what they looked like in the produce section of the grocery store to help them grow properly. I learned through trial and error some key things about each plant’s personality. Give spinach the proper amount of space to grow and to avoid choking each other out; be able to identify the difference between a carrot leaf and a weed; do not let broccoli go too long before harvesting or it will turn into a wild mess.

My naive belief system about gardening in the early days was as foolish as believing that all a mother must do to successfully raise a child is to eat, clothe, and provide shelter for her young one. There is so much more to it if the child is to grow into his or her full potential. In the short two and a half years I’ve been a mother I’ve figured out a couple of things: there is so much that books, givers of advice, and life experience just can’t tell me about how to raise my child.

For starters, I have to love my son. I do my best to lovingly provide for his needs, but then I work to go beyond that by spending time with him. If I see an area where he’s struggling, I support him and educate him on how to improve. When he’s ready to take on a new milestone, I encourage him to accomplish his goal and then help him reach for the next one.

When I look at love this way, I acknowledge that I didn’t do a great job of loving my garden. I know that my son is infinitely more important than my garden, but I believe that God is using both in my life to teach me some truths about my own spiritual condition. I must cherish my relationship with God and love the bond that He and I share so much that I give it the time and encouragement it needs. I cannot leave it be, but I must observe it’s strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to tend to it as it grows. Otherwise, weeds can sneak in and soak up some nutrients I need; lack of care could cause growing knowledge to go wild and not only be useless, but embarrassingly messy looking.

Feeling love towards my garden is not enough. I have to put that love into action. Another truth I’ve learned in parenting is that I must know and accept my child for the unique person that he is. While how-to books may open my eyes to a fresh perspective when I’m stumped on how to teach him, feed him, or discipline him, I have to remember that none of those authors know my child’s personality and particular set of circumstances.

I watched my garden die as I skimmed gardening books and tutorials on how to tend to specific plants in my garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t always allow for the situations that were exclusive to where my garden is located. While my neighbor’s gardens seemed to be thriving, nothing about their methods seemed to work on my garden.

How often do women attempt to function by the compare and copy method? “She gets up and reads her Bible at 4:00 A.M., so that means I must do that to be right with Jesus.”     “Her kids always eat healthy food, so I have to throw away all of my kid’s treats.”   “I can’t begin to look as gorgeous as she does, but if I go on the same diet that she did, I might start to match up a little.”

In reality, compare and copy does not work in situations of personal growth because we each have a unique, intimate relationship with God. It’s important to learn from others, but to allow that to become the focus rather than growing a stronger relationship with Christ is an exhausting, futile attempt at something that is missing the mark entirely.

How is your garden? Do you know the characteristics and causes that brought you to your garden’s current state? The beautiful truth of the matter is even if you do not have all of the answers to raising a bountiful spiritual garden, you can start with what you know, give it to God, and ask Him to grant you wisdom to start doing it the right way.

My son, if you receive my words,
      And treasure my commands within you,
       2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
      And apply your heart to understanding;
       3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
      And lift up your voice for understanding,
       4 If you seek her as silver,
      And search for her as for hidden treasures;
       5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
      And find the knowledge of God.
       6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
      From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
       7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
      He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
       8 He guards the paths of justice,
      And preserves the way of His saints.

~Proverbs 2:1-8

I linked up at

Meditation Mondays

I write this post with the windows open, the breeze gently nudging the drapery, and a distinct autumn scent wafting in. As this year is getting ready to head into its final months, I’m beginning to reflect.

This past year has not been flawless. I have not awakened each day with an immediate desire to dive into the Word, feeling nothing but happy thoughts toward everyone I know, and driven to accomplish something worth noting. I have lost my temper towards those I love, had my feelings hurt, tended to and experienced illness, and failed to remember important events in my loved one’s lives.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to find joy in so many things, both great and small. Watching God answer prayers that seemed too lofty to even ask Him for, crashing toy cars with my son, going on dates with my husband from time to time, learning what true ministry is, letting go of that which was behind and pressing on to that which is ahead. It’s mind-boggling to try to comprehend all that has happened in the past nine months, so I stand before God and just say, “Thank You for helping us survive it all!”

Over the past year, I’ve worked to include scripture memory and meditation as a key part of my daily life.  This simple act has revolutionized my perspective on situations that used to bury me in fear.

