See…And Be…The Blessing

While my husband was mowing our yard on Saturday evening, I decided to run down to the store for some good old fried chicken.  Working behind the counter was a familiar face…a sweet woman who often waits on me.  I always ask her how she’s doing and ask about her elderly mother who lives with her.  She missed seeing Aaron with me and was asking about him.  Everyone knows Aaron…trust me on that!  😊

I ordered my chicken, and then asked for a few more pieces to be added a la carte.  As she filled the container for me, she told me that she would just put in those extra legs and thighs at no charge.  I said no, that I would pay for them, but she insisted on her plan.  The reason?

“You are always so kind to me,” she said.  “I want to do this for you.”

I was so touched…a little embarrassed…and walked away very blessed.

The next morning our pastor shared a meaning of that very familiar word…the word, “blessed.”

He said that to bless means, “To kneel in order to serve.”

He talked about how Jesus knelt down and washed the disciples’ feet.  Jesus was kneeling in order to serve.

We often talk about how we want to be a blessing, to God and to others.  We also talk about God blessing us.

But how can I possibly bless God?

I bless God by kneeling and serving.  I kneel before God, certainly.  But I am also to be like Jesus and kneel in service before the people in my life.

As Gary and I listened to the sermon, it hit me.  God had given me a sweet object lesson of this “blessing” principle just the evening before.

I had blessed this deli worker by showing her that I cared about her and her life.  She turned around and blessed me by giving me some free chicken.  I wasn’t showing her kindness for the purpose of getting something free, but my kindness gave her the desire to bless me in return.

As I serve God, I am blessing Him…and He, in return, will bless me.

I don’t mean that God will give me free stuff.  I mean that God will kneel down in His kindness and will bless me with joy…peace…love…grace…and other such sweet blessings that are promised to me all through scripture.

Sometimes, though, we think of serving God in big, obvious, public ways.  Our human nature and our culture tend to value the well-known over the little-known.

Over the years, more and more, God has taken away most of the public ways I had of serving Him.  Instead, God has brought home to me that, well, my home is to be my primary place of blessing God and blessing others.  This is my personal experience and doesn’t mean that it will be yours as well.  But wherever God has put you is where you ARE, by His plan, and that is the place where you can still bless Him and others.

Home can be a hard place to feel like I am a blessing.  The sameness and the drudgery of home life, honestly, can squelch the feeling that I often associate with being a blessing.

Cleaning around the toilet can be a blessing?  Really?!

But I’m brought back to Jesus, humbling himself by doing the disgusting work of a servant.

Washing the disciples feet can be a blessing?  Really?!

Really.

I kneel.  And I serve.  In the place where God has put me.

I don’t choose the place.  I don’t choose the service.

Validation isn’t the important thing.

Serving is the important thing.

For me, I serve God as I serve Aaron.  He was given to us by God.

On a seizure day:

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While we walk:

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Or he TALKS:

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When he wins and grins:

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Or asks for that homemade milkshake:

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The times are precious:

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And so are the children and the homes that we are given!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”  (Psalm 103:1-2)

 

No Wallowing!

I am NOT where I thought I would be this week!

I am NOT where I planned, carefully planned, to be this week!

But I do believe that most of us are in the same boat and could say the same thing.  How many plans have been totally disrupted due to all this virus mess and stay-at-home orders?

Trust me, I know that there are some very heart-breaking situations in people’s lives right now – far worse than anything I’m going through.

So, where was I supposed to be this week?  Texas.  I was to be in Texas this week.

My husband and I were going to the Houston area this week.  Our daughter and her husband, Kyle and Andrea, live there.  And our son, Andrew, who lives near Indianapolis, was to be there as well.  Andrew works for an NHRA drag race team.  They have a big national race in Houston every April.

Gary had bought our tickets.  I had lined up caregivers for Aaron, who doesn’t attend these events with us.  He loves his own version of a vacation, which is to stay in his comfort zone of home and of eating out every night, loving the undivided attention from caregivers…and calling us multiple times every day, just because he always has something to tell us.

