Waiting for Christmas {When the World Feels Weighty}

Twinkling lights and colorful packages.  Family gatherings and field trips with friends. Carols and baking.  Giving and loving.  

My favorite time of year:  Christmas.  

And perhaps I anticipate Christmas this year more than any other because the world feels heavy: Elections and refugees. Water pipeline protests and police shootings. I can’t open my email, sign on to social media, or turn toward the TV without feeling the weight of wilderness wandering…a hopelessness as I struggle to trust Him. As I forget his faithfulness.  

When do we speak and when should we remain silent? How do we pray? Where do we fit in this divisive culture? My heart is broken for this world, and I want to move into the darkness instead of sitting paralyzed by it.

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So. when the light of Christmas begins to twinkle, I feel the hope and the promise. He is still there. He’s still coming just as He said. He was faithful in the wilderness and will be faithful today.

Perhaps that’s why I love the Advent season so very much. It gives me permission to pause and ponder. To wait with wonder. It keeps gift giving from overtaking me. Advent reminds me there’s joy and peace in the waiting.  There’s a Savior who was born and will come again. Hallelujah. 

If you’re not familiar with Advent…

“The Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas…Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year…the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people…” (More about Advent here.)

That’s the official “what is Advent” explanation, but my personal definition is…a time to slow down and focus on Jesus during a season that’s known for busy and buying.  A time to look at what He has done, is doing, and will do according to His word.

So, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite ways to embrace, observe, and celebrate Advent.

A few months ago I got an early copy of Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting – a beautiful book by my friend, Kris Camealy.  This book will point you again and again to Jesus: Come, Lord Jesus is a companion in the waiting season of Advent. It’s a quiet invitation to sit with the weight of waiting, and recount the faithfulness of God, to trace the hope of Christmas, and prepare the way for Jesus’ coming into the world, into our own hearts, into our everyday, ordinary time. With its offering of a daily reading, a reflection, prayer and one, or two reflective questions for you to contemplate, this book is a welcome “friend” to readers during the Advent, or any other season of waiting.

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I also LOVE Kari Denker’s Journal Doodle Bible Studies, and she has a new Advent study!  You can check out her studies at Stone Soup for Five, but I am excited to do Kari’s The Promises Advent Study with my kiddos this year…

Start this Christmas season by looking back to the long awaited Messiah through a 24 day Advent study about Old Testament prophecy and their fulfillment in Christ in the New Testament. Each day has a short Bible study, journaling ideas, Christmas challenge ideas, and more than 50 coloring pages to go along with each day’s study. Dig in, de-stress, and enjoy this Christmas season in a whole new way with Journal and Doodle Bible Studies!

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If you want a paperback of the Promises Advent study, you’ll find it on Amazon, but if you want to download and print the study, use this link to the Stone Soup site. (I thought this download and print option might be great for my friends in Honduras!)

I also ordered Light Upon Light  compiled by Sarah Arthur. I’ve not read a page of it yet, but it appealed to my liturgical and literary sides. I simply love liturgy (raised a Methodist) and my English teacher heart loves that this book includes poems by Donne and Rossetti as well as pieces by Dickens and Eliot – woohoo! So, this is probably for the nerds among us. But, I plan to pick and choose from it throughout the season. The description…

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This collection contains daily and weekly inspirational readings to help the reader prayerfully experience God through the liturgical seasons of winter. Well-loved classics by Andersen, Dickens, and Eliot join contemporary works by Frederick Buechner and Gary Schmidt. Poems by Donne, Herbert, and Rossetti are paired with newer voices: Scott Cairns, Benjamín Alire Sáenz, Susanna Childress, and Amit Majmudar. Readers are invited to experience Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in its raw strangeness, stripped of sentiment, and to turn toward Emmanuel.

If you’re one who colors (not me:), Hannah and I loved this book when she spotted it at Lifeway: All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas. I LOVE all things Nancy Guthrie, and the few pages I read were great. Nancy’s solid Biblical teaching inspires me each time I study with one of her guides.