That’s why I would like to dedicate my Monday posts to a scripture. It may just be a verse with no thoughts from me, or perhaps a few thoughts or questions it brings to mind, I’m not sure yet, but I have learned this much through purposefully taking time to think about how God’s Word is speaking over my life: His Word is powerful! Mondays can come with a sense of dread, a series of unfortunate events, and an overwhelming to-do list, but if we all took a minute to be still and know what His Word says, how much more ready we would be to face the challenges of the week ahead.

The verse that I am currently working to memorize is Deuteronomy 31:6:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

I pray that God speaks to you through this passage as He currently is in my life. What verse are you currently memorizing or meditating on? Please take time to share it in a comment. Let God use you to encourage someone else today. Even if you’re not the comment-leaving kind, take time to share a verse with a friend or family member today.

Pioneer Women: Driving Forces & Landmarks

To read the first installment of the Pioneer Women series, click here.

What drives women to action? Many worthy causes have inspired women in history to discover a cure, fight for a cause, become an entrepreneur, and become an example and inspiration to us all. But I just can’t believe that every woman who is now dubbed a pioneer in her field started out a brave, confident lady who fearlessly took a risk.

Sometimes it’s fear that drives us. We’re afraid of being hurt or abandoned so we run away from the root of the problem for as long as we can.

Sometimes it’s grief. I can easily think of a myriad of organizations that have been founded by someone who was struck with the pain of losing someone they loved more than anything in life.

Sometimes it’s love. For what other reason does a mother take care of a sick child in the middle of the night without a second thought? Or do three thousand loads of laundry and sinks full of dishes in any given week? Or challenge unfair treatment of her child at school?

So many times it’s a need to belong to a cause greater than ourselves. When we begin evaluating our worth in this life, we naturally start to size up how much of a difference we’re making. Are we making the world a better place?

Those strong women who blazed the Oregon Trail had to be driven to action in order to willingly take the journey. Some of them were running from something; some of them loved their men so much they would give up everything to follow him to the ends of the earth; some must have looked at the life that they had and wondered what more they could do to better life for future generations.

Whatever their cause, they pushed through the brutally difficult and dangerous circumstances to reach that beautiful piece of land they made into their new home. This new home was not free of its own challenges, but it was a landmark to them – the physical proof that they had accomplished something great in life.

Isn’t that what all of us want? To reach a goal that brings a deep fulfillment, no matter how hard it was to get there. I wonder if this isn’t one of the reasons why maintaining a close relationship with Christ is so frustrating for us. We want to just reach a place where we can relax and comfortably cruise through the rest of our lives. The reality is, we’re never going to “arrive” at a place of complete perfection this side of eternity.

Thankfully, God uses our often-times flawed driving force to bring us to a place of repentance or a realization that something’s got to change. Whatever the vehicle you used to get to where you currently stand, I challenge you to get out, look around, and find some sort of landmark to symbolize how far you’ve come on the journey.

When you get frustrated with the next leg of the pilgrimage, you can look back at this landmark and know that you may not have arrived “home” yet, but God has empowered you to make some serious progress. The pioneer women who settled the West did not single-handedly establish all that was necessary to make it a thriving part of our nation, but they did not give up on doing their part to make a happy home out of the landmark they’d created. Neither should we give up on our journey through life.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Tend to Your Garden

Since I neglected to mention it anywhere else, I just wanted to inform you that I’m planning to post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. If you want to receive notifications about new posts, I’m working to get the Email Subscription box to function. Meanwhile, you can like the Exceptionally Average page on facebook, and I’ll be sure to post on there when a new post is up and ready.

I tried my hand at gardening for the first time this summer, and it was a learning experience to say the least. Thanks to an insane over-population of squirrels (and maybe forgetting to water regularly in the beginning of the intense heat wave we experienced), I’m sad to say I didn’t harvest much from my meager little cinder block-encased garden. Thankfully, I can learn from my failures, though, and I did reap a multitude of spiritual lessons (and maybe a dozen radishes) from the experience.

