Thursday, May 7, 2015

Influence


It has been a long while since I have posted anything here. I have been busy completing three years toward my B.A. in English and my senior year is underway. My current class (Creative Writing) has finally given me the space to take off the tight harness of academic writing rules, and it feels SO GOOD!! After reading my first assignment, Mom and Daddy gave it their thumbs up and suggested I make it a blog post, so here it is. It is my story and their story. It's a little longer than my usual posts, but as with everything I have ever posted here, I pray it encourages you to run "up the sunbeam to the sun" (C. S. Lewis).


"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV



I sat above them on the stairs. Looking down through the window-like openings in the partition between the living room and the stairway, I listened to the basketball players, football players, baseball players, wrestlers, track athletes, both the lettermen and the also-rans, girlfriends and boyfriends, and non-athlete students who were welcome even though this was a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. I knew to be quiet and still, but I was not hiding; they all knew I was there, and I was welcome, too. It was admittedly a school night, but this one night of the week I was allowed to stay up past bedtime–it was FCA night at Coach Allen’s house and I was Coach Allen’s little girl. It was 1967.

As my attention wandered around the scene below me, I saw my mother comfortably among the students, seated on the floor ladylike with her knees to one side. She had positioned herself on the edge of the group closest to the kitchen so she would be able to dash out to serve snacks and pop afterward. I wondered how she would get safely across the more than 70 pairs of shoes, and all the coats, hats, scarves, and gloves that told of the cold Iowa winter blustering just outside the kitchen door. A few kids sat in the chairs around the room, and everyone else sat on the floor, packed in close, spilling into every space they could find. Our big old homey farmhouse felt cozily small on FCA night, and I felt safely out of the melee in my perch on the stairs. Near the center of the crowd, Daddy sat on a high-backed dining room chair leaning forward toward his eager audience, elbows on his wide-spread knees and notes in hand like he was about to call a play that would win the championship at the buzzer.

I could still hear the final soaring notes of former pop star Ray Hildebrand singing “He’s Everything to Me” and the click of the stereo turntable directly beneath me as it turned off. Daddy often liked to start or end the meeting with a song that would either set the scene for what he wanted to share or that would drive his point home. Daddy’s focus was always Jesus, his framework was always athletics as an illustration for life, and his purpose was always love. And Mom, though she would readily enter into the discussion, mostly listened and silently prayed for those young student-athletes who were hearing the Gospel message in a way some of them had never heard before.

For four years, this scene played itself out over and over in my house, and for four years, I listened and observed the ways lives were changed by meeting Jesus. When Daddy started holding FCA meetings, I had just started Kindergarten and had not even had my fifth birthday. The closest I came to being an athlete was when I was the mascot for the cheerleaders and practiced all the cheers with the big girls. At that age and with such small experience, my ability to comprehend was limited, but I couldn’t get enough of what happened at FCA. I guess whatever was beyond me just sailed over my head, but what I could understand, I drank in with great, thirsty gulps like I had never had water before. I was like the little boy in the red #18 jersey watching the athletes huddled on the practice field in the famous FCA image that I had not yet seen for the first time.

During the summer of 1971, my family lifted away from our deep roots in Iowa and our even deeper roots in America and the sphere of influence my parents had established there. After countless tearful goodbyes from friends and family, we moved to a little corner of heaven in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. In September, when Daddy was getting started at his new high school where he would teach Social Studies and coach football and basketball, he also started what was the only FCA Huddle in Canada. I think there were four kids that came the first week. The numbers were not important, but as word spread with each week that followed, it grew until it drew a consistent 20 to 50 high school athletes and students. There were still athletes from the usual sports, but now there were a significant number of hockey players, ice skaters, and skiers in the mix. I remained the interested child in the too-big jersey looking, listening, and learning.

The next summer, my parents bought a place with a cherry orchard and room for horses. Within a few weeks, I had the horse I had dreamed of having as long as I could remember. I started taking riding lessons and got involved with the local riding club. I rode in my first horse show when I was ten years old. It would be my competitions on horseback through elementary school, junior high, and high school that would give me the experience of actually being an athlete. Now when I went to FCA meetings, though I was still a child and did not verbally participate yet, I could mentally consider the questions Daddy posed about what it meant to be a Christian athlete. I was finally starting to grow into that red #18!