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And I will ALWAYS recommend both of Ann Voskamp’s Advent books: The Greatest GiftVoskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus — the greatest gift — through the majestic advent tradition of “The Jesse Tree… retracing the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day’s profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn’t blurred past you but your heart’s fully unwrapped the greatest gift you’ve always yearned for.

And Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of ChristmasEach day, families can read the provided Scripture passage (in connection with the original book), engage with a specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme. 

My kids and I have had a Jesse for a few years, and although this book is for younger children, my big kiddos still love and learn from it.

And if you’re not into books and prefer something simpler, I LOVE (I know, lots of LOVE in this post;) She Reads Truth. The IF: Gathering and She Reads are celebrating Advent together by reading Christ was Born for This.

Beginning Sunday, 11/27, we’ll spend the Advent season exploring the Old Testament roles of prophet, priest, and king, and the way in which Christ came to perfectly fill each of them, as well as a week in Luke’s beloved narrative of Christ’s birth.

You can get this study FREE in your inbox – sign up at shereadstruth.com – or you can purchase it for $1.99 after downloading the She Read Truth app.  

I’d love to hear all about your Advent plans!  Please share with me what you’re reading, doing, giving, baking – whatever. I love new ideas and old traditions. 

Celebrating Another Year of Owen

“He’s not breathing”.

My mom shouts as she changes his diaper. I panic in slow motion as the words sink in: He’s not breathing.

Before I get to his room, he coughs. He’s fine except for a purple tinge circling his lips.

The doctor hospitalizes him for 24 hours, telling us there’s a small hole in his heart that will heal in time; it does.

But after RSV and jaundice, we are tired of trips to the hospital. It seems he can’t eat anything. Breastfeeding is an epic fail.  He feels fragile. I hover, checking him many times in the night. It seems he will never be well.

Hour after hour I pray and wonder: Will this season ever pass, Lord? Will I have a healthy boy? Will he ever give up his sippy cup? Pacifier? Blankies? Teddy bear? When in the world will he be potty trained? Will he ever color since he hates the feel of crayon papers?

I sit for hours praying him past the difficulty; praying his life away.  

I hear this familiar lament often when I am with the moms of littles. I wish he’d walk or talk. I wish she’d eat with a spoon. Others look on and judge the parenting: should she still have a pacifier? Shouldn’t he be potty trained? How long will they carry that bottle? He doesn’t know how to ride a bike? Oh, he can’t read at 4? If he doesn’t get on a good travel soccer team soon, he will miss the boat; that opportunity will pass him by.

Sisters, don’t worry about the pacifier or travel soccer. Let her start dance classes when she’s ready to twirl around the room. If he prefers legos to letters, then build away.

Because they grow up.

When you’re bundling your baby in winter or teetering with a toddler in spring, you don’t see it coming. And people like me say…oh, it goes by so fast. And you secretly think, oh, I wish this season would pass. But, I pray you hear: it goes by so fast.

The baby who overcame a stop breathing incident, jaundice, and sensory issues woke this morning as a 14-year-old young man.

He doesn’t have a sippy cup; he’s a great reader. After years of travel soccer, he’s settled on tennis and bowling – although he might try swimming in high school next year. He might roll his eyes, but no temper tantrums remain. He no longer needs me to dress him or clean his room.

He loves storytelling and conversation. He loves Student Council and volunteers for just about anything. His heart breaks when we speak of the Syrian refugee crisis. After we listened to a podcast series on Syria, Owen prayed they’d be allowed to go home.

Much to my dismay, he likes country music and doesn’t know many hymns (oh, how this inner Methodist cringed while explaining that we used to sing from books called hymnals, not screens and ProPresenter!)

On Friday, I met his girlfriend and her mom at the mall, then left him there with her for dinner and a movie. It felt a little like the end of the world.

He does dishes, laundry, and takes out trash. He loves his family deeply, always considering everyone’s feelings. He’s an amazing cousin to Chloe; her face lights up and she extends her arms as soon as Owen enters a room.

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He tender-heartedly loves. Always giving the benefit of the doubt. Always giving hugs and “I love yous.”

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So, see? They grow up. Quickly. They become young men (and women) with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. Quirks and preferences.