On Facebook this week, the memories from this time last year have been popping up on my page.  As if I need any help with memories of our fun time we should be having!

We should be doing this:

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Enjoying time together:

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And watching Andrew work:

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I was talking to my friend, Joyce, about it a couple weeks ago.  I told her it’s sad not to be going on our trip to see our kids.  How it’s OK to acknowledge that sadness, but that I can’t stop and wallow in it.  We laughed as we thought about that and laughed even more when Joyce mentioned being like a pig wallowing in the mud.

In the park where Aaron and I like to walk, Swanson Park, there is still a depressed area in the prairie grass where buffalo wallowed in the 1800’s.  In fact, there is a plaque there for us to read about it.  And it’s simply called a “buffalo wallow.”   I had to inwardly smile as he and I stood there looking at it once again the other day.

Then nearby, a short distance from the trail, is this muddy area.

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As we looked at it, I could imagine buffalo and wild pigs wallowing in the mud there.  I could see them with my mind’s eye rolling and relaxing in the goopy mud, in no hurry to move on.

Much like I am tempted to do as I think with regret about where I thought I would be this week.

Oh, I have reason to wallow.  Our kids live far from us and we see them so seldom.  In fact, for many reasons, we haven’t seen Andrea and Kyle since last July.  Their jobs, Andrew’s travels, Gary still working, the difficulty of finding caregivers for Aaron…all make it very hard for us to up and travel as we would so desire to do.

I could most definitely stop and wallow in my misery.  And with each roll in the mud, I could find plenty of reasons to condone and excuse my wallowing!

But there’s this verse that makes me stop my wallowing and listen to God instead.

“God is my allotted portion and my cup; You take charge of my lot.”  (Psalm 16:5)

Simply put, this means that God takes care of my circumstances.  Things around me may become shaky, but I can be unshaken as I stand firm IN my circumstances.

Why? Because I believe in God’s direction and providence in my life.  I love the note on this verse in my ESV Bible:   We can have “…contentment with the arrangements of one’s life, seeing them as providentially ordered.”

What a difference it makes to know and to trust God!  To know without a doubt that my interrupted plans are because of His plans for me that are far better than I can know or imagine.

Isn’t that what trust is all about anyway?

So, I acknowledge my sadness as I look at what might have been.

Then I move on.  I don’t jump in the mud and relish it.

“I have set the Lord continually before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:8)

And I will not wallow!

 

 

One Thing

I’m sitting here looking at my blank computer screen, wondering how on earth to write this post.  I write better when I can be totally up-front and honest about life.  But sometimes I can’t be that way because some matters are private, involving issues and people that prevent open sharing.

Was that catchy enough?  Do I have your attention now?  HaHa!

I really wasn’t trying to reel you in with my first few sentences.  I am, like I said, just being honest.

Recently, Gary and I had a “thing” happen.  It’s easy to say the typical phrases that we often here, such as what I just said.  “Things happen.”  Or here’s another one – “Life happens.”

Yet as a follower of Christ, I know better.  I don’t get upset when others, or when I, make those statements.

“You know, things just happen,” I have often said.

But again, I know better.  I know that God is the One Who is in charge of my life and who allows every single “thing” in my life to happen.  In reality, my “things” don’t just happen…they are permitted or ordained by God.  I am His child and He is in charge of all aspects of my life.

Most often, when we say that “things” happen, we’re not referring to happy “things.”  Usually, we are talking about stressful “things.”

Gary and I have had some recent stress.  Don’t we all?  We had to make the difficult decision to put our sweet Great Dane, Jackson, to sleep.  Not long after that, Aaron had a drop seizure on our stairs and ended up with eight staples in his head.  And then this “thing” intruded into our lives.  It’s not a happening that occurred, and then is over and done.  It’s more like a dark cloud of long-term wrong that will hover over us…well, forever, really.

All these “things”…all this stuff, plus many more daily stresses…can just be overwhelming and exhausting.  But two other “things” have taken place as well…in my heart, which is the best place for God to work HIS things.

One “thing” is that my mother’s favorite verse has been rolling around in my head for days now.  It’s Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I love, though, the meaning of “be still.”  This is how I have been saying this verse recently: “Quit striving, and know that I am God.”

