Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today's Bounty

I harvested these beautiful vegetables this morning. We'll be eating green beans every day for the rest of the summer, along with cucumber soup, grilled zucchini, and fresh salad greens. I love this time of year! God is gracious to give to us the fruit of our labors.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Last night the girls competed in the seven county regional fashion revue for 4-H. They have gone in previous years and it is a fun day of crafts and community service projects culminating in a fashion show in the evening. The county competition a few weeks ago was very stressful because both girls wanted to be able to go to regionals. But once there, the pressure was off. They just looked forward to it as a day to enjoy.

Fred, Marissa and I arrived early to get a front row seat and once again I was stunned by the beautiful outfits created by all these children. There are two divisions--13 years old and up are seniors and 8 to 12 year olds are juniors. So we had a girl in each. That was a good thing because Arielle and Liana were not competing against each other and even had different judges.

Most of the junior girls made summer cotton outfits, so Liana had a good chance with the formal jacket and dress she made. When they announced her as a winner, you would have thought she won a million dollars. She was thrilled! And I was happy for her. She worked so hard to make this very difficult outfit. Arielle had to compete with high school girls who designed their own prom gowns or created winter coats and business suits. She also worked hard on her dress and it looked so cute on her, but it was not her night. She accepted this and talked all the way home about the fun she had with her friends. Liana was quiet about her win. Maybe she wanted to treasure that moment in her heart when she posed on stage with the rest of the junior winners while the cameras flashed.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Two family weekends in a row! Marissa came over to share the day with her dad on Father's Day, so we had to have another "Daddy and Daughters" picture. Then Damien and Gretchen invited us to a cookout to honor Fred and Gretchen's dad.

On Saturday, again with Gretchen hosting, we had a bridal shower for Stacia. What fun to be with all the girls of our family! Gretchen's mom joined us too, and she fit right in. She also is part of our family since Gretchen and Damien plan to marry in October.

With all the sadness of the past few months, I was so blessed to spend time with our large, lively family. You have all recharged my battery! Thank you!

Girls' Night Out!

The Bride-to-Be with Liana and Lana

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guinea Pig Questions

If our guinea pigs could talk, they would probably ask us these questions:

1. Why can't we have a treat every time you open the refrigerator?

2. Why do you frighten us by taking us out of our cages once a week?

3. Why do you hold us down and cut our nails when we hate this?

4. The boys would ask, why can't we play with the girls?

5. Why can't we roam free outdoors?

6. Why were we packed into a dark, scary box and taken to the vet who hurt us with a needle?

If we could talk to them, we might say, "You guinea pigs know nothing about nutrition, hygiene, reproduction, safety, or health." But they would not understand our answers, so we don't try to explain. They are animals with limited brain function. How could they begin to understand our lives? How could we explain reading or driving or cooking or any of the many tasks we do every day? We are so different from them, even though humans and guinea pigs are both mammals. If we could actually speak to them, we might simply say, "Trust us. We care for you."

Humans are made in the image of God, but still, we are very different from God and limited in our understanding of his ways. Even so, we continually question him. This questioning has been going on for a long time. Job in his suffering asked many questions. "Why wasn't I born dead?" "Why give light to those in misery, and life to those who are bitter?" "Isn't calamity for the unrighteous and disaster for the workers of iniquity?" Basically, "Why am I suffering?"

Habakkuk lived while the Babylonians were wreaking havoc on his land. He questioned God, "How long will I cry for help and you will not hear?" "Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery?" "Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they?" The real questions we have are, "Is God just? Does he care?"

How did God respond to these questions and does God mind if we ask him questions? If you read the conclusion to Job and to Habakkuk, God really doesn't answer with specifics. He answers Job with a question, "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?" followed by many other questions that tell us simply that God is God and we are not. He says Job doesn't know what he's talking about. God tells Habakkuk to wait patiently and it will all work out in the end. He would get an answer in time.

I don't think God minds our honest questions as long as we accept his answers. A couple of people asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus had one man quote the Law. This man said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." He then asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. The man didn't expect that answer. He didn't want to love people like that.

The other one who asked this question was the rich young ruler. Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give to the poor and then to come and follow him. This man didn't want to hear that answer. He thought Jesus would commend him for his good works. So if we ask the questions, we need to be ready for the answers. And when we don't understand or when God is silent, we just trust him.

Jesus asked a very human question. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" God did not answer at that moment. But God promises never to forsake us. He is not indifferent to suffering. He can be trusted. Someday we might know the answers to the hard questions.