And as I ponder the parenting of this 14-year-old and his 16-year-old sister I am sure of one thing: Raising an athlete or dancer should never be the priority – even for a season. Raising straight A students makes me proud, but it’s not “the thing.” Having popular kids who win awards and appear as angels to those looking on is not relevant.

The goal? The only REAL goal? To love them unconditionally and show them Jesus. In my coming and my going, speak of Jesus.

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Of all the great things I could share about and pray for Owen on his birthday, my prayer is simple – that he continues to heed the words given to the Israelites…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Commit to His commands, Owen. And as your mom, I pray we continue to speak often of Jesus and his love in our home. When we sit and when we rise. That we never avoid the hard conversation or the “I just don’t understands.”

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

And whether or not you’re ever state champion this or that. Honor cord wearer or award winner, know this: your first and foremost a Jesus follower. And when you focus on the cross, the rest will take care of itself.

Happy 14th Birthday, Owen! I love you deeply, and I am so proud to parent you every day. You’re a gift!

 

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Finding Him in Jeremie, Haiti {Day 6}

Today I heard of 128 killed in Jeremie, Haiti, by Hurricane Matthew.

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My sister’s church is deeply invested there. They’ve built schools and planted gardens. They bought 55 goats at Christmas. Some have adopted children from Jeremie.

I sent this to my sister after seeing it  on Facebook:

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She says…

They lost their gardens and livestock. And it’s possible their fresh water well was contaminated by seawater. Hard to understand.

I see Jesus in Dawnna and her church. The ways in which they’ve gone into all the world to love and share Jesus through education and resources.  I see her church family sharing news of Jeremie; their hearts breaking for what breaks the heart of God. The Jesus in my sister and her church is evident as they pray and plan to keep loving the people of Jeremie – all the while wondering…who is gone? Can those who remain survive?

Friends, if I am honest, I am having trouble seeing Jesus in “the people are alive…they survived. But soon, they may starve. They’re cutoff.”

I know He’s there and I pray the survivors can feel him. But, like my sister, I just don’t understand. And I know His ways are not my ways and He allows and the world is broken. I know all of that. I promise.

But, all I can do is watch video and hear stories while clutching a tissue. I will never understand why I sit comfortably in sizable brick home with a refrigerator full of food while someone born in another place fights for life in the midst of wind and water while wondering if they’ll starve to death.

My heart has no idea what to do with that today. But, I am asking you, friends, to pray. There’s power in prayer.  Keep asking God for more mercy.  Ask Him to hold those in Jeremie, Haiti tight. Intercede for those who remain in Matthew’s path.

Lord, we love and trust you. We may not understand, but we don’t have to. We simply keep loving and giving.

Finding Him in Memories of My Dad {Day 4}

A glance at my phone about 4:30 this morning wasn’t even necessary.  I don’t need Apple to tell me it’s October 4. It’s a day I can feel coming in the deepest part of my heart.

My Dad’s birthday.

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He would have been 67, but on January 10, 2008, God thought Dad’s time on earth had ended. And as I held tightly to his hand and whispered “it’s ok to go, Dad,” he took one last breath.

I disagreed with God.

I had a 7 and 5 year old who adored their Poppy  – the Poppy who played with toys and hunted eggs and gave piggy back rides. How could God take my Daddy? Their Poppy? My Momma’s husband? How could this be? My parents had worked so very hard all their lives. These were supposed to be the good years – the “well done” restful years of retirement. Not goodbye.

So every October 4 and January 10, God and I have the same conversation. Me telling Him how I wish it could have been – how I wish it could be for me, my sister, our kiddos, and my Momma. Of course, I never win.  I know God listens and sees each tear. But, Dad still isn’t here. And I still don’t understand.

I think my sister described this struggle best…

Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 67. My first thoughts are…he would be retired…he would love Chloe (her daughter/my niece who is 2)…he’d be proud of Hannah and Owen (my kiddos)…he’d still be following Poca football (the high school my entire family attended)…we’ve been cheated by not having him here for the past 8 years.