I can’t make “things” not happen.  I can’t always change situations.  And even if I try, the doors often remain closed.  The damage is done.

I have a mental image of being tied up with ropes.  Those ropes are the “things” that have or are happening in my life.  I twist and turn and pull and flex against those awful ropes, trying to be free.  But God wants me to stop that!  He wants me to relax and to simply trust Him…to rest, and to know that He is God.  And as God, He will handle all my “things.”

All this sounds so good, doesn’t it?  So spiritual and so right.  But how on earth…really, how on this old sinful stressful earth…do I quit striving?

God gave me a huge part of that answer over the past few days.  It’s found in the first few verses of Psalm 27.

David talks about his “things.”  He says that evildoers want to devour his flesh.  He is surrounded by enemies, adversaries, and whole armies…literally…who want to destroy him.  He was living in caves as he tried to survive.  His treatment by King Saul was totally unjust and evil.

It’s awful to be hated.  It’s awful to be the recipient of unjust treatment.  It’s awful to be on the run, either mentally or physically…running from the pain and the wrong and the hurt.

So, in verse 4, David says, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek…”

Let me stop to say that I can tell you what my one thing usually is when hard times come, especially injustice.  My one thing is to think that if I could only talk to this person or to these people, I’d tell them a thing or two!  Or on a nicer slant, my one thing may be to try to have a pleasant, open talk with them. Surely, they will listen!  Just give me one chance, Lord, to handle my situation…whatever it is…by doing that one thing that will make ME feel better.

But what was David’s one thing?  He asked God to let him behold His beauty in the tabernacle, to meditate and to dwell in the temple.

In other words, David’s one thing was to worship God.

And there is the answer to my question about how to quit striving against my “things.”

Worship.

David’s one thing that he asked of God when he was going through all of his awful “things” was the opportunity to once again worship God in the tabernacle.

“There is only one place where your heart can be healed, restored, satisfied, and protected.  It won’t be healed by winning human wars.  It won’t be satisfied in human acceptance.  It won’t be restored when you have meted out vengeance.  It will only be filled, satisfied, and at rest when it is filled with the beauty of the Lord.”  (Paul Tripp)

When I focus on God, I am not focusing on my “things.”  I am instead aware of God’s greatness in the middle of my “things.”  His power is what upholds me.  His plan, however vague and unknown it may be to me, is one which I can accept because in God’s beauty I see His love for me.  I experience His peace and His grace when my eyes are on Him, and not on my “things.”

We all have those hard “things.”  Some of you are enduring much more difficult “things” than mine.  May we all learn to worship God even when we are surrounded by our pain and fears and sadness.

Then to rest…quit striving…and let God be God in our lives.

“Quit striving, and KNOW that I am God!”

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The Sprinkler Rainbow

“MOM!!”  Aaron yelled one evening not long ago as he rushed into the house.  “Come look at what Dad and I saw in the sprinkler!!”

It was just after supper and I was busy cleaning the kitchen as my mind was skipping to the next thing I needed to do.  That next thing was NOT to drop what I was doing and go outside to look in the sprinkler. 

Aaron commonly does this to us…insisting that we come here or go there or look at that in order to see or hear something that to him is just amazing…and to us is often not. 

Yet we have also learned, over our years of life with Aaron, two important lessons.  One is that taking the time to see what Aaron sees is sometimes a source of great joy and wonder and fun.  We might miss something fantastic if we don’t stop to look when Aaron says to stop and look.

And number two is that if we don’t just go ahead and listen and look, we will not have peace until we have heard and seen whatever in the world it is that Aaron is hearing and observing.  The price of peace is certainly worth a look and a listen.

So outside I went, following Aaron as he led the way through the garage and out to the front yard. 

“LOOK!!!” he exclaimed as he pointed toward the spraying water.  “A RAINBOW!!!”

I obediently looked, and sure enough…there through the mist…was a rainbow.

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Now I’ve seen rainbows in the water’s spray before as the sun shines on the droplets just right.  I’ve seen sprinkler rainbows lots of times.  But seeing the colorful prism through Aaron’s excited vision made that rainbow a very special sight indeed!