 About the same time, I also started to grow into my other great love: music. Music was already important to me, but when my grandfather gave me the guitar he had bought for himself for $16.00 in 1933, I started to want to do more than listen. I started the first of many guitar lessons, and singing lessons would follow. When I had only just started learning to play guitar, my family took a group of high school athletes from our FCA group to an FCA Conference at Southern Oregon State University in Ashland, Oregon. To my great delight, none other than Ray Hildebrand was leading the singing for the week! I had my guitar with me, but I hadn’t even learned how to tune it by myself yet, so Daddy went with me to give me the courage to ask Ray to tune it for me, which he graciously did. I was completely star struck! I watched with fascination all that week as Ray effortlessly and powerfully moved an auditorium packed with young men through music, and I wanted to do what I saw him do.

After years of only playing recorded music to enhance our weekly FCA meetings, when I was in junior high, Daddy asked a talented young singer/songwriter from our church if he would provide some live music each week. His name was Gordie Duncan, and he agreed to come. With the steel-stringed acoustic guitar he’d named Oliver (the best guitar I ever played), he played and sang meaningful songs by secular artists like Loggins & Messina, Bread, and Noel Paul Stookey. He also performed songs from the fledgling Christian Music world by Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Steve Camp, Petra, and our friend, Ray Hildebrand. We loved all these, and we loved his original songs, too. Once again, I saw what music could do to human hearts and hoped that someday I could know what it felt like to move people with music the way he did. No longer content to watch from the sidelines, I began to dream of getting into the game. I wanted a real jersey and a real sphere of influence where I could tell people about Jesus.

Gordie was the most skilled guitarist I had ever heard, and I asked him if he would teach me. He did, and he sent me to his vocal coach to get over my fear of singing solo. When I wanted to know more about songwriting, he burned into my mind his guiding principle to “paint pictures with your words” (personal communication, 1979). I learned all his originals and all the other songs he did at FCA, I worked on my singing, I wrote more than I ever had, and I began to sing in church whenever they would have me. I picked up every crumb of influence Gordie dropped, and I prepared for the unknown day and time when preparation would meet opportunity.

I had no way to anticipate the way the first of my opportunities would come.

One bitterly cold Tuesday night in January, Daddy walked into the living room where I was playing a song called “Foxglove” on my guitar, and he wore an expression I had never seen on his face before.

“Well, guys, that was a very heavy phone call,” he began.

My mind raced to my great grandmother and my grandparents back in Iowa, hoping, praying they were alright.

Daddy struggled for words to tell us what he didn’t want to know himself and continued, “The plane that went down in Okanagan Lake yesterday was not able to be recovered, and Gordie was on it. He’s gone.”

Mom, who had been standing next to the stereo holding my three-year-old brother, abruptly dropped to her knees with the thundering shock of the knowledge. I felt it, too, but I couldn’t seem to move for the longest time. I sat frozen in place, experiencing grief for the first time in my too-young-for-this life. Devastated teenage girl or not, I could not figure out how to cry.

The next day, I stayed home from school. Not knowing what else to do, I turned to music. For what seemed like all day and all night, my guitar held my hands while I sob-sang every single song Gordie had taught me. That is the day I stumbled into what has become my now well-worn saying: The only way through is through.

Sometime before the next meeting, Daddy asked me if I would pick up where Gordie left off and do the music for FCA. When the star player goes down and the coach calls your number, you have to be ready—a lifetime of being a coach’s daughter and countless hours of FCA instruction had taught me that. I was hurting and terrified, but I was ready. That week and every remaining week of my senior year, on a steel-stringed acoustic guitar Gordie had helped me pick out, a guitar I had named Abraham, I did the music for FCA. The set list was different from week to week except for one song that Gordie always closed with; it was appropriately called “Parting Thought” and I always closed with it, too:

Here's a song
Sung with you in mind
Maybe it will make you
Think about Him one more time
And if you can
Please try to understand
Jesus is yours for the asking (Lyrics by Bob Hartman of Petra, 1974)

I never became a household name, never approached anything like fame as either an athlete or as a musician. But I did sing on the same stage Ray Hildebrand had sung on the year he tuned my guitar. The group of athletes that filled that same auditorium gave me a standing ovation when I sang a song I had written for them inviting them to know Jesus like I did. I did a lot more singing and playing after high school, and it was all perfect preparation for working in the Christian Music industry as I did for five years after Bible college. Beyond that, it was vital preparation to be the mother of two musicians, one of whom plans to make music his life and who is far more talented than I ever was. The little girl who watched eternities altered from her spot on the stairs finally got in the game. The influence so many people along the way have had on me continues to influence people as I touch others who touch others who touch others. Keep watching, #18! You’re going to be a starter before you know it, and then there’ll be someone watching you!




