I hate this kind of post.  I’m talking about this one…the one I am about to write.  I am going to have to be real, honest, and publicly humbled.  Great.  However, it’s long overdue.

God has been speaking to me and I haven’t been listening.  I will joyfully allow Him to hold the talking stick when He’s got words of encouragement, surprise gifts for me to unwrap, or Kumbaya feelings.  But, when the conversation gets serious…and He starts to hold me accountable…I reach across the drum circle, yank that stick from His hands, and walk away from the campfire muttering, “jerk…”.

Here I am, blogger of “good things found beneath the surface of life’s dirt”, and I have to confess I’ve left the search party.  Lately, I haven’t been seeking anything out, let alone God.  And, therefore, no joy resides, at least in the meatiness of life.  I’m ‘happy’ in the midst of encouragement, blessings, and the occasional euphoria.  But let’s face it, there is so much more to life than what we and others see on the surface.

Our lives are deep, deep gardens filled with layers and layers of soil.  Layers and layers of hurt.  Layers and layers of history.  And sometimes, breaking out of that dirt, fertilized and fueled by our pasts, are weeds and thorns.  The garden hasn’t been tended, planting of good seed has been abandoned, and a story-rich soil cultivates an unwanted crop.

I haven’t been proactively planting.  I haven’t been talking to the Gardener about His plans, His timing, or His fruit.

The message He has had for me, through 3 distinct people (so far…it’ll probably take more to get it through my thick skull) is that He wants me to ask Him.  He doesn’t just want me to ask, He wants me to ask boldly.  He wants me to come, with no apprehension, full of reckless abandon.  He wants me to demand better…not of others, not of myself, but of Him.

The goal here is not to boldly demand material possessions, change in circumstance or people, or a surface level yield.  He wants me to demand the soil be tilled, the weeds be pulled, new seed be sown, and the entire make-up of the garden restored and redefined.  It’s similar to a masterful chef who desires his patrons to demand the finest meal.  It’s a welcomed request, because it’s what the cook does best.  God is in the business of redeeming, restoring, and rebuilding.  It’s what He does best, and He wants me to demand it.  He wants to give me a new vision for this season’s harvest.

Unfortunately, right now I don’t want to ask Him for assistance in the field, I don’t even want to talk.  Without confidence in His ability to answer those bold kind of prayers, we don’t pray.  Without confidence in God’s character, we don’t ask.  Without confidence in His ability to do the unthinkable (in our hearts and the hearts of others), we resign to living among the weeds.  We resign to defeat among the thorns in our sides.  We scrap to find sustenance among the trash.  All while God is reminding us He is right there, tools in hand, wanting to do some serious work.

He isn’t the hired laborer, though.

I recently watched a documentary on organic farming.  (I know…exciting.)  The filmmaker follows her own boyfriend as he describes his passion for the most refreshing snap peas and the most flavorful carrots.  While she never imagined living on a farm, his dream becomes contagious and she is swept up in his vision and plan for amazing produce.  He demands better than tasteless frozen veggies and out-of-season tomatoes shipped nationwide.  The days are promised to be long and hard, especially without heavy machinery or pesticides.  Everything is to be done by hand, from pulling weeds to washing away invasive bugs.  The expenses and lack of reliable income guarantee financial strain and stress.  But the vision he casts for a healthy cornucopia of rich and fragrant food makes the sacrifices of time and wealth worth it.

In the same way, the great Gardener wants to dream with us.  He wants us to be swept up in the vision He casts.  He, himself, demands better for us.  He promises to do the grunt work and share the bounty.  If we aren’t at least talking to Him, how are we to catch wind of His passion?  How are we to even hear that a better crop is possible?  How do we even know what to boldly ask for?

I am currently working on a second book.  And of course, it’s supposed be about all of this: this stuff I’m struggling to understand and trust.  It’s about the ability of God to cultivate gardens full of life out of what seems barren.  As I look through my notes, God’s scripture and my own words have been incredibly convicting.  The truths run like clear brooks cutting through my rigid and dusty heart.  He’s preparing my soul’s soil.  He doesn’t promise that I will like it.  I might have to sacrifice certain comforts for a table full of good.  He is chipping away at the parts of my dry creek bed that stand in the way of His raging waters of provision…even when I’m not asking.  Those small banks of my soul don’t stand a chance against His flood of mercy, grace, and love.

What

a faithful

God.

So, here’s my bold prayer.  Though it may seem simplistic and small, it feels for me as though I’m asking mountains to move:

Father, help me to boldly pray.  Cast unto me Your vision.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Day 18: Snap Dragons

Earlier today, I finished painting my bargain-find chairs and recovered the seats.   Now, my earlier Lenten goal of friends gathered around the table is in sight.  I went to the store to buy the ingredients for the main course and dessert.  As I was rounding the produce section, I passed the flowers.  Ahhh, snap dragons.  I love snap dragons, and what better way to finish off my new dining room with a mason jar full of the pretty pastel flowers.