The moment was so sweet and brought a huge smile to my tired face.  Plus knowing that Gary had shared the discovery of that rainbow with Aaron, full of the facts surrounding the reasons why there even was a rainbow, brought me extra joy.  It was very well worth the extra minutes out of my day.

This past week I had what my good friend, Atha, would have called the “mulligrubs.”  That’s a real word, by the way.  It’s an old word for being down…on the sad side…having the gloomies.  Atha always understood me and I understood her, and we both understood those old down moments…or days.  Atha doesn’t have the mulligrubs anymore because she’s in heaven, but I’m still here on this earth where I sometimes battle the mulligrubs.

There are several reasons why I was gloomy last week, none of which are particularly important.  What’s important is that I was letting my emotions, my worries, and my stresses get the best of me.  Even my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling, not going very far, and this definitely left me feeling even worse.

God talked to me in my gloom, though, and reminded me of what Paul said to Timothy about contentment.  He said that godliness…WITH contentment…is great gain.  But how to be content?  Especially how to be content when the tendency of my heart in those moments…or days…is quite the opposite.  That’s because my focus was on ME…not on God…and not on what God was trying to get me to see.

But God, ever patient, reminded me of another truth.  It’s found in Psalm 50:23 and says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.”  This concept is nothing new, to me or to you, but I am ever amazed at how being thankful can quickly become buried under all my “me stuff.” 

It’s like me in the kitchen the evening that Aaron saw the sprinkler rainbow.  I was focused on the task at hand, and then the next task, and the next, and the next…becoming overwhelmed with all I had to DO.  But stopping to listen to Aaron, to follow him outside, and to observe the pretty rainbow added a splash of joy that I needed that day, even though I didn’t think I did.  I had to stop…to take the time…to really SEE what needed to be seen.

A sacrifice. 

A sacrifice is not only something that I give, but a sacrifice should cost me something.  Otherwise, it’s not really a sacrifice in the true sense of the word.

So what does a sacrifice of thanksgiving cost…to me?

A sacrifice of thanksgiving costs me…me.

It means I lay “me” aside and I dwell on other things for awhile…or other people…or other situations. 

It means I sacrifice myself in order that I may focus on God’s good gifts that are all around me.  When the going gets tough, and the burdens are heavy, and the heart is lonely, and the concerns are just too much…then is when I need to follow God outside of all that, and to look through His eyes at what is around me.

Through the mist that might obscure my vision, if I just stop and look, I’ll see a rainbow.  Splashes of God’s blessings and color all around me.

I have a loving heavenly Father…a house…food…eyes to see…ears to hear…clothes to wear…a car to drive…flowers that bloom (at least some of them!)…a faithful and hard working husband…hands and legs and hair on my head (even on my all-too-often bad hair days!)…our sweet new friend, Jess, at Subway – who remembers Aaron and just gave him some money for Chubby, his stuffed piggy bank…and Aaron!

Aaron…who consumes my time and concerns my heart and confuses my plans and convicts me that God is very real and very present in our lives. 

Aaron…who showed me the rainbow in the sprinkler, and once again helped me to also see God. 

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God’s Many Colors

We’ve had a couple days of stormy weather here in Kansas; and for any of you who know me, you know what that means.  Sky pictures!!  I just love looking at our beautiful skies here in the flat land, especially from my vantage point in our daughter’s former bedroom, up on our third floor.  I have taken hundreds of pictures over the years from that same spot.  These pictures show many various scenes of the same scene, if that makes sense.  No two views of our sky are ever identical.

I’ve learned a lot over the years by watching our God-given sky.  It’s no surprise that I’ve also written about it in the past.   The Skies From My Window

We get some amazing storms here in Kansas.  The variety of pictures is limitless.  I love our sky here no matter the season or the weather, but I do have to say that the most stunning skies are the ones that present themselves during the storms.  Just look at some of the shots I took during our storm from two nights ago.

From the beginning:

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To the middle:

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To near the end:

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All were gorgeous in their own unique way.