However, I trust in a sovereign God that works all things for the good of my family because we love Him. While today is no easier than any other day since my Dad went home to Heaven, I’m so thankful knowing he’s there and I’ll be with him again someday. Happy birthday, Dad. I love you and I miss you so much.

And in the comments of her post…

Pud was a great family man.  From my sister’s friend.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to the best dad I have ever known. From a high school friend

I often think of the great times we had together watching Poca football or WVU or Dallas after the game on Friday night and making candy.  From a dear friend of my parents

Love love loved your daddy! From a high school friend

So many loved and respected my Dad.

And this is where I see Jesus today. In memories of my Dad. Jesus knew my Dad’s days were numbered, so we didn’t waste time on accumulating wealth or stuff; we didn’t waste time on what others thought or on trying to move up the social ladder. My dad focused on his family. And because he considered Husband, Dad, and Poppy to be his greatest achievements in life, we are left with an abundance of sweet (and many hilarious) memories.

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Remembering who he was and how he loved sustains us until one day we see him again.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  We talk of you often and remember you always. We wish we could celebrate alongside you today, but instead we will celebrate in our hearts, remembering the dad who followed us to every event, who was the Mountaineer Parent of the Year, who twirled a baton and fixed fried bologna. Who took us camping and made us clean our rooms. Who taught us to drive and how to love. Who took in every person that ever needed a place to lay his/her head -even if we didn’t have room.  We didn’t know it, but we were watching and gathering every moment into our hearts. We’ll hold them tightly until forever comes.

Finding Him in Youth Sports {Day 3}

He comes down the stairs clad in his tennis sweatshirt and warm-up pants. Uniform on. Hair gelled. Teeth brushed. His official “tennis” shoes tied tightly.  It’s championship day, and his seed looks as best it can.

I fry his egg and make his sandwich. Fill his water bottle and place his favorites in a cooler.  We are ready for a day of tennis.

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I watch him sit quietly at the table. We engage in small talk, but I think he’s nervous. He’s a serious child who wants to please and do well. Don’t we all?

As his momma, I want him to win. Not so I can post pictures on Facebook and take credit for his superior tennis skills (I have zero athletic ability), but because I love this boy and want him to be confident and successful.

I say a prayer as I follow him out the door. Lord, be near today.

We arrive at the courts, sing the National Anthem, and head to Court 4. 

Again, silent prayers for calm nerves and accurate shots. I know, you may say, it’s middle school tennis. That’s a bit shallow. To which I’d say: I am his MOMMA. Momma’s cheer on and pray for their littles regardless of the situation and score. 

Yet, as I say a prayer and take a deep breath on his behalf, I am aware of those around me. A long time friend pulls for his son on my left. Another friend coaches the boy playing my son. I see my son’s opponent’s mom sitting to my far right, folding her hands and staring intently at the courts.  I notice her stand a bit later.

I watch a dad hug his kid and give him a tickle after a tough loss. I listen to the parents of the bottom #8 seed stand behind me and say in a most encouraging tone…oh man, thought he had that one. Good try!  That was a tough one.  (Too many sweet moments to mention!)

As I survey the 10 courts with parents and grandparents and coaches lining the fences, I am reminded that so many kids are well-loved and supported.  God also reminds me: every person here is pulling for someone. Many prayers are going up for calm nerves and accurate shots. Captain Obvious, huh?

But do we always remember this? That we’re all in this together?

While I fully realize and say often “this is middle school tennis and no one will remember in two years who won these matches,” something inside us wants our people to come out on top. And that’s ok, normal, well and good – especially in middle school tennis (as long as we act civil and kind;)

But, what about in life? After the days of youth sports pass, is that always our goal? To come out on top at the expense of another? Does someone have to lose for me to win? Does some one have to be less than for me to be more?

Because that’s where I saw and heard Jesus today. My son doesn’t have to win anything or be great at anything to be loved by God. I don’t have to focus on making Sarah great again. My kiddos don’t need the highest grades or best serve or front row spot.  That’s not the goal of this life. The goal of this life is to love God and love others.  Sure we run the race, persevere, learn, and come out better than we were. But ultimately, we have to stay focused on the real race. The real reason we walk this earth: To make Jesus famous. And when we are focused on loving our neighbors, not besting them, we see His kingdom come to earth as it is in Heaven.

