Monday, July 16, 2012

Gardening and Lakehouses

Seven weeks of camp, and we pull back up to our house to find our garden spilling through the chain-link fence. Bounty of corn and pumpkins and tomatoes pepper the green with shots of red and yellow and orange. The grass grows long and green, trickling through cracks in the sidewalk and covering Jayci to her knees when she wades over to the garden.
I haven’t written in so long that I don’t even know where to start. I’m overwhelmed by the blank screen, the blinking cursor. Slowly, I discover that writing comes easiest when cultivated. Just as our garden won’t grow without tilling, planting, watering, and sun shining hard. But now our garden grows wildly, overgrown with weeds and pumpkin vines snaking everywhere. Tomatoes rot on the vine and the chickens peck at squash fallen, too heavy and forgotten as they quickly turn soft brown. Our garden, as it turns out, needed tending more than once or twice in the seven weeks we were gone. Likewise, my soul feels dry, yet overgrown and out-of-control. I am tired, overcome by the enormity of weeding the garden and quieting my soul alike.

 Sometimes, it seems I just don’t know where to begin. I can’t figure out how to untangle weeds from vines. Or where to start unraveling my knotted feelings about life and ministry and working and parenting and God and trust . . . But isn’t it true that not knowing where to begin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start? I look around as we pull into our neighborhood, cringing a little at the graffiti, the trash-littered streets, the boarded up windows and shattered glass. I read about places like Haiti , rubble-lined streets and orphans and poverty that overwhelms. And sometimes, because I’m not sure where to begin, I just don’t start. The need is too great, I think. I can’t make a difference anyways, so I do nothing.

But God isn’t concerned with us changing the world, fixing everything. He wants our obedience, our faithfulness. For us to say “yes” and move forward in obedience, one step at a time. For us to enter into the hard and messy places, even while knowing that some of our kiddos wont listen. That our neighborhood will remain a place with boarded up windows and gunshots ringing in the streets. We start untangling, because in the untangling we stumble into His grace.

So hesitantly, I kneel in the dirt. As I untwist pumpkin vine and dandelions, I let my thoughts and emotions start to disentangle too. I allow quiet to surround me. The door stays closed, the yellow sign hanging inside rather than out. And that’s ok. It’s ok, I think, not to always have the answers.: to wonder, to cry, to rage, to question. God remains unchanged by my mess. He is still God, regardless of how I’m feeling about Him or towards Him. And for my every “I’m mad,” He whispers “I love you still.”

 After camp, we had planned on going to a friend’s lake house for a few days to unwind and decompress and relax. Of course, we would have our kids and Zack along, so I knew it wouldn’t simply be me sleeping and reading and whatnot, but we (for once) recognized our need to get away from it all for a minute.

Somehow, I ended up inviting some of the counselors along. Don’t get me wrong, it was perfect and fun and I’m glad they were there, and I love them dearly. It just made it less of a “getaway” than we had anticipated. But, you see, Adam and I are both pretty much on the same page when it comes to encountering people in need. Our lips are quick to blurt out, “of course.” When we learn of a kiddo in the neighborhood who isn’t eating dinner, of course they should eat with us. If someone needs a place to stay, of course they should share our extra room. If a family has nothing to eat for Thanksgiving dinner, of course we shout invite them to join us at my parents’ house, there’s always plenty of extra anyways. If someone has spent all their Christmas mornings alone, of course they should be at our house this year for Christmas. I love this about Adam (and myself too I suppose). So often, I will tell him about a need I’ve encountered, and I already know his answer will be “of course.”
But it’s also easy to wear ourselves out with all the “of course”. To forget to take care of our own hearts, our relationship, our family . . . And particularly in a season where we are emotionally and physically exhausted, I think we need to remind ourselves to take a step back every once in a while and evaluate which needs God is calling us specifically to meet.

Morning comes too soon at the lakehouse, children (particularly mine) fail to recognize that we are on vacation, and should be sleeping in. Early morning gray filters through the trees, and I sit in the white-slipcovered wingback chair, confined to the kitchen with my two little ones for fear of waking anyone else at such an early hour. I cup my coffee close, rescue books again and again from Caden’s grasping hands, and remind Jayci to color ONLY ON THE PAPER. Gazing out over the lake, I watch as the sun rises, shimmering over the water. There are two hummingbird feeders attached to the window in front of me. One is empty, the other full. Again and again, Jayci exclaims “a bird!” as hummingbirds flit quickly and busily around the empty one. They return half a dozen times at least, fitting their little nose (beak?) into the holes, only to be disappointed at its emptiness. And I wonder, every time, why they don’t notice the full feeder just a few inches to their right. Sweet sustaining nectar sits ready, waiting for them to just show up.

But isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing? Why I’m so dry and empty? I keep flitting around, “doing good,” saying yes, serving those around me, taking care of my children, trying harder to be a good mom . . . and all the while, I reach inside myself for “better,” only to find I’m trying to eat from an empty birdfeeder. And God sits, not even inches away. And He beckons: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He offers life-giving water ready to refresh and sustain me. Yet I continue to flit around, flying here and there and doing things for Christ on my own strength rather than allowing Him to love and serve through me.

Because when I’m only doing “good” things in my own power, on my own strength, aren’t I just as disobedient as when I do nothing? When I’m pointing those whose needs we are meeting to Becca rather than to Christ? When I’m running and stressing and crying and trying harder, always trying harder? And all the while, Christ invites. He promises peace, joy, rest. But none of things come until I drink deeply of Him.

8 comments:

  1. As usual, you speak right to me. Thanks for being transparent and allowing God to speak through you!

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  2. In complete agreement with the previous comment. You speak directly to me time and time again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart.

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  3. I agree with the other comments too. I love how God speaks to me through you, so while you feel you may not be turning to Him for your strength, you are certainly listening to him as you write and minister to us. I love your blog and I love it when you share your faith so transparently. It's often exactly what I needed to read!

    Thank you for being obedient, even when you feel like you're not!

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  4. My favorite "But isn’t it true that not knowing where to begin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start?" It applies to us right now, so thank you. With my husband's writing and with booking shows. It can be overwhelming at times. Good read today =)

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  5. Just listened to a sermon on how Jesus goes away with his disciples to rest, but the people follow him... He has compassion on them, and feeds them... You are right to recognize we must go to God and not give on our own efforts, but your "of course" is so beautifully close to God's heart! I pray God gives you refreshment in this tired tired tired season.

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