I was thinking about yet another storm that roared through during the night last night.  Bright lightning…ferocious winds…heavy rain – we got a hefty dose of all that.  God pruned our trees during the night, for sure, as we awoke to lots of small branches all over the yard.  And though I couldn’t take pictures in the dark, the vivid lightning is still fresh in my mind.

The storms outside our windows have often reminded me of the storms that also come into our lives.  Whether the storms of life come in with a soft wind that builds over time…or if the storms blow in with a gusto that knocks us off our feet…we all face them, at one time or another, and another, and another.

And just like the majority of my most beautiful sky pictures are taken during the storms, so the majority of my most beautiful experiences with God happen during my storms of life.

In fact, James  – when speaking about our trials of life – uses the word “various” to describe them.  And guess what this word can also mean?

Multi-colored!

Just like my stormy, colorful Kansas sky, so my trials are described by God as being multi-colored.  Here’s what James says:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter VARIOUS trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4)

Storms, and trials, can be intimidating and even dangerous.  But God uses James to tell us that we need to consider – to make a conscious judgment – about our multi-colored trials.  And that conscious decision is to face our storms deciding to be joyful.  This joy isn’t of our own nature, but is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  And sometimes it takes awhile to feel that joy, that’s for sure.

And remember that joy isn’t happiness.  Joy is a deep-in-my-heart contentment because I know and trust that the God Who brings the storm is the God Who brings it for a very good reason.  I can look ahead to what He promises will come as a result of the storm, too.

Endurance.  That means “abiding under difficulties.”

And endurance produces perfection, which is maturity.

And maturity makes me complete, which means “full development.”

These traits aren’t just academic notes on a piece of paper.  They are real characteristics of a Christ follower who has endured the many difficulties and trials of this life on earth.

Just like the most vivid skies are stormy skies, my most vivid pictures of God’s character have been taken during the storms and trials of my life.  I have learned the most about God during those rocky times that I have needed Him the most.

Sunny skies are nice, and pleasant, and restful, and needed.

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But stormy skies are teaching skies for me…huge, magnificent photos of God’s mercy…God’s grace…God’s love…God’s protective arms around me.

So when the storms come, as they certainly will, may I not spend the time hiding and worrying and doubting.

May I clearly see the storms, not as an intrusion, but as instruction.

And may I spend the time taking picture after picture of the beauty that God is painting for me, using the palette that only He holds.

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What Is

It happened to me again several weeks ago.  An innocent conversation…a random comment…and I found myself having to corral my thoughts into line with some principles that God has hammered home to me over and over again for years. 

I want to be honest about what happened, but I also don’t want to alienate family or friends.  I don’t want anyone to think they can’t share their life with me.  So here goes.

This person was talking to me about his upcoming retirement, and then the plans that he and his wife had.  Later, as Gary and I drove away, I shared with Gary how I had that twinge of longing as our friend talked.  And how I knew better than to dwell on it and to therefore give Satan that opportunity he always looks for, the opportunity to push that door fully open that I have allowed to crack open, even just a little bit. 

You see, our life with Aaron is a life far different from typical couples our age.  Gary and I are not fully free to do many of the things that our peers are able to do.  And that’s OK…truly OK.  But sometimes the comparisons come, and if I am not careful then I can wallow in misery, and therefore open myself to sin and defeat.

The very next day…literally…after this conversation, I was at my desk as usual in the early morning.  I opened my Bible and my study book to the section of I Samuel that I was reading and was soon amazed at how God spoke to me in those quiet moments.

I read about Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his deep friendship with David.  Saul was the king of Israel, but because of his sin and disobedience, God had told him that his reign would end with him.  His family would not inherit the kingship.  This meant that Jonathan would never be the king.  But who would be the next king?  David…Jonathan’s dear friend.

Jonathan knew this.  He knew that he would never be king.  In fact, in I Samuel 18, Jonathan gave his robe, along with his armor and his sword, his bow and his belt, to his friend David.  This act was a symbol of the fact that Jonathan was surrendering any right he had to the throne…surrendering it to David.  And not only that, but Jonathan continued to be an even better soldier and leader than his father, the king.  Jonathan certainly behaved in a godly, kingly fashion, even though he knew he would never assume the throne. 