Finding Him in a Conversation {Day 2}

Often when someone asks, “How are you?” she’s not looking for the paragraph answer. More the sentence answer. So, I mostly respond with, “I am good, how are you?”

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Not this friend.

She asks “how are you doing?” and genuinely wants to know.  So, I give the paragraph answer – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Of all the things I shared, she chooses one detail and asks me why my heart isn’t in that.

I am honest: That’s a good question. (Because I have not even stopped to think why my heart isn’t in it!)

Her response? I see the light that you are and I am thankful that you are there bringing Jesus.  

Well, she sees Jesus, and I see drudgery. Interesting.

Then, she shares her life in a very honest way.  And of one part of her world she says, “I know that God provides and moves no matter the place, but I do believe that this is obedience for us right now and that we will see the blessing in it.  But schedule wise, I am full up and so I am looking for how God wants me to live in rest, health, and margin.”

This is the moment I look over my shoulder – CERTAIN that Jesus is right there. My schedule feels full up. I struggle with health, rest, and margin. And I feel this is Jesus saying through my friend: This is obedience for you right now, Sarah. You will see the blessing in it someday.

As we continue talking about a new season in her life, she says, “ Sometimes it takes me a bit to get on board when my schedule and comfort are involved.”

Ummmm…are you reading my journal? I even say to her: ME TOO!  Perhaps that’s why my heart is not in one area of my life right now. I can’t get on board because it’s not comfortable and it keeps me from doing what I want to do.  Ugh. That’s a hard reality.

But.

How thankful I am to have such a wise, obedient friend who’s honesty about her journey builds my faith and helps me to understand Him and his ways better.  And when I look back at how God connected us across many, many miles, I sit in wonder at His orchestration.  At this gift. And at how Jesus showed up in a conversation today on Facebook Messenger, using my friend’s obedience and faith as an example to me. He really is in the small.

Thank you, Lord. (And, I love you, friend!)

Finding Him in a Day at Home {Day 1}

Choosing to write for 31 days about something revealed daily has this planner a bit disconcerted. There’s no writing ahead or scheduling.  Just looking for Jesus each day and waiting. Listening. And on a Saturday when you don’t leave the house much…when you spend the day at home wading through the to-do list…it’s hard to stand back and say…wow. I saw Jesus in the dos and the dishes.

But,  friends, just as I made that joke, He said to me…well, I am here…

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I provide these jobs and tasks. I give you the gifts and grace to complete them. I connect you with each person. You can pay the bills because I provide. You can wash the dishes because I give water and soap and food and a stove and electric. You can answer emails and make graphics because I position you on a ministry team for such a time as this. You can help others. You can pray. You can even listen to your alma mater play football on the radio because that school is part of the story I’m writing for you.

The sweet text from your daughter?  Loving you even though it’s not your weekend. A reminder that I am sovereign, especially in child rearing.

Your son’s sympathy for the opposing team’s field goal kicker? (You should know…we won because he missed!) That’s a gift of grace and mercy as you teach him compassion.

The open window and autumn breeze?  All me, Sarah. The book you read before it’s  released?  A gift from Me to you.

You scroll through Facebook and sit in a warm, cozy home because of my provision. You match missionary pictures with retreat registrations because I’ve given you the privilege of Revive.

The Revive gal who checked in with you this morning?  I connected your hearts and she followed my nudge to love you well.

The bed you got out of? The shower you took?  The car you drove?  The meals you ate?  All me.

The coffee from Tim Horton’s, and the woman who made it? She’s my child. She served you today. Your love of Oh, Come All Ye Faithful? I wrote that. (Yep, I listened to Christmas music today.)

So where did I see Jesus today? In the mundane. In the normal of my life. In a day when I was feeling a bit cooped up at home. Working.

He showed up there.

And without this intentional seeking, I think I’d have missed him.  My messy house and to-do list would have hidden him.  Thankfully, He tapped me on the shoulder with a big A-HEM!  And said, “I’m here.”

