Category Archives: Blessings

First Fruits

I so look forward to homegrown tomatoes during the summer months. There is nothing like homegrown sweetness that will make you never want another store bought tomato again.

In the spring I planted a few tomato plants along with some herbs. I have a couple of large raised garden beds that my daughter Gillian and I made last year. We did the

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lasagna layering method, and this year when I turned the dirt it was so dark and rich.

This year we were just a bit late in planting our tomatoes. Not necessarily a bad thing, it is just that I was getting jealous as my neighbors who were gathering their tomatoes, and mine were just blooming. However, my neighbors must have also noticed my longing looks, because they generously shared with me early in the summer.

Finally, my first tomato began to ripen. I watched it for days waiting for it to ripen enough to pic it. Finally the day came that it was a nice orangey-red hue. I picked it and raised it to my nose to smell the acidic tomatoey goodness.

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It was my first fruit of the season. “First Fruits,” I thought. Then it really started to hit me.  By Jewish law, in Lev. 23:9-14 there is the institution of the Feast of First Fruits, one is to give the first grain or the first of their harvest to the Priest for an offering to the Lord.  This feast is in remembrance of the Exodus and being given Canaan, the land of milk and honey.  It is a time to remember that all things come from God, everything belongs to Him and a time to be grateful for God’s provisions.

I thought about Cain and Abel.  I wondered why Abel’s offering was acceptable, but not Cain’s.  In doing some research, there are theories regarding it not being a blood sacrifice or because Cain did not follow God’s instructions completely.  My personal take is that it had to do with the condition of the heart.  In Hebrews 11:4 it states, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain.”  Abel had offered God the fat sections of the firstborn of his flock. As I pondered on these things the way I thought about first fruits changed.

When you give your First Fruit, it is to be in thanksgiving of God’s provision.  In faith, we are to give, believing that God will provide.  Abel gave in faith, Cain did not.  It is hard to give up that first fruit.  It is hard not to keep what you have in order to save up for an emergency so that you can give to God with a grateful, faithful heart.

It is common in Christianity to do some church oriented, community service based work, but I would guess that the majority of people’s efforts are based primarily in tithes.  I have always said it is easier for me to give my money than my time. Time for me is what has had value. It is so easy for me to write a check and feel like I have given my fair share of the contribution. There have been years where I have lived by this philosophy and others where I have given of my time and emotional resources greatly.

As I smelled my first tomato, I wanted to be the one to eat it. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted to eat all of it, all by myself. I wanted BLTs with extra T.  I wanted salad with fresh tomato. But I knew I didn’t want to share and I defenitiely didn’t want to give it away.

I did not want to give away my first fruit. To do so, I would be giving away something that I truly wanted. I would be giving away something I had been anticipating, something I had been longing for. To give away my tomato would mean I couldn’t have it. It would mean that I would have to wait on the second tomato to come in, and I didn’t want to wait. I wanted the first one.

So is that what our giving is supposed to look like? Not just writing a check, but giving to the point it hurts just a bit? Is giving supposed to be less than convenient?  And to top it off, to give with joy knowing that God is going to provide again?

I don’t know, and to be honest, this topic makes me a little uneasy.  I want to ask, “isn’t there something else, another way?”  I know you can get into debates over first fruits, tithes, and the difference in Hebrew law and what the New Testament dictates.  I’m not here for that.  I think, simply, that the bottom line is that you give in Faith with your heart.

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Asking for Help

 

A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in couples’ therapy when I confessed how hard it is for me to ask for help.  “Why is it that you can’t ask for help?  What do you think would happen?” our therapist inquired of me.

She was hitting a deeply sensitive spot and my face twisted up.  I felt my face getting hot as I fought back the response, “Because if I have to ask for help, then I am failing,”  the response tumbled out.

The truth is I hate asking for help.  I am a mom of four with a pile of Mt. Saint Laundry that actually has its own altitude and climate changes.   I often feel like I suffer from the “Little Red Hen” syndrome, except, unlike the little red hen, I never ask.  I just brood over the fact that everything seems to get placed on my plate to take care of.  Dishes are in the sink and I am angry that no one has taken the initiative to load them into the dishwasher, there is actually dust in the grooves of the kitchen cabinets that no one seems to see except me and let’s not talk about the pile of crumbs under the table that my preschooler leaves behind.  But if I can’t ask, then I really don’t have justification for being upset over something no one knew would even bother me in the first place.  I have to learn to ask.  I have to give myself permission to ask with the understanding that it does not mean I am failing because I can’t handle everything.