As Dale Davis says in his book, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart: “For Jonathan, then, the kingdom was not his to seize, not his to rule, but his to serve.”

And then this, which impacted me so greatly: “Maybe a tragic life isn’t tragic if it’s lived in fidelity to what Christ asks of us in the circumstances he gives us.”

Did you catch that?  Living in loyalty to Christ IN the circumstances He gives us! 

That’s what Jonathan did.  He lived royally even though he would never in reality BE a royal.  He lived in covenant relationship to God, faithfully, IN his circumstances.

This is exactly what I am supposed to do, every day.  I thought that morning of I Timothy 6:6, of what Paul told Timothy.  Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”  The note in my study Bible says that this is “an inner satisfaction with the situation that God has ordained for him.”

But how on earth is that possible, day after day…that inner satisfaction with situations in life that are so often very UNsatisfactory?!

This satisfaction is only possible when I realize that it doesn’t come from ME.  I can’t manufacture this deep peace.  Only God can do that in my heart as I surrender all my rights to Him and then obey Him by trusting Him. 

It’s realizing that God Himself loves me, and He is the One that has given me what I have in this life, hard as some of it may be.

My circumstances are not the hand I have been dealt.  My circumstances are not bad luck…or good luck.  They are not the luck of the draw.  Nor are my circumstances due to karma, or any other such nonsense that we sometimes are inclined to believe. 

God chose me and He saved me, and as His child I know that each occurrence in my life…every situation…is entirely under His authority and in His plan for me.  I know He loves me and I know that I can trust Him, totally, to do what’s best for me and what will cause me to give Him glory.  What a waste if I don’t!!

So when the pain comes to my heart and my life…when I’m inclined to settle in the negative thoughts and desires and questions that pop up so unexpectedly…I have the responsibility to do one thing right away.  That one thing is to talk to my Father and let His loving arms surround me with His peace.  And then obey, like Jonathan did.  Just live in obedience, step by step, and know that God will honor that obedience in my life.

He may not honor my obedience by taking away my situations, but that’s not why I am to obey. 

So the bottom line in all of this is just this: 

May my circumstances not dictate my response, but may my response be dictated by God’s character.

What is…is…because God is the One in charge.

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And He is a very, very good God.

 

 

 

 

 

The Surprise

I was walking through our vegetable garden one day in early summer, looking at the pretty little plants growing so nicely where Gary and I had placed them.  There was the summer squash on the front row, along with some zucchini.  The tomatoes were already inside their tomato cages that Gary had put up, and behind them were our okra plants.  Cucumbers were on the side of the garden near the tall oak tree.  We have a simple garden this year, not as full as it sometimes is, but enough for us and hopefully some to share with others.

Everything was where it should be, growing as we had hoped at this point, with no visible bugs or other problems that I could see. Weeds hadn’t started taking over yet, either, so I felt content as I turned to leave the garden.

But wait.  What was this?

I stopped between the tomatoes and okra as I noticed a plant growing in a place where we had not put a seedling.  It wasn’t a weed.  It looked for all the world like……a cucumber?  But what would a cucumber be doing here, when the rest of the cucumbers were all the way over on the other side of the garden?

I hadn’t planted it there.  Gary hadn’t planted it there.  Hmmmmm…….

I stood looking at it, wondering what to do.  There are any number of ways that a cucumber seed from last year ended up under the soil and then growing again this year.  I’ll never know for sure.

But what I did know was that I would not have planted that cucumber in the spot where I found it.  It was too near the edge of the garden, for one thing.  It might get all tangled up in the okra or try to climb the tomato cages.  It might want to grow out into the yard where Gary mows.  It might not flourish under the sunflowers that were soon to be planted right there where its leaves had sprouted.

Bottom line……that volunteer cucumber was just not at all where I would have put it.  I didn’t want it there.  I could think of all the reasons mentioned above that I didn’t want it growing where it had sprouted.