Image reference: 
Unruh, A. (2008, November 6). Influence #18 [Watercolor Illustration from 1960's photograph]. Retrieved from http://portfolio.fca.org/netpub/server.np?find&site=Influence&catalog=catalog&template=detail.np&field=itemid&op=matches&value=4647

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Etched

My friends, I know I have been quiet a long while. All is well! School is demanding, exciting and rewarding! I miss you all, and thought I would peek back in and share an old post that expressed my heart on this day of remembrance. Now we have the events of Benghazi to add to the sorrows we remember on this date. My prayers are with my beloved country and all the people who sorrow personally for loved ones lost--our hearts are with you always!

Some moments from September 11th, 2001 are etched in my memory like names on a tombstone. The first fuzzy awareness in the pre-dawn darkness that something was wrong--what was Hero Husband saying? Airplane? World Trade Center? Coming fully awake to look through my TV-window-on-the-world only to see the crystal clear New York City sky and realizing it could be no accident. Smoke pouring from the gaping hole in one tower . . . and then there were two! Instant knowing--terrorists! It had to be! Firemen, ambulances, police, reporters, terrified people running pell mell to get away from the surreal devastation behind and above them. Me trying not to sound strange and scared and tight when it was time to get the kids up for school--would there be any school? Suddenly everything was a question mark! Brain on fire trying to think, make sense of something, anything, should I make lunches? How could I do anything but watch and listen and hope someone knew what was going on. THE PENTAGON!! OUR PENTAGON?! NO WAY! A slight shudder . . . one tower turned to sand before my eyes and fell in a fountain of ruin. Papers flew, people fell . . . and jumped. The other tower soon joined her twin and crumbled into expensive dust mixed with precious blood.  
No! No! No! Our hearts cried! This doesn't happen here!! 

But it did happen here. As I walked my kids to school with trepidation in my step, eyes skyward, wondering where that fourth plane would come down, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. The finality of that realization coupled with the blank grey the future had suddenly become, made me passionately and vividly thankful that I know where my eternity lies! I talked to my kids with certainty that no matter what happens here on earth, we know that God is incapable of losing us. We could go forward in confidence, because no terrorist could make God leave our side!

Over the next hours and days, we cried a river of tears for all that was lost that awful morning. We mourned for the dead and their families left to miss them. We cried out to God and reached out to each other. We were united in a new wave of patriotism and brotherhood, and we flew flags! Oh the flags!! Strange as it may sound, I miss those days--our hearts were broken and our sense of security was shattered, but we were together, we needed, we loved.

I am more confident than ever that God can and will keep us through anything. The last 12 years have been a roller coaster in every way you can think of, but God is breathtakingly constant.


"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever." Hebrews 13:8 NIV

What a comfort that is!! He doesn't change. He is not rocked by earth's paroxysms and upheavals. He is always Himself, always transcendent and always intimately immediate.

Etched more deeply, more clearly, in bigger letters than the impressions of the infamous and violent paradigm shift that happened in our world and in our hearts on September 11, 2001, is this truth promised to His children:


"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10 NIV

We must never forget!

Edited from the archives.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Finishing Grateful

--


Finishing 2012 with nothing but gratitude . . . as it should be.


