Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Washing clean clothes

I decided on an adventure the other day and settled on seeing if I could find the laundry room floor. Seriously, this looks good compared to some days. You ask why I didn't take a picture of the usual laundry room state of affairs? I said I would be vulnerable, not completely honest!

As I was folding the clothes I just took out of the dryer, I came across some shorts. In January. "That's funny. Josiah must have worn these around the house." (and I just didn't see him? Yeah, just shake off the admission that I am not always, totally, and completely aware of all that my children are doing all day.) And then I folded a boys size 2 shirt and thought again, "I don't remember seeing anybody wear this in a long time..." Then, (finally) I realized the jacket I just folded was one I put into the Goodwill bag! What?! I was washing and folding CLEAN clothes!! Argh!

And then I got a bit of a revelation...

That is a lot like church.

Now, before you call me a heretic or heathen, hear me out.

Have you ever noticed that the people at church almost always look really nice? Almost everyone acts really nice? You see the most lovely, friendly, well dressed, happy people at church, right? A bunch of neat, clean, and orderly people. And we are usually told to go and "do unto all the world"?

Go and do what? Go and act like we have it all together so everyone else will just smile and act like they have it all together? So we can all answer "How are you?" with a "Good!" and move right along?

I don't know about you, but there are times that I am not good and really, quite frankly, I get tired of acting like I have it all together. Can't I just be real and say my heart is broken? But isn't that what church, I don't even mean the building we attend on Sunday, but The Church, is supposed to do? Isn't it really supposed to be a hospital for wounded, broken, hopeless people? When did it become a place for all the "clean" people? I just wonder if Jesus sometimes feels like Sunday morning is His chore of washing the clean people...

Last week at church, I didn't sing during praise and worship. I didn't even stand up. Everyone around me was standing and singing and I just sat there crying and crying. The past few months have shaken my faith and really caused me to question things I thought I really knew. I have learned that God is big enough to handle my doubts, my fear, my anger, my grief. He doesn't want me to look spiffy and smile while I am drowning inside! He wants me, He wants us all! to come to Him with all of our dirt, with our stains and messes!

This week at church, the woman in front of me was the mess. She is the one who just cried and cried. I put my hand on her shoulder, and she grabbed my hand and held on tight. I don't know her. I have never seen her before. But she is broken and wounded. If we are really to be the hands and feet of Jesus, let's not pretend we are all clean and tidy ourselves. We might have to actually reach out and touch someone, literally. Sit with her and listen to her story instead of rushing out to be first in line at lunch. Church doesn't have to be a woeful place with no joy. No indeed! It should be the most joyful place on Earth! But it should be REAL. And the reality is, no one is clean and proper all the time.

Let's stop pretending. Let's stop wasting time washing what is clean and really get down to the dirty work of being real.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy days are here again...

This week has been wonderful...reading good books, starting school again, feeding animals, getting eggs (well, 3 or 4 a day, anyway), playing on the climbing wall, sitting by warm fires, and drinking hot coffee... ahhh, bliss!

Feather has to check out Hannah's wares.

Feather must have liked what Hannah was selling because she went back and got the whole gang!

Eden is the best chicken catcher and the best milker around! You have to see it to believe it!

The boys can't resist throwing corn to (more appropriately at!) the chickens!

This is Isaiah. That should be enough of a description!

I think I love her more each day...

The adventure of the day, the warm fire, and a few chapters of Prince Caspian make for a sleepy fellow...

And as I sit here writing warming my back to this very fire, I wanted to leave you with some lines from one of my favorite books, The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold:

"It is this sunlight that is now being released, through the intervention of my axe and saw, to warm my shack and my spirit through eighty gusts of blizzard. And with each gust a wisp of smoke from my chimney bears witness, to whomsoever it may concern, that the sun did not shine in vain."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who can resist this?

And people really have to ask why we keep having children?!
Who can resist this?!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where do you live?

There he was on stage, guitar in hand, stuttering into the microphone.

At least he was real about it. The way he put it, "One of the first things you should know about me is that I stutter." I would have thought he was joking if he hadn't stuttered through that very word.

In case you missed seeing Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb concert this year, you'll want to put it on your to-do list for next year's holiday season. Not for the amazing music or even for the message they bring, you just need to see it. If for no other reason, you'll get to see the stuttering singer.

Now, I call him the Stuttering Singer with deep affection, for nothing else has inspired me the way he has in a long time. His name really is Jason Gray.