It hadn’t been in our garden plan at all.  Now here it was, intruding in a place and at a time that I hadn’t intended for it to be.  I hated to uproot a growing vegetable plant, however.

“Well, OK,” I thought.  “I guess I’ll leave you here while I decide what to do.  You’ll probably die anyway and then I won’t have a decision to make after all.”

And with that, I turned and walked out of the garden……my garden that now held a stray cucumber plant.  A plant that messed up my plan.  One that, honestly, I didn’t want.

I watched that vagabond cucumber plant over the next days…..days that became weeks.  I left it where it was, more curious as time went on to see how it would fare.  And guess what?  My stray cucumber plant grew beautifully!  In fact, it grew better than the other cucumbers that I had so carefully planned and planted on the other side of the garden.

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It wasn’t long before I saw the first tiny little spiny cucumbers growing under its leaves.  I tended it carefully, pulling its curly tendrils away from the tomato cages…..guiding the growing vine out of the yard and back to the garden…..watching another of its vines growing up a tall sunflower stalk.

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The fruit of that unwelcome cucumber has been beautiful and sweet.  We’ve benefited from it very much, and so have others with whom I’ve shared.  I’m so thankful that I didn’t follow my first response and pull the cucumber from the soil!  I’m thankful that I stepped back, gave it time, let it grow, and then enjoyed the sweet fruit…..and the lessons it has taught me.

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One thing we all know, if we live long enough, is that life is full of surprises.  We can be going along just fine, things working out the way we had planned, when BAM!!  We hit the proverbial wall.  Suddenly, things are NOT going as planned.  Now what?

As followers of Christ, we’re certainly not exempt from those detours in life.  In fact, God does put situations and events and people into our lives for a purpose that sometimes only He knows.  Maybe He’ll share it with us and maybe He won’t.  So again, what do we do?

Do we try to fix it?  Get rid of it?  Ignore it?  And if we can’t do any of those, do we argue with God?  Get angry?  Get bitter?

I mean, admit it, there are things that happen to us that that we just can’t see any reason for.  Really, God?  I would NOT have done that.  I would NOT have put that situation in that place in my life at all.  I mean, maybe another time…..another place…..or better yet, not at all!!

So, God, this wasn’t in my plan.  I had my life pretty well mapped out, you know.  Grow up….college….job….husband….kids…..family…..

I didn’t plan on Aaron falling back into my arms that Sunday afternoon 25 years ago, seizing and bleeding and unconscious.  That was most unwelcome.  I didn’t plan on being given his further diagnosis of autism 7 years after that.  I mean, isn’t Epilepsy enough?  I didn’t plan on still being his caregiver when he’s almost 33 years old.  Don’t You know about empty nest?  How welcome, on many days, THAT would be?

So…..this plant that You have placed in my life?  Why did You put it there?  I might agree to it in some form…..over there, in another area, to a different degree.  Here….just let me decide where it goes and how big it grows, OK?  Really, I would never have put it there in the first place…..in case You want to know.

But oh my goodness, what God has taught me over the years from that little unwanted seedling that popped up where I didn’t plan it!

What I’ve learned can be summed up with one verse in one of my very favorite Bible passages.  Psalm 18:30:

“But as for God, His way is perfect.”

There you have it.  Eight little words that speak incredible volumes about God and His sovereignty.

It doesn’t say that His way is easy…..fun…..pretty…..popular…..understandable.

Or fast.  Gary and I are in this life with Aaron for the long haul.

We each have our own situations that God has put, just so, in our lives.  As we stand and look at whatever that is, we must choose whether to accept God’s placement in our garden or to spend our life hating it.

But let me tell you, when you accept that God’s way is perfect and you let Him be that Master Gardener in your life, you’re going to one day see fruit.  You’re going to see growth in your life that you never thought possible.  You’re going to see beautiful fruit like peace, joy, thankfulness, wisdom.

And best of all, that fruit is what you’ll be able to share with others…..especially others who are suffering.  Comforting as you have been comforted…..blessing as you have been blessed.

God does know what He’s doing, after all.  His way IS perfect, and perfectly placed, in each of our lives.

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