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Today I added beautiful flowers.  They were not a necessity by any means.  But it is in the nonessentials that the extravagance of God is seen.  Oh, the depth of a God who creates unnecessary beauty!  He goes above and beyond to create moments of artistry and loveliness for us.  It reminds me of the beautiful poetry of His Word.  It’s not crucial to the message, but communicates His character and lavish love.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” 

Psalm 27:4 


Day 19: K-cups

I recently made a new friend and invited her and her four kids over to play this morning.  She came bearing coffee…lots and lots of coffee.  In her recent move, she was given a plethora of k-cups.  She shared her wealth, unaware that coffee holds the key to my heart. 🙂

Today, I added boxes and boxes of k-cups and a new friend to Lent.  I am so thankful to God for His provision and His timing.

The purpose of this season is to reflect and prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus.  What I am learning through adding to Lent, is that His death and life continues to add to my daily living.  He is alive.  By adding daily, or maybe I should say “by receiving daily”, I am witnessing His resurrection.  He is alive…and finding ways to let me know it.  By opening my eyes to His blessings and bounty, I witness Him being alive and active.

“This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead… Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”  

John 21:14&25

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten Season, the 40 days that lead up to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s a common custom to “give up” something for Lent.  Christians have historically fasted and prayed as they prepare their hearts for the celebration of that which defines their faith–a God who has conquered death.

Ironically, I started my 40 days of fasting by preparing a month’s worth of food…literally.  I’ve recently been on a freezer crockpot meal kick.  Last month, I thought I was easing into the idea with meals that would last approximately 2 weeks.  However, the meals were so large that they provided a month’s worth of food for our family of 6.  The simplicity of tossing pre-packaged ingredients into the crockpot was so freeing.  So yesterday, when the ziplock bags in the freezer drawer started to dwindle, without much thought I started packaging more meals.

Only today did the irony dawn on me.  It’s been awhile since I have given up something I love as an act of fasting for Lent.  I started to wonder this morning if I should pick up the practice again.  Then I opened the freezer…

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I am sure that being really hungry or intensely craving a Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffle could draw one closer to Jesus. It would exhibit great sacrifice for me to give up my morning cups of coffee.  I just don’t think I am strong enough.  And I really love my family.  I’d hate for them to have to live with the decaffeinated, chocolate deprived version of me for 40 days.  I don’t think that’s what Jesus wants for them.  So here is my alternative plan:

This year, during Lent, I will add something to life, rather than take away.  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, and nothing I can “give up” for 40 days will ever come close in comparison.  It is due to His great outpouring on the cross, that I have been covered in so much.  I am really excited about the possibilities of acknowledging over the next 39 days all that I have received because Jesus gave up everything.  I find myself focusing on “beautiful exchange” language: through His loss of everything, I have gained all.

Therefore, I will “add on” for Lent and truly be thankful for all that He gave me in His giving up.


 

Day 1:  Crockpot Freezer Meals.

Since I missed Ash Wednesday…and happened to make a month’s worth of food, I will cheat and say it was purposeful.  (Shhh…Don’t tell.)  I added nourishment for my family, which only points me to His amazing provision.  He meets and satisfies all of my daily needs.  How paradoxical, that as I start the season of fasting my freezer is supplied on day one with enough provision for the entirety of Lent!?

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:10-11

He not only supplies food for my physical needs, but He supplies the nourishment I need in my soul.  He enriches all of life which causes me to be able to enrich the lives of others.  He draws me close…even through bags of frozen beef stroganoff and mongolian beef.


Day 2:  Volume.

I might as well play a little catch up.  Today, I added volume…well, to be specific, loud obnoxious singing.

This morning, as with most of our mornings, our children were having a very difficult time waking up and getting ready for school.  It’s quite frustrating, especially when we discuss the importance of getting up on time each and every evening before.  It is precisely for this morning battle, that coffee is a daily neccesity.

Today, however, I greeted each of my children with a loud operatic wake-up call.  It was fun.  After covering their heads with their sheets and muffling their ears with stuffed animals, they eventually laughed.  Helen even warbled back with her own aria: “Where– is my schoo—ooool SHIRT?”

As the day has gone on, Judah and I have performed our own recitatives for each other.  His screaming (which has recently been driving me mad) has never been so adorably charming.  It’s amazing how my heart has already softened to gratitude, even though the volume hasn’t lessened at all.

All of this singing reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

And so I add volume–loud rejoicing!  I am thankful that God is in my midst, rejoicing over me.  I am thankful that He taught me through silly overwhelming vibrato to embrace life (even toddler-screaming) in the moment and to be thankful.  I am beyond grateful that He has the ability to almost instantly shift my heart and my mind from overwhelming frustration to overwhelming joy.

I am excited to see what He gives tomorrow.  I’d love for you to join me in “adding on” this Lent.  We truly have been given a great abundance.