Where did you see him today?

Finding Him in the Small {31 Days}

My friend, Ali, and I have spent the year seeking God in the small. We both have big personalities and like to go big or go home. We are both leader types who love people. And we both felt God leading us to the small – an idea birthed with our friend, Marla, after listening to God, Make Us Small.

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Each month we ask God for a “theme” – some idea or action that will lead us closer to becoming smaller and smaller so he can be bigger and bigger in our lives, families, and communities.

In January we focused on becoming better listeners. Submission in February and wonder in March. And on and on. We’ve focused on serving and hospitality. On self-care and stillness. It’s been a harder than I ever imagined.

Yet it’s caused me to end most days pondering…where did I see Jesus today? How is He at work? Where is He showing up in the small? The unexpected?

And I’ve discovered that when I look for Him, I find Him.

So for the next 31 days, I plan to share with you where I see him. Why?

Because I believe in the power of story and of noticing. If we can begin to see Him everyday, our faith and joy will grow as begin to live thankful for the ways he shows himself everyday.

I also pray you’ll share where you see him.  I think we have so much to learn from one another.

There’s miracles everywhere – if we only stop and notice.

I look forward to seeing Him and growing in faith alongside you in October!

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Post in the series:

Hunger We Can Help Fill {Stooping Low}

The “crowd” is small. But, disappointment in the turnout is quickly replaced with a reminder of the ripples. It doesn’t take a boulder to ripple the water; it takes a pebble. And while the room is mostly empty, perhaps there’s a pebble in the audience who desires change, who feels called to this purpose.

She says the pastor is unavailable to share about the community garden, so a gentleman she’s affectionately nicknamed Gardner Bob will share. As he walks forward, I place my hand to my heart in an “oh, isn’t he sweet” way. He is just what you imagine…older, white-haired, dusty from garden work.

And so very wise.

Gardner Bob tells us the story of the gardens.

His church purchased an apartment building that later had to be torn down.  Because the fill dirt over the former building basement wasn’t packed properly, rebuilding or paving the land wasn’t an option. The land stood empty until the pastor planted a few tomato plants, and the idea of a community garden was born.

Not just any community garden, but a garden for those in need.

Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 3:00 pm, Bob places the fruits of his labor in the stand at the garden’s entrance, and the vegetables are free for the taking. Bob says they don’t police who takes what. He trusts that whomever comes gathers only what he or she needs.

And if you’re wondering how Gardner Bob cares for two large gardens that produce over 7,000 pounds of food each year all by himself, get this..

The garden is planted, picked, watered, and weeded by inmates from the local correctional center.

Awesome, huh? Gardner Bob isn’t just offering valuable vegetables to those who need them, but he’s also providing spiritual food as he works alongside inmates each week, listening to their stories, offering them a meal, and loving them well.

Bob tells us of his conversations with the inmates as they plant and pick. Their thankfulness for hamburgers and chips during the lunch break. Their stories of mistakes made and punishment applied. He reminds us the “criminals” who come to complete community service hours at the gardens are human beings, made in God’s image.  I can tell he enjoys his time with them. He says, “I treat them as if they are from any other job agency.”

Bob sums his gardens up in one sentence:  “We wanted to produce food, but I think there’s another hunger we can help fill.”

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As I listened to Bob speak, I think of all the seed planting and fruit producing language in the Bible. Of the parables and the reaping and sowing. But, when I sit down to write, all I can see is Gardner Bob quietly serving and sacrificing each day to give food to those in need and to love those who are down and out.

Bob is past retirement age. He could be sitting on his porch, watching the sunset, and sipping sweet tea. But Bob bends over day after day, stooping low to pick vegetables and love others.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? Who stoops low to love an outcast. Who eats with tax collectors and sinners. Who loves and serves the least of these. Who plants seeds of love and hope in all who meet him.

And Bob doesn’t stoop because he’s above and they’re below. He stoops because that’s where he can serve. That’s where the fruit is. That’s where he can love. That’s what Jesus did. And perhaps we are most like Jesus when we stoop.

