Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beautiful Dirt

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez, on Unsplash.
A couple of years ago, our pastor asked us to think about what God might say about us in a Fatherly way, and then gave us an assignment for the following week to share what we had discovered. At the time, I was in a low place, feeling like a failure as a mom, wife, Christian...  I told Jesus there was no way I could complete that exercise. The only thing I could come up with was dirt... I felt like dirt, but I probably couldn’t share that. Sigh. “I am no better than dirt,” I said to God.

A little while later, that still small Holy Spirit voice spoke to me, in the gentlest, sweetest way possible. “Dirt?” “Ha, ha, ha! Amelita, Let me tell you about dirt! Do you know how many billions of living microorganisms and macro-organisms there are beneath the square foot of dirt you are standing on? And look at all of the beautiful trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables that grow up out of the ground to decorate the earth and provide for its inhabitants. Dirt, the thing you think is so terrible, is TEAMING with life. It is what I chose to create and breathe life into the first human. It is death resurrected, a living example of my sacrificial love for this world and the perfect picture of what I have done in your life.” Needless to say, I was completely blown away. Wow!

In recent weeks, I confess, I have struggled and have been buried in big emotions for reasons that are beyond my control.  I’ve been discouraged, ashamed, remorseful, feeling terribly alone, and basically feeling like, well, “dirt.”  I even told God, “I feel like dirt.” At that moment, the memory above came flooding in once again, reminding me of God’s beautiful dirt, so full of dead and decaying things, yet bursting at the seams with an abundance of the promise of life. In my mind’s eye, I pictured the dark soil beneath my feet pulsing with the life hustling and bustling within, much like a pregnant woman’s belly dances back and forth with the movements of the growing baby inside her body. 

Isn’t this just like Jesus? He takes something dirt-y and turns it into a vessel for the purpose of bringing forth His Kingdom. He takes nothing and turns it into something. That which was lost, He restores. The broken, useless stone which the builders rejected, is the very stone God chose as His foundation. The one sheep gone astray is the one He relentlessly pursues. The promise of eternal life in the midst of all the death and destruction around us may not be seen with our tired, discouraged eyes, but yet, it is there, pulsing beneath the surface of our present realities and circumstances. 

Dirt, in spite of all its death, is filled with God’s glory, a miraculous representation of His desperate love for this world. 

I am His beautiful dirt. And so are you…

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez, on Unsplash

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Becoming One

(This is something I wrote to read at my daughter's wedding back in May)

“And the two shall become one flesh.”  

We often hear this quote from Genesis 2:24 in the Bible at weddings, in marriage counseling, in our readings about marriage. What exactly does this mean? Besides sexual union, what exactly does becoming one entail?

In our nearly thirty-eight year marriage, my husband and I have had the opportunity to live this out. It’s been wonderful and it’s been not so wonderful at times. Two people will never always agree on everything. Though it sounds nice, a relationship without challenges would probably be mighty boring, cookie cutter molded, and would certainly be unrealistic. Our creator knew that we needed to grow in our understanding of what intimacy is, grow in our comprehension of His great love and mercy, and gave us the institution of marriage as a means of discovery. Two people will have times where they dislike one another, keep secrets, feel unloved, misunderstood, or even just become tired of the relationship. They will also have many opportunities of giving and receiving grace, mercy, forgiveness, love. There will be many happy times, and there will be some times of sadness. There will be hard times where they have the opportunity to come through holding each other up. There will be times of close companionship, and times of loneliness. These are all normal cycles in a healthy marriage.

In becoming one, you not only learn about your spouse’s strengths, the things that drew you to them, but you also learn about their weaknesses.  In discovering their strengths and weaknesses, you will also discover more about your own strengths and weaknesses. In the early years, I remember often being shocked at some of the things I learned about my husband, and I also remember feeling ashamed as my husband learned some of the realities of who I truly was. However, in a positive light, we have had so many opportunities to practice unconditional, accepting love. There have been the big life events, like having babies, moving to new duty stations, starting new jobs, buying homes and cars, having children start leaving the nest, becoming grandparents, that have given us ample opportunity to discover more about becoming one. 

More often, it’s the little every day things that give us the most practice in oneness; things like choosing paint colors, picking up socks for the twenty thousandth time, endless laundry piles and dishes, getting up at 5 am every day to go to work when you’d rather sleep, taking kids back and forth to extracurricular activities, coming home to your stay at home wife who looks like she hasn’t showered in days because she’s been so busy caring for toddlers and a newborn and hasn’t really slept for months. This very natural ebb and flow of everyday life, like the tide coming in and going out again, are what truly test and shape the bonds of love.

I’d be lying, though, if I said we passed those tests with flying colors. More often than not, we struggled for our own way, our own opinions, our own understanding. In those early years, I think it’s fair to say that we were both pretty selfish, and most arguments were based on what we wanted, rather than considering what our spouse wanted or needed. 