I have thought frequently over the last couple of weeks regarding the conversation with the therapist.  And I have thought about my prayer life and my relationship to God.  The truth is, I don’t lean on God the way I should.  Like everything else, I feel as if everything is my responsibility and I only ask for Him to intercede after I am beyond desperate.  In fact, I may just harbor a bit of secret pride in the fact that my prayer life does not read like a Christmas wish list of wants and desires.  (Something else I need to work on).

Matt. 7:7 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.  Keep on looking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”

My daughters have taught me this concept more than anyone else in my life.  It is watching and hearing the tiniest of prayers–praying for the bees, for safety in the storm and thanking God for “my pink blankey.”  They know they are not self-reliant, so they have no problem asking for their needs to be met.  It is only through the wounds of humanity that we stop asking.  I forget that God is not like the rest of humanity.  It is the nature of being human that we eventually emotionally hurt someone.  God, however, will not let me down.  He is constant and He is omni-everything.  Only He can fulfill my deepest desires that I am unable to even whisper.  But I need to ask.

Inner Peace

HPIM0524I just finished a book titled  A Testament of Devotion by Tomas R. Kelly.  In this book Thomas spoke freely of how to connect, spirit to spirit, to the Creator.  His words were so lulling so peaceful, that when I would finish a section, I would feel at peace with the world.  In his first chapter, Kelly states, “Protestant emphasis, beginning so nobly in the early Luther, has grown externally rationalistic, humanistic, and service minded.  Dogmas and creed and the closed revelation of a completed canon have replaced the emphasis upon keeping close to the fresh upspringins of the Inner Life.”  In recent years, I have struggled to have a meditation and devotion time be a consistent part of my life.  As a mom of four, it seems like I don’t even have time to pee, much less the take time in daily devotionals.  So yeah, maybe I am a product of that line of thought–that doing is more important than meditation with the Spirit.

I must confess that I long for that inner peace and joy from being in tune with the Spirit that Kelly spoke of.  I read such authors as Kelly and Wayne Dyer, hoping to obtain that peace.  However, I really want a book to tell me how to obtain peace while a toddler is yelling, “mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, momma, mommmmmyyyyyy . . .”

“What!”

“Nothing.  (giggle)  I love you.”

Sweetness laced with frustration.  All this happening simultaneously while I am trying to cook dinner and carry on a conversation with my oldest daughters.  Are all these peaceful of spirit people, do they have all this stuff coming at them?  I don’t know anyone who could keep inner peace while being pulled mentally and emotionally in 20 different directions.  Except Ann Voskamp.  I think she may be on to something.  The rest of us are struggling with “praising Jesus one minute and screaming at your kids the next.” (Lysa Turkheurst, Unglued).

So I do.  I keep the house clean and raise my children; try to be a good wife and mother and a woman of God all in the same breath.  I am normal.  But I desire a relationship with everyone around me that is beyond ordinary, including my creator.  I just don’t know how to accomplish that.  Maybe I am expecting too much from myself at this stage of my life.  I don’t know.  I just feel like I am falling short.  But then there is grace.  Grace from God and Grace from those around me.

I am rambling, so back to meditation and living life fully.  There are a few things that help me to be at peace and feel more connected to my creator.  I will share them with you:

1.  Get up before the kids and have time with God. Read scripture and pray or journal.   This is soooo hard for me, but it starts my day with peace, which spills over into the rest of my day.  I literally have to go to bed as soon as my pre-schoolers do in order to do this.

2.  Get organized.  It amazes me how much physical clutter around me translates to emotional and spiritual clutter.  I stay at home with my children, and I am trying out a schedule for us.  So far I am really liking the results.  It is a work in progress.  I just have to careful not to make everything into a “check off the to-do list.”  I have to remember to enjoy the moment.

3.  Simplify.  It seems like something is going on in our life all the time that we “must” attend.  A birthday party, a sleepover, extra curricular activities.   This is why Shabbot is so important.  Take time to rest.  It is okay to say “no” sometimes to request.

Those are my tricks.  What are your tricks for finding inner peace?  Please share.  I really need more advice than I am giving.  

Truth vs. the Lies that Infect Us

In her book So Long Insecurity Beth Moore states, “We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us.”

Sounds like a good theory in concept.  The problem is, is that sometimes, we do not know what truth is in regards to who we are.  A few years back my belief was that I was a most heinous individual.  I hated myself with such a great intensity that it was physically nauseating.  The song I listened to over and over again was “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been.”  I wanted to be beautiful, for there to be a grace about me that radiated, alas, it didn’t.  I believed that no one could really want to even talk to me.  I had nothing of value to offer.   I was too much of a disappointment to everyone in my life.  I felt I was a detriment to those around me.