In the beginning, everything went beautifully. My dad and husband worked to create one of the trendy little raised beds that are popping up all over the place. Two of my neighbors have their own flourishing raised bed gardens, and over the past couple of years, I’ve observed and admired theirs. This year, I decided it was my turn to grow my own tomatoes and bask in the sun warming my skin while I raked my fingers through the soil. It was a beautiful picture in my head. Additionally, my son would be right along beside me, learning all about vegetables, while I harvested broccoli from our back yard to go with dinner.

A couple of weeks into it, I noticed the sweet beginnings of the seedlings had pushed their way through the soil. I went out with my cute little gardening set, complete with a kneeling pad, and worked the soil while removing weeds.The mental picture of bliss I had painted was coming true! I was seeing growth, and knowing that I’d played a part in raising those little spinach plants made my heart sing.

Then I went out of town for a week. Things in the garden went a little crazy in that short time away, and my broccoli crop never really recovered. (I never before knew that broccoli will flower if it’s not harvested in time.) Shortly after the first struggle, the temperatures rose to unbearable levels for those poor little plants. I forgot to water them daily now that the rain was no longer coming. Thankfully, all but my little spinach plants somehow bounced back after I mended my wrongs. Then the predators came and wreaked havoc on those happy little tomatoes and peppers. The two plants whose harvest I was most anticipating bore fruit and helplessly yielded it to squirrels and rabbits. And now I had nothing prospering or even giving me a glimmer of hope.

One fence built by my sweet husband, an angry gardener, and at least a half dozen uprooted and/or stripped plants later I have reached the end of harvest season. There was no fruit this year, but oh so many lessons learned. Here’s what my garden looked like today. A sad-looking mess, isn’t it?

I haven’t been able to bring myself to ripping up everything quite yet. It stands as a sort of memorial to me to take time to tend to my garden. Here’s the checklist I’m working to apply to my own spiritual garden since I witnessed how vital each step is to keeping the right plants growing.

  1. Learn about your plants.
  2. Don’t take a vacation without a plan for upkeep.
  3. Plan for seasons of drought.
  4. Keep an eye out for the weeds and vigilantly remove them by the root.
  5. Beware of predators and be prepared to fight them off.

Join me next week for a closer look at how to successfully complete the first item on the checklist.

 

Welcome!

Average. Mediocre. Mundane. None of these words are what I want to best describe me as a woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, or follower of Jesus. Yet I reached a breaking point with this constant struggle going on in that over-analytical brain of mine. I wanted to make a difference in the world, but I still found myself plagued by the this feeling that I was just not good enough, strong enough, or smart enough to rise above what I’d allowed to become my identity.

Then God started showing me some truths I’ve been learning to accept.

I’m not good enough

 “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12

or strong enough,

“Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak” Psalm 6:2a

but He is.

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Oh, and thankfully He was kind enough to include these verses in the Bible to help me through the not feeling smart enough part of it.

“For you see your calling, brothers, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty”                 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

These truths are why I’m writing these words to you today. I’ve had a real relationship with God for many years, but I felt myself at a crossroads several months back. I knew and loved Him, but He and I were no longer satisfied with our current arrangement, so He prodded me to go to the next level. Every time I listened to my pastor preach, opened my Bible study book, or talked to another human being, God seemed to keep pushing me towards proclaiming His promises in a way I’d been resisting for a long time. I had been doing what I could to share His love with those around me, but He said that wasn’t good enough anymore. I told Him I was completely content to keep posting my thoughts to the fifteen readers of my mommy blog, but He said that wouldn’t do.

I told Him how average I felt, how ordinary my life seemed, and He showed me that perhaps there were others like me who needed to know they weren’t alone. So, I’m here to worship my LORD who has empowered me beyond my own capabilities to start reaching beyond the comforts of my cozy little home and community. My prayer is that you find love and encouragement here. I don’t want anyone else to settle into a mindset about herself that is just not true. The truth is, God loves you just as you are, and He has a purpose for your life that is so much bigger than you can handle on your own.

It’s only because of His grace that I can empty myself of the girly emotions that tell me I can’t and transparently allow Him to speak through me. I know I’m not alone in my struggles, and my prayer is that you’ll join me on my journey to fully submitting to God’s perfect will. He has a plan for you, too. You may be fighting it, but let me tell you from experience, you’ll only end up more exhausted and just as wrong if you resist. Let me encourage you to consider and apply what God is making my life’s mission statement.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began”   2 Timothy 1:7-9