I can’t pinpoint an exact time when things changed. It was a slow process, the kind that happens over years… Little by little, the tests got easier. Little by little, we started overlooking one another’s faults, stopped trying to change each other, stopped getting angry about things that didn’t really matter, like the messy squished toothpaste tube versus the neatly rolled one. Little by little, when we saw one another’s struggles, we stopped taking them personally and started choosing to cover one another’s faults and love each other through them. Little by little, I found myself waking in the morning after a particularly difficult series of these “becoming one” struggles, and just staring at the man sleeping next to me. I wondered at how I could ever deserve to be so blessed. Little by little, that man lying next to me became my hero, the man who could do no wrong (in spite of the wrongs he did do), the man who I wanted so badly to please and to share my life with. I wondered what struggles he might be facing, and wondered how I could make them easier. Then it hit me, I truly loved this man even more than ever, more than I did on the day I said, “I do,” and I realized that I could not possibly live without him. 

Becoming one teaches us to let go of control, to put another person first, to forgive, to embrace a person in spite of their faults. Becoming one is a lifelong journey of learning about grace and commitment. Becoming one is true love that never stops growing. The journey, while not always easy, is absolutely rewarding and so worth it!

The beautiful thing about this “becoming one” journey called marriage, is that the adventure of becoming one continues through our whole lives. As my husband and I grow older, we are still discovering new things about each other, still getting to know one another, and we are still growing and changing individually in ways we never thought possible. In truth, I think perhaps that our honeymoon is only now really just beginning!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Well, I am averaging writing on this blog once a year. Not bad!

I just realized, we are beginning our twenty-seventh year of homeschooling. My, how our homeschool style has evolved! In the beginning, we had a chalkboard and little desks. I was very organized, and we followed a very stringent curriculum. I soon found that this didn't really work, especially as our family grew. Simply finding pencils wasted a good chunk of time before we would ever get started for the day. I would feel so discouraged that the kids were going to turn out to be illiterate bums. It was my son's unquenchable desire to learn math (so much so that he secretly taught himself facts beyond what the curriculum contained because I kept telling him he wasn't ready for those concepts), that made me first realize that curriculum is but a tool. Follow it too rigidly, and you actually squelch the desire for learning.

The funny thing about homeschool curriculum is that it repeats every year. In first grade and second grade, kids spend the year learning the basic math facts. When they begin third grade, they will pretty much review everything they learned in first and second grade. And so on. What takes them a year to learn in first grade, takes them a week to learn in fifth grade, unless a child has bonafide learning disabilities. You could literally wait until fifth or sixth grade to really begin a formal education, and have them caught up by the end of the year. So don't stress. Let your kids play and enjoy their childhood...

Homeschools are not classrooms. They are a place where learning is always happening. It isn't restricted to the desk. It can happen in Mom's or Dad's lap while reading books together. It can happen with a child lying on the floor in his room so he can work on that math workbook he found that mom doesn't know about. Learning happens when the kids help with grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc., all the while developing real life skills that will make them responsible, independent adults.

I'm not writing this to make anyone who sends their kids to school feel bad. You are doing what you feel is best for your kids. That is what being a parent is all about. I am not trying to discount the hard, self-sacrificing work of school teachers. You are indeed angels who are very much appreciated by me!!! Instead, I am addressing the parents who are perhaps discouraged in their homeschooling efforts. Perhaps you are one of those who has fallen behind grade level wise and you are wondering if you should just give up and put the kids on the next bus. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. It has taken me these twenty-six years of homeschooling to finally realize that it's completely okay to ditch the schedule to take a meal to a friend in need, or to go clean an elderly person's home! Serving the community with your kids gives them opportunities to learn things much more important and necessary than academics.

People always ask me or the kids about what grade they are in. I always say the grade level they would be in if they were in school, but they are never in the grade they are supposed to be in. They are "behind" in some subjects, but they are not uneducated. I am confident that this will be a year of new beginnings, and that many exciting homeschool adventures await!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Time Flies

Parenting little ones can be tough sometimes. Endless days and nights run together, overflowing with laundry piles, cooking, dishes, nights being up with babies or sick children. It's been said many time before, but now I am another voice of experience sharing, yet again, these words of wisdom. Try to enjoy your little ones, and don't worry so much about everything else. Pretty soon, they'll be all grown up and leaving the "nest." You'll be left with the memories of those warm, sticky little hands you once held, those adorable little faces that trusted you so much, those miniature arms that once held your neck and flooded your heart with love. You'll remember their sweet little toddler voices asking you to stay until they fell asleep because they were afraid. When they are grown up and walking out of your door, you won't regret the sleep you lost or the dreams you gave up so that you could be a parent. You won't care whether you got all the nice things you wanted, or saw the places you longed to see. You'll only regret the time that got away. And boy, does it get away...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Powerful Spiritual Warfare