________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!


The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1948-2100 (November 11th through December 31st)


11. 3 gifts of remembrance
Ancestors
Founding Fathers
Generations of soldiers who have fought to keep us free
12. 3 gifts at noon
Hero Husband home for lunch
She So Sweet getting up for breakfast
Drummer Boy off to work
13. 3 gifts behind a door
Sleeping kids
A full pantry
Freshly cleaned refrigerators
14. 3 gifts silent
The wee hours of the morning
Moonlight
Things growing
15. 3 gifts golden
The slanting rays of light in autumn
Autumn leaves at the height of their falling glory
The paper my business license is printed on
16. 3 gifts hard eucharisteo
Feeling completely overwhelmed and having no choice but to rely on God
Pest control people who interrupt my day, but do get rid of wolf spiders
A very confusing teacher
17. 3 gifts of laughter
Silly videos we show each other on YouTube
The fun of family jokes
Old favorite sitcoms
18. A gift made, shared, passed on
Homemade Thanksgiving decorations
Knowledge on my learning team at school
Little tips and tricks in the kitchen I get to pass on to She So Sweet
19. 3 gifts autumn
Cooler weather
Rain
Football
20. 3 gifts of traditions
Baking my family's rolls to share with my family-in-love
Gathering together for Thanksgiving over good food, football, and gratitude
Our Wednesday family meet-up at Daphne's/Peet's
21. 3 gifts family
Hero Husband's family who will all be at my house for Thanksgiving this year!
For my Momma & Daddy's prayers that keep me together when I'm feeling overwhelmed
For my amazing husband and children who don't like to see me stressed out and who made everything a team effort!
22. 3 gifts grateful
Grateful for all the help from Hero Husband and She So Sweet for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal
Grateful for a house full to the brim with people, the noise they make, and the love they bring
Grateful for  the satisfaction of an event that went off without a hitch
23. 3 gifts only in Christ
Salvation
God with us
Unchangeable character
24. 3 gifts humble
Me when I look in mirrors, both literal mirrors, and the mirror of Scripture
Mismatched dishes
Most of all, Jesus
25. 3 gifts ugly-beautiful
The messy aftermath of Thanksgiving Day
Turkey bones saved for soup
Mulberry trees shorn of last year's new branches
26. 3 gifts preparing
So many papers for this class (hard eucharisteo!)
Trying to start thinking about Christmas
Did I mention SO MANY PAPERS for this class?!
27. A gift handmade, held, happy
The cookies She So Sweet made for the firefighters at the Fire Station down the street
A steaming cup of coffee (Peet's of course!)
My kids, coming home from a film collaboration
28. 3 gifts in community
New friends ⇐ Hooray for my 1000th gift counted in this delightful Joy Dare of 2012!!
The joy of encouraging our friend who is an amazing artist--http://artbytom.jalbum.net/Abstract-Impressionism/
Our Peet's friends at our favorite Peet's store--both baristas and other regulars and faithful Peet's afficionados
29. 3 gifts red
My car (maroon is red, right?)
My iPhone
Rosy red apples
30. 3 gifts astonishing!
Hummingbirds
The night sky
The bonds of family
1. 3 gifts white
Foam (just a little) on top of my Peet's Gingerbread Latte
The snow I only get to hear about from friends in colder places--thank goodness for Facebook's window on their views
Paper and all the words it can hold
2. 3 gifts bright
Christmas lights showing up all over town
The future, despite all the unpredictable things human beings can do to muck it up
Bethlehem's star that still shines into our dark nights
3. 3 gifts shining
Moments of triumph
Moments of reunion
Moments of authentic worship
4. A gift circling, crowning, crafted
Driving in circles waiting to pick up Drummer Boy from work--he has a job, which is such a good gift for him!
The crowning achievement of a semester coming to a close for Drummer Boy and She So Sweet – good job, you two!!
The wooden masterpieces, made for me by my little brother, that beautify my house http://crossingtimefinewoodworking.com/OUT_OF_THE_FIRE.html
5. 3 gifts silver
"Silver Bells"
Jingling coins