So I holed myself up.  I could not look up at anyone, afraid I would see disappointment in their eyes.  I wanted to have an emotional beauty about me, to minister, to be an artist and a writer.  Could I dare define myself by such things?  The fear of failure during these years kept me in a silent jail.  I was only one who was unworthy of anything.  I allowed every negative action to affirm my beliefs.

Worse yet, during this time I had a woman who I thought was going to mentor me separate herself from me.  I was devastated and her actions confirmed every negative thought I had ever had about myself.  It was my ultimate confirmation.

Even now, years later, it is hard to believe and write anything to the contrary.  I believed the lies so long, they are ingrained into my very core.

How is it that I had every believed such things to begin with?  Who knows why I have such worthiness issues, but they plague me.

At some point during those years I decided I had to determine what truth was.  People are fallible.  Always remember that.  The things that come out of someone’s mouth are often flawed because of their own perceptions.  The only place to turn was to scripture and I had to believe it as if scripture were speaking directly to me.

So what is the truth?

1.  I am worth rescuing.  (My theme Psalm is chapter 18)

2.  I am a reflection of the Creator.  (Gen. 1: 27)

3.  God has plans for me. (Jer. 29:11)

4.  He rejoices over me.  (Zeph. 3:17)

5.  I am holy and without fault in His eyes. (Eph. 1: 4, Col. 1:22)

6.  My story can be used for His Glory.  (Eph. 5:14)

I can only allow God to define me.  It is His truth that sets me free.  If I start defining myself based on what others think of me, then I become paranoid and lost in the insanity of it all.  I have my doubts and setbacks.  My last blog entry can attest to that.  But I know that God knows my name, and regardless of who I am in relationship with humanity, I am precious to Him.

What truths do you base your life on?  What lies have you believed?  How do you allow those things to define you? 

The Pain of Beauty

As women, we go through great pains in order to be Beautiful.  Although I am not much of a froo-froo girl, I still endure my fair share of torture.  Take those eyebrow waxings for example–ouch!  And although pedicures are a way to pamper oneself, I have to admit they hurt a bit.  Then, we don elaborate jewelry before we leave the house and have a ritual of putting on make-up every morning, oh, and the hair.  Living in the South where “big hair” rules, taking the time to do hair can take up most of the morning.

We do all this to feel beautiful.  It is a woman’s yearning to be the Beauty.  To feel like she is Beautiful.  John Eldridge in Captivating describes a woman as Beautiful when she is “fully present” and at “rest” within herself.

But how does one come to be at rest within themselves?  John Eldridge answers this question as well.  He states (paraphrase), “that a woman becomes Beautiful when she knows who she is.”

About eight years ago I had no idea who I was.  I really had no idea of my own identity.  There are many pages in my journal from that time where the words, “Who am I?” are sketched across the top or off to the side.  I felt lost without an identity.  I didn’t know who I was, yet, I felt that I was more than just a wife and mother.  The questions of “Who am I?”  and “What is my purpose in life?” haunted me day and night.  It had to be more than just who I was in relation to other people.

I was not at peace or at rest within myself.  I was anything but beautiful.  In fact, I ducked and dodged other people because I thought I had nothing of myself to give.  No light to bear.

During those years I hated myself intensely.  I hated the void of who I had become.  I lived in fear of being asked to do things, and more fearful of just being a wallflower and no one noticing I existed.  But wallflowers have to bloom, right?

Not necessarily, I think blooming is a choice we make.  We have to pursue the blooming process.  I did.  I wanted more than what I had, so I chose to learn to bloom.

I started hearing God through the voices of my children.  They taught me so many lessons during that time.  They taught me that it is okay to involve God in the minute details of my life.  That if I ask God for something as simple as to make the bees in our yard go away He will.  They also taught me there is Beauty in imperfection.  That was a very important lesson for me to learn.

I also discovered that God knew my name and that I undoubtedly belong to Him.

The Psalms repeatedly speak of God pulling the Psalmist up from the mire or the pit of despair so that others can see and be amazed at what God can do.  It takes a journey of dark to light to have a testimony.  Those who have made this journey can bear so much more light to those who have never walked the darkened road before.

“Weeping may continue through the night , but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

It is God’s desire to pull you up out of the pit of despair.  He wants His glory to be seen through you.  God’s desire is for you to reflect the ultimate Beauty–His Beauty.

What “pit of despair” has God pulled you out of?  I want to hear your story.  