Maybe more important than our questions is how we respond to Jesus' questions. He asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" At Lazarus's death, Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

Will you answer as Peter and Martha did?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garden Therapy

I have been very discouraged lately. Last week was one of the most stressful weeks I've had in a long time with too many things to do. The girls were getting ready for their fashion show and I was getting their portfolios ready to take to the evaluator and all this activity seemed so trivial in light of the suffering of beloved people.

Fred is overwhelmed at work and exhausted because he gets little sleep. He always keeps the garden so neat, never a weed in sight, every row of vegetables so orderly. But he can't keep up and I know it really bothers him that he can't do it all. Since I get up early, I have been going out to weed. Yes, we all enjoy the garden, but it has been mostly Fred's project in the past. The girls and I help to plant and we harvest, but the maintenance has always been Fred's job.

The first day I did the bean rows. The eastern sun rose golden, and the gnats were still asleep. Birds dove and flew from tree to tree, calling out loudly to others. Furry bees visited the lavender. The sound of the woodpeckers echoed through the woods, drowning out the humming of the morning traffic in the distance. The earth was moist from earlier rain and the weeds came out easily. The work calmed my heart. I would like to say I used this time for fervent prayer, but communion with God was not in a verbal sense. I enjoyed just being at this spot in this moment of time.

The next day I did the tomatoes and eggplants and peppers. Blossoms everywhere! Are they early this year or is time flying by? It seems we just planted this garden. I worked until the gnats arrived. A baby rabbit emerged from the hedges and nibbled tentatively at bird seed below the feeder. Hide, baby, hide! Hawks soar nearby. But he is safe for now. Again, peace came to my soul. I am grateful for life, for strength to dig and pull. God also "walked in the garden in the cool of the day." I share that with him.

This morning we met with the evaluator. I couldn't work early but went out at dusk to weed the lettuce and radishes and spinach. No gnats! Just peace...and quiet. The birds returned to their perches in the bamboo, settling in for the night. The lights in our windows came on as my family also settled in after a busy day. Our little plants are strong and healthy, not an insect in sight to plague them. They will produce an abundance of nutritious food for us. Blazing sun in July will threaten to burn them and violent thunderstorms will beat them down. But they will survive.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How Beautiful

How beautiful the feet that bring,
The sound of good news and the love of the King,
How beautiful the hands that serve,
The wine and the bread and the sons of the Earth,
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ.

Do you know that old Twila Paris song? It has been running through my head lately as I grieve for my good friend J who is suffering from ovarian cancer. Less than two months ago doctors discovered a tumor and she had major surgery. In five weeks time the tumor grew back and she is now in hospice care.

Our church was offering a women's Bible study, only six weeks long, on Wednesday mornings. Years ago I was very involved in Bible studies, but with homeschooling my children, it just got to be too much and I retired. One of the classes seemed to be valuable to me at this time though--a video series called "When Life Is Hard" by James MacDonald. This man did a series of teachings while he was suffering from cancer. I thought maybe I could gain insight into how to help J through her suffering. But then I decided not to go. I didn't think I could take the stress of a long morning commute in all that traffic when I was trying to finish school with the girls.

But then someone asked if my girls could help with childcare for the moms during these six-week studies. Then I knew I had to go. It was appointed for me to be there. My friend J had just had surgery or I would have asked her to join me. At the very first meeting, the women went around the table and introduced themselves and said why they were there. Our table leader started. She said several years ago she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was so startled, my mouth flew open. I had randomly chosen that table to sit down and here was this woman who had suffered just as my friend was now.

After J came home, I showed her my books and shared some insight I heard at our first meeting. She said, "I wish I could come." Yes, I wish she could too. But she was very weak and recovering from major surgery. A couple of days later she said again how she wanted to come. I didn't see how she could go out all morning when she was in so much pain and discomfort. So finally she flat out asked if she could go with me. Of course! So for three weeks I picked her up and took her to class. As they are in all the Bible studies I've ever been to, the women were gracious and kind. They listened to J and offered their support. Our table leader especially understood her fear and concerns and made a connection with her.

Then J got bad news. A scan showed her tumor was back, more aggressive than ever. She was admitted to the hospital. J would not return to class. The next week I came without her and these beautiful women, who didn't even know J before this time, prayed heartfelt prayers with tears for her. They wrote precious messages for me to give to her. They offered any kind of help she might need. How tender their hearts are for J. How beautiful! The body of Christ. The class is over now, but the women have not forgotten. They continually ask about J.

"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." I Corinthians 12:26.