Favorite earrings I too often forget to put on
6. 3 gifts sweet
Hero Husband who is so thoughtful and works so hard to provide us this magical life we share
Mochas – Peet's, Starbucks, Homemade . . . why yes, I do thank God for them ALL the TIME! You should try my Spicy-Hot Orange Cinnamon Dark Chocolate one I make at home!
She SO Sweet =) – She IS!! She really IS!!
7. 3 gifts from your Savior
Peace with God
Life evermore
Abundant life that begins here on Earth
8. A gift hung, held, heard
The Jewel Tree Grandma & Grandpa made for us
Hands
New Christmas music
9. 3 gifts ugly beautiful
The mess in the living room from the decorating process, begun, but nowhere near finished – need to find two more boxes in the shed!
Our old yard swing with the tattered sun shade that the birds are dismantling to line their nests
All the ways I am terribly behind – beautiful only because it means I am giving my best effort to doing well in school
10. 3 gifts unframed art
The amazing faces She So Sweet draws
Drummer Boy's beautiful mountain landscape he painted
The two of them, living, breathing pieces of God's artful handiwork
11. 3 gifts ice cold
The snow falling at my Mommy's house where it is her birthday!!! It is her birthday here too, but you know what I mean! J Wish we could be there!!
Food in our freezers despite the recent all-day-long power outage
Occasional bits of frost that only tease this winter-loving girl
12. 3 gifts berry red
My dream car I get to drive every day--well, unless She So Sweet is with me anyway--she loves to drive it too
The flowers in my new hanging pot outside the front door
A favorite sweater it's finally cool enough to wear
13. 3 gifts striped
Candy canes
She So Sweet--she loves to wear stripes!
The many roads we travel that take us where we need to go
14. 3 gifts stamped
Christmas cards from all over
Snowy postcard from a Peet's friend visiting Europe
Gracious gifts from family far-away
15. A gift gold, scented, bent low
Favorite ornaments
Fragrant candles that fill the house with Christmas scents
Figures in our nativity scene that show me how
16. 3 gifts Bethlehem-unlikely
The virgin heavy with child
Angels filling shepherds' ears with song and good news
King of the universe born in a stable
17. 3 gifts frosted
Every blade of grass on these rare frosty mornings
Facebook pictures from Canadian friends
Holiday sweets
18. 3 gifts miraculous
Every breath
"Momentary coruscations!" (C.  S. Lewis)
The love that swirls through our family
19. 3 gifts manger-small
Candy canes
Christmas ornaments
Flickering candles
20. 3 gifts angelic song
O Holy Night and Joy! Joy! by David Phelps
Immanuel by The Imperials
Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant
21. 3 gifts lit
Christmas lights all over town
Our Christmas tree, finally
Miniature church on our mantlepiece
22. A gift with rejoicing, wonder, praising
Car trips filled with music and singing at the top of my lungs
Phone calls home
Sunday morning church service surrounded by praising voices
23. 3 gifts starry
The blue-light "stars" above my nativity scene
Clear night skies after rain
Children's eyes 
24. 3 gifts humble
Mary, who said yes.
Joseph, who said I will.
Jesus, who said I'll go!
25. 3 gifts in Luke 2
The "glory of the Lord."
"Do not be afraid."
". . . good news . . . great joy . . ."
26. 3 gifts in Christ
Forgiveness
Peace
Rescue
27. A gift found, shared, saved
Rest
Photography--shared with Drummer Boy and now She So Sweet!
Memories
28. 3 gifts lingering
Halo around the moon
Drummer Boy and I out taking pictures of the halo around the moon at 1:30 AM
Sleeping in the next morning
29. 3 gifts of hope
New Year just around the corner
The excitement of a new class begun--intense though it may be!
Knowing that God is our provider, no matter what the politicians do or don't do!
30. 3 gifts remembered
Playing BINGO with Hero Husband and She So Sweet
Watching a silly movie with them and sharing in the silliness
The fun of finally getting to watch some football with my Sweetheart today!!
31. 3 gifts anticipated
Soon-coming overnight trip to Yosemite!!
The next family gathering that is in the works!!
A better, stronger, more-disciplined me in 2013!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wholehearted