I pray I always take the time to notice. To bend down and give a helping hand. To bend down and listen and to love . I am not sure what to do with what I heard from Gardener Bob last night. But, I pray God leads me to a life of stooping.

 

Psalm 113: 4-8

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,

   his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God,

   the One who sits enthroned on high,

who stoops down to look

   on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust

   and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

 he seats them with princes,

   with the princes of his people.

 

{Thanks to Stacy DeCicco, the United Way, and the Mountaineer Food Bank for introducing to me Gardener Bob and giving me the privilege of seeing The Starfish Throwers. May we all be Difference Makers!}

The Couple Who Helped Me See Him { And I Thought It Was Random}

We step into the muggy interior with mismatched tables and eclectic chairs with customers to match.  A (seemingly) random stop for lunch as we travel home.

The hostess ushers us to the back, and we squeeze around the corner table about two feet from an older couple.

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I always notice older couples. Perhaps it’s because I know they have a story to tell.  I smile as I see them holding hands or sharing a meal. What a gift to be nearing the end of life but still have a spouse, a companion walking alongside you. It seems rare to me. Maybe that’s why I notice.

I eavesdrop as I look at my menu. She’s in her (late?) 70s, reading “today in history” aloud from an app on her smartphone. The great London fire ended today, and do you know that it ended the Black Plague?

How? He asked.

It killed all the rats and things spreading the disease I think, she said.

They order and look toward us, making eye contact. They ask us where we are from and we ask the same. They’ve moved to a smaller town in West Virginia to avoid the traffic of their larger hometown in Virginia. They’re in town to see the bird banding at Dolly Sods. They love this restaurant.

She sipped tea. He wore the napkin as a bib along with a large med alert bracelet. As we turned back to our food and they back to theirs I hear him ask…where do we live? She repeats the town and state.  Patiently, kindly, as if for the first time.

She repeats the day in  history. She repeats what he ordered for lunch.  Later, he’d ask us again where we lived, and we’d repeat too.

And she never once made an excuse for his memory or lack of. She simply continued patiently and kindly repeating…we are staying here tonight. We plan to see the bird banding tomorrow.  We are about to eat pizza…

I continue to slip a glance here and there toward their table. I watch her cut his food. I listen to their steady conversation, and my eyes fill with tears. I wonder at my tears – at why I find the couple a mix of heartwarming and heartbreaking. I find myself wanting to tag along to the bird banding. Wanting to help them – even though it seems they need no help.

They’ll be driving across the country to California to see their grandchildren this month. The wife says it’ll be slow going as she’s the only driver.

My friend says God has prompted her to pay their bill. (Side note: I can’t tell you how much I learn about Jesus by living life alongside her).  I love that she’s thought of this. I am giddy waiting for their reaction – like a kid on Christmas morning.

When it’s time for them to leave, the waitress says, “your check has been paid” then points to my friend and says, “by this young lady.” We didn’t expect the waitress to reveal who paid for it, just that it had been paid. But, what a gift….

The older lady says, “I’m speechless…perhaps in 57 years of marriage I’ve earned a free meal, but I’ve only seen this happen in the movies.”

My friend says, ”Well, we’ve been blessed watching how you love and care for one another, so we wanted to bless you in return.’

She thanks us over and over. And she explains that we’ve paid her bill to her husband a few times. And they leave slowly with huge smiles.

Sometimes our women’s ministry team will ask one another, “where did you see Jesus today?”  And on this day, I can easily answer because I paused enough to soak in life, to be still, to enjoy, and to notice.

I saw Him in the way a wife cared for her husband. I saw Him in the generosity of my friend. I heard in the perspective of a woman who had lived many years – too many years to let Alzheimers slow her or her husband down. I saw Him in the food placed before me when I know so many starve to death every day. I saw Him in the smiles of my kiddos as they sat across the table from me sharing stories and insights. I saw Him in the restaurant owner as she gave grace to two new employees who were struggling to keep up with their tables.

Where have you seen Jesus today? Because if you stop and look, stop and breath, stop and listen…he’s there. Every where. Look for him today.