           Since I became a Christian, the subject of spiritual warfare has come up quite often over the years. Until recently, I had a skewed view of what exactly spiritual warfare entails, and would immediately envision the spiritual aspect of folks praying continuously for long periods of time, perhaps loudly in tongues; the louder, the better it was heard. That is not to say that praying loudly for long periods of time is ineffective. On the contrary, we are to pray without ceasing, and to pray fervently. However, one important aspect of spiritual warfare that is often completely overlooked is on a much more practical level.
Romans 12:19-21 says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In this example, by showing compassion to those who do evil to us, the evil is overcome by the good. Perhaps we have someone in our life who mistreats us, someone who is close to us or who we work with, or someone such as that cashier at the local grocery store. Maybe we have felt justified in our defensive reactions in response to those who have threatened our sense of security. However, I submit to you that returning kindness to those who mistreat us wields a powerful and fatal blow to the enemy’s plan to destroy both us and them.
In proverbs we read the famed verse, “A soft word turns away wrath.” Have you ever seen this in action? I am one prone to putting up my defenses and losing my temper, especially if the person is criticizing me or losing their temper with me. When I have put this verse into practice, or have been the subject of someone else putting this into practice toward me when I’ve been the offender, I have witnessed the enemy’s plan to destroy relationships completely thwarted. Hearts soften in response to kind words or deeds, and there breaks through the powerful sword of the love of God, conquering all that the one who hates us meant for our destruction.
In the movie version of Victor Hugo’s, Les Miserables, the character Jean Valjean is released from prison after serving out his sentence of nearly twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is required to carry a document that brands him as a thief, and as a result cannot find a place to lodge. Bishop Myriel lets him stay for a night, and Valjean ends up sneaking off with the silver, fulfilling the curse, “Once a thief, always a thief,” placed on his head by society. Myriel does not accuse him when he is caught and brought before him. Before the accusers, he tells Valjean that he forgot the candle holders that he had given him, which were far more valuable, and Muriel gives them to him. In essence, he covers the man’s sin against him with an act of extreme kindness, generosity, and love, rather than with an act of vengeance and acusation. This act changes Valjean’s life forever, and he dedicates his life to educating himself and helping others. Great darkness was broken with a humble and selfless act of love. In the same way, Jesus, who was and is of far greater worth than silver candleholders, stood before our accuser and gave Himself in exchange for our sinfulness, an act which covered our sins forever and made it possible for us to be called God’s very own dear children.
Because of the Great Love who dwells in us, we do not need to argue for our defense. Jesus has already done that. Instead, we can safely and confidently surrender our place of being right to that of forgiving offences against us. We must not underestimate the power of that Sword of Love that has been given to us. It is a love that enables us to break through the deepest pit of darkness and render powerless any scheme the enemy tries to use to divide, devour, or keep us and those around us enslaved and imprisoned by hatred, resentment, unforgiveness, addiction, fear, anger, and so on. May God help each one of us to pour out His relentless and pursuing love to a broken, lost, and hurting world, beginning with those closest to us, in the same manner that it was poured out upon us.


September 15, 2007

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lost in a Forest of People

Although surrounded by friends and family, one can find themselves feeling isolated and alone. This has been the case for me in recent weeks. Being the mom in a big busy family, I am rarely alone. Truthfully, I love the hustle and bustle, and thrive on being with family and friends, busily doing for others. When loneliness creeps up on me, I am bewildered by how quickly I can find myself lost in the forest of people and aimlessly wandering the maze of endless chores. Yes, there is a smile on my face, but inside, I am crying out for someone to care about me, appreciate me, love me. These thoughts are crazy! There are people all around me that love me, appreciate me, and care about me. So why do I feel so alone?

I'm beginning to understand that these feelings are merely symptoms of a deeper underlying need... A need for solitude, time in prayer, time alone with God.... A need for intimacy. The cure for loneliness is not busy-ness, parties, or people. It is in taking time to be alone with God, cultivating that relationship, seeking His love and getting to know him better. How I long for friendship, intimacy, love.

Being created in God's image, we are created to know and be known, created for intimacy. Constantly I seek to know the people in my life even more closely. Intimate human relationships are extremely important and give us a tiny taste of God's pursuit for intimacy with us. When that intimacy we were created for is missing, we find ourselves lost, wandering aimlessly, feeling completely alone. Loneliness can occur even when our lives are filled with people and relationships. We effectively get "lost in a forest of people," lost in the busy-ness of life.

Listen beneath the chatter and the noise. There is sweet friendship waiting in the solitude, waiting with open arms to capture your lonely heart and fill it with His love and joy.

1 O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalm 63:1-8, NLT

Friday, January 28, 2011

Butter Tales

The stuff I think about when I look at the butter dish :-)

The mother bought a crystal dish
And placed it on the counter
In the center adorning it
Was a lovely stick of butter

Creamy white and flawless
Waiting for attention
So all the guests arriving
Could admire her perfection

By and by came little ones
Who touched and tasted and spread
The butter in the crystal dish
On their toasted bread

Soon thereafter came the mother
With visions of perfection
Staring at the butter dish
That needed her attention

For the butter in the crystal dish
Was full of holes and crumbs
Smashed and smeared and mostly gone
Before her guests had some

But then the mother realized
That the butter in the dish
Was even much more beautiful
Than she could ever wish

For a dish adorned with butter
Full of crumbs and holes and smeared
Meant there were many blessings
For little ones lived here.

Beautiful Dirt

A couple of years ago, our pastor asked us to think about what God might say about us in a Fatherly way, and then gave us an assignment for ...