--

A little more than ten short months ago, I set out toward a cherished dream to become a teacher, and today I reached the first major milestone on that road. I clicked the SUBMIT button to turn in my final assignment in the final class of my freshman year of college. 

I love looking at the row of binders that hold all my textbooks from this year--each one represents a five-week chunk of my life that I spent on the way to achieving my big dream. Stacked up together, they feel solid, substantial, sacred. Not sacred because of their content (although every bit of truth they hold belongs to God), but sacred because this work is all an offering of love, given for God's glory. He is the reason I stay up late to finish papers. He is the reason I fuss over details. And He is the reason I step up to lead team projects with a commitment to excellence instead of letting someone else do it (or not do it) and just get by with minimum effort.

Last year, just before I started, I shared with you a line from Justin McRoberts who says that "every great work takes the shape of the cross." That line comes back to me again and again. In the quiet of the wee hours when I am falling asleep over my keyboard, it keeps me clicking away until the job is done. On beautiful days when my camera is calling my name, it helps me choose discipline despite the ache to go outside and play. When managing a team in an online environment is making me want to tear my hair out in great, desperate handfuls, it keeps me patient and kind (relatively, anyway).

My family might tell you that I could stand to work toward more balance sometimes, and I would have to agree--sometimes running off with them to have some family fun, or heeding the call of my lonesome camera are exactly the things that would most please my Heavenly Father right at that moment. But I feel His joy in what I am doing and in what I am working toward.

"Whatever you do, put your whole heart and soul into it, as into work done for God, and not merely for men—knowing that your real reward, a heavenly one, will come from God, since you are actually employed by Christ . . ."  Colossians 3:23-25 PHILLIPS

I wonder if you are now like I was for so many years? Are you dreaming a dream, but afraid it might always be out of reach? If that sounds familiar and you wonder if you should just give up on it, let me encourage you to keep praying, keep watching for your moment, and keep trusting that God's guidance and timing are perfect!!

This song by Amy Grant says it beautifully--I hope it encourages you like it does me!




________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!


In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1927-1947 (November 4th through November 10th)

4. A gift gathered, given, good
People to play a trivia game at church last night
Words of encouragement
Five Guys burgers & fries (best fries on EARTH!) with my sweet family after church--what a treat!
5. 3 gifts acorn-small
Bits and pieces of potpourri that smell like spiced apples
Gummy vitamins
Brightly colored push-pins
6. 3 gifts government (could also double for "hard eucharisteo")
The privilege of voting
The Balance of Powers
That our government was established on a firm foundation
7. 3 gifts from your window
Deep red plum leaves making confetti on the green grass
Squirrels running back and forth along the top of the fence, their own personal freeway system
The flash of their ruby heads in the sunlight as hummingbirds flit from flower to flower
8. A gift sweet, salty, sipped
Homemade Peet's dark chocolate orange mocha
Homemade toasted acorn squash seeds
Cranberry juice for breakfast
9. 3 gifts harvest
The acorn squash the seeds came from, baked with butter and brown sugar--so yummy!
The sweet onions She So Sweet put in with the pot roast she cooked
The celery we are re-growing on the window sill
10. 3 gifts found in Bible reading
Renewed strength
Hope for tomorrow
Peace for today

   Beauty in His Grip Button
On In Around button
A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, November 5, 2012