I'll confess, I watched wide eyed with amazement as he talked his way through who he was and what he was going to sing about wondering if he would stutter while he was singing.

Not even once. When he talks, he stutters. I bet he even stutters when he whispers when he is alone. But standing on stage in front of thousands of people, singing the songs the Lord put into his heart, he communicates flawlessly.

As I watched in awe that night as he sang, I heard the Lord say to me, "He doesn't stutter when he lives out of his heart."

When he lives out of his heart...

I stopped to visit one of my dearest friends today. I wish you could all know her. She and her husband live out of their hearts. They make wooden toys, she cans homemade jams and jellies, she speaks French to her children! They are the kind of people you just want to be around, especially when you have a bad day and just need someone to love on you... But she told me today that now she is embarrassed to give her homemade gifts away because of something a thoughtless person said to them. I cried on the way home thinking how much of their hearts they put into those gifts, into everything they do, and how vulnerable that makes them.

What if we all lived out of our hearts the way they do, or the way the Stuttering Singer does? Can you imagine the comments he heard when he picked up his guitar for the first time? Or when people "who knew him when" heard he was a singer/songwriter? What courage he had to have to stand up to sing! What beautiful wonderful gift I brought home with me from my dear friend's house today! All because they both live out of their hearts!

It is hard! It is messy! And, indeed, people do not understand... I wonder if the things the Lord puts into our hearts sometimes are purposefully opposed to where we are in life. A man who stutters wants to sing. A family who is financially in a place to buy gifts, makes them instead. A family that has a "genetic disease" still wants to have children. Should we tell those people all the reasons they shouldn't do it? Should we tell them all the reasons it makes so much more sense to live in reality?

Or what if, for just a minute, we encouraged them to live out of their hearts? What if we encouraged crazy ideas? Those out there thoughts that make us scratch our heads and wonder. "Be anything you want to be!" Right, as long as it is socially, religiously, and financially acceptable.

In a few days, we will celebrate the single most poignant event in history of Someone living out of His heart. Can you imagine? Why, people STILL call Him crazy! But He did it. He dared to live out of His heart and send a Baby into a silent night. And long before that, He spun a dark and formless void into orbit and lit up what we call Earth. Only because all He knows how to do is live out of His heart.

What is the world missing because YOU are not living out of your heart?

Merry Christmas, and may you receive the gift of true life...

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's all fun and games until they come inside...

Isn't that a lovely picture? This was several years ago, when we got our first goat. Feather is her name. She is the black and white goat grazing so peacefully while Eden loves on Feather's first kid. Ahh, the beginning of farm many promising ideas of self-sustainability and good health. Oh, the joy of going out each morning and afternoon to sit in the cool of the day and milk while I watch the children play and the animals move around.

And then reality set in.

Eric: "I don't have time to milk this morning, you'll have to do it"
Me: "What?! Are you crazy? It is 20 degrees outside, I have to get everybody up, everybody dressed, everyone's breakfast! I can't milk!"

Now, I really do love having goats. I love fresh milk. I love making yogurt, kefir, cheeses, even soap! And to make life just (almost) perfect, last spring Eric introduced the children to the wonderful world of milking goats. So Eden at 6 and Moses at 7 years old took over the job of milking. And I REALLY love having goats now.

Until last week.

We took Josiah to Memphis for doctor appointment, and we didn't get home until 10 p.m. It was one of those times when it is late. You are tired. You have been gone all day, and you can't wait to get into your bed and go to sleep.

So you can imagine my dismay when we drove down the driveway and the headlights of the car flashed on the downstairs door and two goats were looking out at us! Yes, that's right. When I left at NOON that day I (ok, I admit it was my fault) ran out the door and closed it, but it didn't latch all the way. All they had to do was bump the door and in they went. Two goats and 3 cats spent the entire day INSIDE our house...

Now if I had a camera that worked (#1 on my Christmas list, hint hint) I would have taken a picture. My first thought when I saw Feather chewing her cud inside my house looking at me like "Well, where have you been all day? It's about time you got here to let me out" was my grain!! Because I make most of our breads, I buy grain in 50 lbs bags. I just bought grain the week before and had not put it away yet. So Feather and her boyfried, Footstock (Josiah named him), decided they would go ahead and open the bags to see what was inside... And of course they annihilated the most expensive grain (the spelt). Of course!