Reflections of Rain

My family owns a farm that borders the Harpeth River.  I go there often when I need to reconnect with what is important in life.  Today I went to refocus.  In this hectic world, it seems so much of what is truly important is lost in the rush and chaos of everyday life.  I have to admit I do not go to the farm enough.  I should.  It feeds my soul.

It is a place that when I need to clear my I head I go.  Instead of the hectic chaos, my head is filled with smell of sweet hay.  I walk farther and cross the creek.  The wind is blowing and I remember that there is rain forecasted for the evening hours.

It is fall, and the last of life is still hanging on.  I wonder how often we are like that.  We hang on despite impending change.

There is Beauty in change.

The wind picks up and the clouds to the west darken the sky.  Faintly, I begin to feel raindrops.  The storm is some distance away, and I am puzzled from where the droplets come, as they sky above me is still blue.  But the rains will come.  It is only a matter of time.

Then I am given the blessed sign from God.  A rainbow.  Out of a few drops of rain a rainbow emerges.  How funny it is in life, that with a little rain, it can bring such Beauty.  But sometimes our rain is more than a few drops, it is a deluge.  I am afraid that this timid rain and the beautiful aftermath is only foreshadowing of things to come.  Still, I go ahead with my plans to go to the river.

Sometimes the path before us is not easy.

Often, there is unwanted baggage that clings to us.

My father had me convinced when I was a small girl that these were porcupine eggs and not cockleburs.  Whatever they are, they sure do tag along for the ride.

The storm looms in the distance.  I know it is only a matter of time.

Finally, my destination!  I sit.  I am still, and I reflect on the one who made me.  I am reminded of the verse in Phil. 1:6 — And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

I am renewed in my belief that I am where I need to be in life.  God has a plan for me.  He has began a good work within me.  He will not give up on me until it is complete.

The storms will come.  But I will still praise His name.  During those storms, God is my rock and my fortress.  

As I begin my journey back to my truck, I feel a gust of hot air followed by the rush of cool air.  The storm is close.  Then it begins.  I walk through the brush out into the open field just in time to hear the tat-a-tat-tat of the rain moving across the woods which borders the field.  I pick up my pace.  Lightning flashes and thunder booms and I know the rain is going to beat me to the truck.  It does.  It begins to pour down.  I enjoy the rain washing over my face.  I wipe my hand across my face to remove the drops which are now getting into my eyes.  Thunder cracks loudly above my head.  Regardless as to what may come, I am His.  

Simple Blessings

Mornings.  I have a love-hate relationship with them.  On one hand a hate pulling myself out of bed when I would love to sleep another five hours, (have I mentioned that I am a tired mommy?)  On the other hand, there is nothing like the predawn stillness of a quiet house to help begin the day with gladness.

I was able to pull myself out of bed at 5:30 a couple of days ago intent on doing some writing and meditating.  Started coffee, and while it was making got sucked into Facebook.

Even so, Jesus was standing at the dawn of the day and peace was upon me.  I did eventually get out of Facebook and read my Bible and had just settled into praying when one of my daughters came in and plopped down on the couch.  Usually I begrudge this interruption on my morning quiet time.  But this morning was different.  I was at peace.  I was calm.  I looked at my daughter who was yawning and thanked God for entrusting me with the souls of these precious ones as they grow.

Little yawns; sleepy eyes; sweet morning cuddles.

Most days do not start out like this.  Most days start out with my youngest daughters whining at me to get up before I even open my eyes.  They start my day by screaming for juice.  Not pleasant and I wake up frazzled. Right now as I type, I have had a daughter whining off and on throughout this post.  I tend to the interruption and then try to type another line.  It is irritating that I can’t get anything done.  But little cries mean I am blessed with my precious daughter who’s curly hair tickles my nose

when she sits in my lap.

Outside it is turning cold, and the sun’s rays are not as intense as they once were.  The light is perfect to show off the magnificent array of fall colors.  I look through the window and marvel at the beauty.  Simple pleasures; simple blessings.

I wish I could be at peace like I am in this moment all of the time.  But the truth is I get frazzled.  Last night my husband was fretting over some pending decisions which need to be made.  I simply said, “God’s got it.”   I don’t know if the things that we are hoping for will come to fruition.  I have learned through time that some things are just stepping stones to greater things.  Sometimes the path we need to take in order to get to the destination is not the path we see in front of us.  While we can only see what is in front of us, God sees the infinite possibilities that are before us.

Until I get to my final destination I am going to try to enjoy the ride and enjoy the simple blessings of life.

What are your simple blessing that you take pleasure in amid the chaos? Share with us.