For When You Feel Unfruitful

--
Hello, Friends! Anyone here? I've been gone so long I'm not sure I even belong here anymore. The demands of school and team assignments have prevented me from being here like I'd like to be, but my heart is still here even when my words are not. May I tiptoe back in and offer a little something?
~~~~~~~~~~

This is what California's Central Valley looked like in June 2010 when we took a family trip to Disneyland and points south. Green, lush, and every available acre growing crops to provide food for millions, maybe even for you. Tomatoes by the truckload were passing us down the length of I-5. As we ticked off the miles, we passed field after field of blackberries, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, grapes, beans, strawberries, melons, lettuce, rice, peppers, spinach, corn, and cotton.



Interspersed between the fields we saw orchard upon orchard of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, figs, olives, kiwi, lemons, plums, apples, cherries, peaches, and pomegranates. It was impossible to tell how many shades of green the eye could distinguish in all that growing glory.


A little over a month ago, in September of 2012, my family again drove south. I-5 was still straight and true, the Central Valley was still vast and wide . . . but no longer is it green. This is what much of it looks like today.


Irrigation canals are empty and bone-dry, and tumbleweeds are the only green as far as the eye can see. For this daughter of Iowa's black dirt that grows corn better than anyplace else on earth, and for this granddaughter of an Iowa farmer, all this death and dusty barrenness hit a very tender nerve inside me.


But it was the orchards that broke my heart.


Having lived in the beautiful orchard country of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, I was horrified at the sight of these once-fruitful trees now dead and grey, some of them ripped right out of the ground by big, efficient machines while we watched. 

Why?! You must be wondering too. Apparently there is a small fish, called the Delta Smelt, in the Sacramento River Delta that is adversely affected by the pumps that divert fresh river water to the Central Valley instead of letting it flow out into the Pacific Ocean. "Efforts to stave off its demise have at times reduced water deliveries to 25 million people and 2 million acres of farmland, magnifying the impact of the recent drought and forcing farmers to fallow fields" (Boxall, 2011, p. 1, para. 3). 

Do you know how desperately dry 2 million acres of farmland can get with no water? Can you imagine what it does to farmers and their livelihoods to be cut off from their source of water? They might more happily be cut off from their oxygen! Some of these people have been forced to watch their farmland turn to dust, land their families have owned and farmed for generations. Some of them have lost their land and homes entirely. Can you imagine how it feels to be told that you and your family and your friends are not as important as a fish smaller than your little finger? No matter how you feel about the ways people can and should interact with the environment, that has to feel pretty awful. How I pray for a solution that works for everyone!

I despise the politics of this situation, and I am tired of seeing grocery prices go up, and up, and up, but this is not a political post.

This post is about hearts, and lives, and livelihoods that have been turned to dust in a world full of uncertainty. This post is about dreams that can shrivel up and turn to stone when the only thing they need to come true has been cut off. This post is about people whose spirits are withered and wind-blown by the hot, harsh winds of struggle and sorrow.


Have you been there?

Are you there now?

I want you to know that like Hagar in the desert, God sees you!

I want you to know that like Moses in the Wilderness, God still has plans for you!

I want you to know that like Joseph in his long exile, God is still working for your good!


God will not let evil have the last word.

He WON'T!!

Hagar was rescued out of her impossible dilemma.

Moses became the great leader he was destined to become.

And Joseph's dreams came true while he simultaneously saved two nations through his godly leadership


No matter what it looks like,
no matter how it feels,
God is WITH you,
God is FOR you, and
God will COME THROUGH for you!

Listen to what Jesus said, to what He is still saying:

"'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . . . You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.'" John 15:5, 16 NIV




If you are in a season of drought, if you feel unproductive and unfruitful, if you feel like your dreams are dying in the glare of a too-hot sun, stay (or get) attached to the one True Vine. He doesn't need politicians to keep the water flowing--He has Living Water bubbling up from the Holy Spirit within, and there is no limit to what He can do!




Boxall, B. (2011, February 2). A small fish caught in a big fuss. L.A. Times. Retrieved from

________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1822-1926 (September 30th through November 3rd)


30. 3 gifts shining
The early morning reflection off fresh water in the birdbath
  Hero Husband's example of perseverance, hard work, and excellence!
  A truly encouraging Q&A session with our pastor this morning--some of the best answers to tough questions I have ever heard, bar none!! So thankful God has placed us in this church!
1. 3 gifts orange
The True Orange (crystallized orange from this company) I put in my morning mocha
The so-gold-it's-orange lamp in our dining room that lights my early morning and late night reading
The pale orange froth on freshly blended orange juice
2. 3 gifts falling
The temperature (in a couple of days--I sure hope they're right about this!)
Moonlight from a big harvest moon
Old fears in the face of the beautiful truth
3. A gift caught, let go, mid-way
A few minutes of watching the birds in the birdbath, just soaking up the joy