So walking downstairs was like walking through a sea of spelt berries and goat poop. (In case you don't know what goat poop looks like, think Coco Pebbles. And they poop CONSTANTLY.) They had been on the school table, in Isaiah's bed, lounging on the rug and chairs (and leaving behind all sorts of gifts). Then I noticed goat poop up the stairs. Yes, they toured the whole house. They ate all my plants, even the beautiful flowers Eric got me the week before. We had a trash bag in the kitchen upstairs that had not been taken out yet, so they ripped into that spreading trash all over the kitchen. Dirty diapers everywhere. Gross. And the cats? Yes, they, too, left their calling cards in my bathroom and closet.

We did clean it all up that night, although Eric tried to tell me we would just clean it up the next day. Um, yeah, I don't think so. The next day I washed sheets , mopped floors, and shampooed the rug. It's all clean and tidy again. So when you come over for dinner next time, no need to worry that you will be eating in unsanitary conditions. And I hope you like roasted goat!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Abraham's Seed

Well, it is 2 a.m. and I am still up, so I may as well go ahead and start with my story... here goes:

It was just over a month ago that I was pregnant. For the sixth time. When I found out that I was pregnant in July, I must admit excitement was not at the top of my list of emotions. More like shock. That feeling that you just got on a ride you didn't sign up for. Keep in mind, Moses, my oldest of five children, was only SEVEN YEARS OLD when I found out I was pregnant with number 6. So excitement? Not really. More like, um, seriously, we were trying NOT to have another baby right now. Hello??

But you know, pregnancy grows on you, literally, and I started to get pretty excited about having another baby. I started feeling him move (I always thought it was a boy). We started talking about him and the things we would do with him. He will be here at the end of March so we need to plan for the garden, for the bees, for the baby goats... Yeah, I think I am ready to have this baby. A baby! Thank You, Lord!

And then he died.

My stomach still churns to write that.

My midwife came for my appointment like any other appointment. Except this time, we couldn't hear his heartbeat. That heartbeat that just a month earlier raced through the room with such promise of what was growing so beautifully inside me... We went to have an ultrasound to see if perhaps we had missed something. Silence. Stillness. There is a moment in a prenatal ultrasound that the tech measures the baby's heartbeat. It is a wild collection of quick peaks and valleys as a heart that beats around 160 beats per minute is recorded. But my baby had only a flatline.

I have seen those flat lines before on movies. There really is not even a point in trying to describe what it is as a mother to see that flat line describe your child's heart beat... there are no words.

And I won't even try to describe the feelings in the days to follow... just such sorrow. For several days, such sorrow. And then, like any dawn, there is a hint of light in the darkness, a breath of hope. What a strange drink, sorrow mingled with hope. A cocktail only One Man can mix.

Abraham was born 8 days after that silent ultrasound. I was a few days from my half way mark of pregnancy, 5 months. He was born on Saturday morning. At home. With his brothers and sisters running around waiting to meet him. His Bowie (my mom) there to say hello. And his daddy to hold him while his mama cried... My precious friend, Tonya, was here to take pictures. One day I'll post some. When I can finally look at them myself.

You know, I really can't say that we had a funeral. Instead, we got to plant a seed into the ground surrounded by SO. MUCH. LOVE. Our family (some were blood relatives and some were not, but all are family) cradled us and hugged us and loved us and encouraged us and laughed with us and cried with us and were just plain with us through it all...

And like any good Farmer, the Lord watered Abraham's seed into the ground that day. Thinking back, it had not rained here since I found out I was pregnant. Oh, it has rained around here, but not HERE. And as we laid our precious seed in the ground, the wind blew. Eric, in an act that, God willing, I will never forget for all of eternity, took the shovel and rake and buried our son.

And then the rain fell, hard and emphatically, watering in a seed that already has and always will bear much fruit.

There is so much more I could say! So many more thoughts on life and death and the moments between... but just know, Eric and I are healing. I am beginning to realize there will always be a spot for Abraham, no matter how many children follow him. I also realize God did answer our prayers, just not in the way we wanted... And, most importantly, I am learning to take one step at a time, the one right in front of me.

And if I didn't learn that from Abraham, I don't know that I ever will. No one could have seen what was coming around the next bend.

Two days after we buried Abraham, Josiah was admitted to the hospital. And we stayed there for 16 days. But that is another story....

Friday, November 19, 2010

For the inquiring minds...

Man, I have A LOT to say...I am just trying to figure out if I want to commit to saying it...