A million little frustrations that aren't worth holding onto
Kids almost grown and still at home, mid-way between childhood and adulthood
4. 3 gifts reaped
The apples we're crunching
The fruit of our labor--homework=good grades, house work=a tidy(er) house
A crisper drawer full of produce
5. 3 gifts returned
Phone calls that moved a project forward
Hero Husband and Drummer Boy home from a fun evening out together
My car after they didn't fix it . . . yet. Lord please protect it from needing any more work!
6. 3 gifts redeemed
Time, in small bits and pieces gathered up and put to use so as not to waste any
Empty cans and bottles that we recycle into new things
The laptop computer that was no longer useful to Hero Husband, but that is perfect for me!
7. A gift baked, stirred, eaten
Potatoes, baked in the oven (not the microwave), just the way I like them
Peet's coffee with just a touch of milk
The ridiculously good Raspberry Truffle Cake Pop Drummer Boy brought home from Starbucks
8. 3 gifts prayed for
Hero Husband--for joy in the midst of these stressful days, and something better beyond them
Drummer Boy--for joy while he works toward, and waits for, his God-sized dreams
She So Sweet--for joy (and patience) while she waits to hear word about the new job she wants
9. 3 gifts praised for
That my Father's faithfulness is not predicated on mine 2 Timothy 2:13 NIV 
That He promises renewed strength for those who wait on Him Isaiah 40:31 NKJV
That He promises victory in Christ 1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV1984 
10. 3 hard eucharisteo
The upset I feel about how school (a really good thing) is preventing me from spending time on photography, my blog, and my company, and even impacting time with my family (also really good, important things)
How far I fall short of some lifelong goals--Father, how desperately I need Your help!
Both cars needing expensive work--Jehovah Jireh!
11. 3 gifts of change
New class 
New professor
New learning team
12. A gift small, smaller, smallest
Hummingbirds outside my window
Jet black bumblebees
Tiny new rosebuds on my miniature rose bush
13. 3 gifts read
The cookbook I finally found after thinking it was lost
Instructions that help me get it right the first time
David's story and God's heart in it
14. 3 gifts said
"Good job!"
"I love you, too!"
"I'm on my way home."
15. 3 gifts re-read
Psalm 25 that we are supposed to be memorizing (I wish I was better at this!)
Good quotes and things I need to remember while studying
David's story
16. 3 gifts burning
The sun, lighting our days and heating them up to summer-like temperatures (so ready for fall!)
My desire to be excellent in all I do (boy, do I have a long way to go!)
Hopefully calories!
17. 3 gifts ugly-beautiful
Snails
Scrub Jays--ugly personalities, beautiful birds
Having such a long way to go, but being on the way
18. A gift shared, saved, surrendered
Lunch at Chipotle with Hero Husband
My old favorite wallet, all fixed up with some lovely saddle soap
Expectations
19. 3 gifts unexpected
Bright green bug riding on the hood of my car
A pair of young deer  right up close
Friday night lights!! Way to go, Jalen!!!
20. 3 gifts unconventional
"Misplaced modifiers"--I'll misplace my modifiers if I want to!!
Online classrooms
Scrambled eggs with mustard--yum!
21. 3 gifts undervalued
Getting to sleep at a reasonable hour and intentional rest
Wedding vows--heartsick over how many people give up when things get hard
Freedom--may our country have the wisdom to preserve it
22. A gift silent, still, strong
Watching birds in the birdbath from indoors
The surface of the water when they're finished
El Shaddai
23. 3 gifts begun
This week's reading for my class
New team project
Planning for Thanksgiving (Hero Husband's family gathering at my house this year!)
24. 3 gifts accomplished
Cleaned out email inbox (it had ballooned to over 11,000 emails--yikes!!)
Fixed whatever was wrong with my Outlook
Reading this week's four chapters of my textbook, two electronic reserve readings, and an eBook in plenty of time to do the homework that goes with it!
25. 3 gifts enjoying
Old records by renowned pianist, Roger Williams, (who went to school with my Great Aunt Edie), given to me by my Uncle Craig.
Fairy tales, sci-fi tales, and the singing contests I simply cannot resist.
Flowers blooming in my new hanging basket outside my front door
26. 3 gifts extravagant
The iridescent emerald green on the hummingbirds outside my window
The robin's egg blue and marshmallow white of an October sky in California
The deep, rich shades of sable and mink that look back at me from the eyes of these three that I love so much!
27. A gift humbling, honoring, happy
Compliments from teammates
The gratitude I feel for our troops, for those I know and those I don't know, heroes all!
The PBR World Finals--Thank you, Chris Shivers for a career that will be an inspiration for generations to come!
28. 3 gifts in Christ
My dearest Friend
My gentle Shepherd
My majestic King
29. 3 gifts on time
A day off from school work!
Getting Drummer Boy to work
Finally getting to watch a football game with Hero Husband!
30. 3 gifts overjoyed
Happy to hear from friends who weathered Sandy's wrath and came through okay!
Those utterly unique shades of red and green and the glorious fragrance of British Columbian McIntosh apples in the store today!! They smell and taste like home!
The froth and juice of biting into one of them!!!
31. 3 gifts hallowed
The cool of the morning
The wonder of quietude
A drop of water hanging heavy from a rose petal
1. 3 gifts eaten
The single, perfect bite of a mini Milky Way Midnight
Homemade vegetable soup for lunch
Forbidden rice
2. 3 gifts worn
The cross around my neck that I never take off
A shade of lipstick I like
My red sweater that it's almost not too hot to wear (so ready for cool weather!)
3. 3 gifts that start with N
Nuts that make such a yummy, nutritious snack
Nikon =)
Name above all names!

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