Heart song

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (ESV)

It started in 1989. A couple of months after I finished grad school, I moved to Atlanta and found a ground floor apartment with big rooms…that scared almost everyone I met…except me. I KNOW it scared them because–without exception–I was encouraged to move as soon as anyone came to see me for the first time. This was especially true of the people who had lived in the area for awhile. (I actually had dates that refused to come back because of where I lived!–but those were “faint of heart” and apparently, it was God’s way of weeding them out! HA!)

What “THEY” knew: drug deals were going down at the front of the complex. All. The. Time.

What “I” knew: it fit my budget, was close to my closest office, and I was finally on my own. It was heaven–even without any furniture and no TV. Starting out, I had a bed (mattress on the floor), a new job, a radio, my books, a place to cook meals, and freedom to make my own decisions. I set about making a home and a life on my own…or so I believed.

What God knew: there was a plan to bless me really big. It would just take a bit to unfold.

Because I was raised to live with a healthy respect for cleanliness, because it was an old apartment that had housed people I did not know, AND because I worked for doctors, I scoured every single inch of that apartment. Cleaning supplies were my number one priority and biggest budget item that first month. I didn’t have much, but it was going to be clean, so there was absolutely NO surface that escaped my obsession. (That’s important to know because of what happened later.)

I had been there almost two years and had settled in nicely. I found a church home right next door to the complex, friends who ‘braved’ (Read that as PRAYED HEARTILY–and most likely, OUT LOUD!–AS THEY DROVE QUICKLY THROUGH!) the front part and came to visit, work that was both interesting and challenging, and a host of children who greeted me every day when I came home. They came running at top speed as soon as they spied my truck turning in and I often had to ask them to wait a moment while I put my stuff down. THEN, they turned in their “reports.” I knew if anyone had come by, stopped at my door, whether or not they went on to another door (and if so, which ones), what they looked like, what they drove, how long they stayed, and if they had been there before. A state of the art security force…all for the price of a big bowl of candy and a round of hugs and questions about their day, as well. The back part of the complex where I lived, you see, was made up of families and they had adopted me as one of their own.

I had a large and loving personal family, a great church family, a wonderful work family, and now, an apartment complex family. God was showing out in the love department, but He hadn’t sent me anyone to do life with yet. I was content to wait, but I was praying about it. I even went so far as to write down exactly what I wanted Him to send me…in detail, because, you know…some things you just need to spell out…even before God. (grin)

As the wait became longer, I wondered if He was really listening and, one evening, after some pretty intensive prayer–about a lot of things, not just that–I walked into my bathroom and reached for something in the medicine cabinet. As I pulled it forward, my hand caught something else, as well.IMG_20180618_075914480_LL

Something I had never seen before.

Something small and shiny.

Something gold, but kind of sticky…like it might have been back there a LONG time…and then…There. was. another. one.

It was a pair of VERY small gold heart earrings. Covered in dust.

I had had no recent visitors. I checked with those who had been there to see if they were missing a set. I had never owned a pair like them, had never even SEEN a pair like them, and I had absolutely NO idea where they could have come from…because I had SCOURED that place from day 1 and kept it clean from then onward.

It made absolutely no sense, but somehow, I knew that GOD had sent me those earrings just to let me know that He actually was listening. Instead of feeling like it was a bit creepy, I felt absolutely loved and cared for. I cleaned them up and wore them for years. Every time I did so, someone would comment on them–even as small as they were–and I would get to share my story. Actually, I was sharing God’s story.

You know the one? The one where He loves each of us SO MUCH that there’s nothing He won’t do to get our attention and nothing He saved back when He sent His Son to die for us. That’s the one. If you’re not familiar with it, go back and read this paragraph again. He loves you…really, really big…so much so that He sent His Son to save you in whatever high and mighty or backwards backwater place you find yourself today. He came to save you from your sin so that He could spend eternity with YOU and you could spend it–and today!–with Him.

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Those heart earrings were just the start of it for me. To this day, God still sends me hearts on a pretty regular basis. Sometimes they’re shaped like rocks as I walk to the mailbox (like the one I found last week–see the picture!–or the ones I found ON MY PORCH at my Mississippi house!) or near a mountain stream. In fact, I have an old white platter where I have started piling those heart rocks as a reminder that HE is personal and very, very present in my life.

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Sometimes, the hearts show up as flowers like this one that’s blooming right this minute along my back walkway…kind of like He had me bloom at the back of a really old apartment complex all those years ago.

No matter what form they take, each time I see one, I smile really big and tell God “THANK YOU!” for listening, for being near, for having a plan, and for just being God. Of course, I am looking for the hearts. Don’t miss that! I’m looking for the hearts He sends because I’m also looking for HIM to show up every day and yet I sometimes wonder just how many hearts I’ve missed because I forgot to pay attention over the years.

Writing all of this has reminded me of the verse I started out with today:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (ESV)

This wasn’t just written for us, you know. It also characterizes our God. WE are His treasure and where WE are, there HIS HEART will be also!

If that doesn’t help you look for Him today, I’m not sure what will, so I hope you’re looking…and I hope your heart has a home with Him.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

 

 

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Desert places, grief and growing things

I’ve never been to a desert before, but… I’ve been in more than a few desert places.

They’re not all alike.

Some desert places are about as close as you can come to being “taken to the woodshed” in spiritual terms. Many times we read about them in the Bible as a response to some kind of disobedience by someone who “should have known–and done!–better.” It becomes much harder to point fingers, however, when we remember that we’ve been disobedient, as well. Unfortunately, the disobedient ones are not the only ones who get taken along for the ride. What you and I do matters to and affects more than just ourselves. God takes our obedience very seriously.

Some desert places are caused by grief; loss of life and health and strength, loss of love and loved ones, even loss of control. Sometimes I think we mourn that last one most of all, though we rarely make it public. It gets all tied up in all of the other things connected with loss and we grow angry about all we long for and are unable to fix or grasp. We look for ways around it and end up finding we must simply work through it.

That IS possible. God has made a way. In fact, HE is the way. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier, but it does…all at the same time. God takes our grief seriously, too.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service where family members were attired in overalls. In their desert place of loss, they chose to celebrate the life and faith of their loved one with a tribute that he would have loved. It was beautiful.

I thought about close friends who have recently lost stability as they find themselves in changes of circumstances and far from what feels familiar. Across the sanctuary, I noticed others who have also lost loved ones recently. Seated not too far away were those who are in the process of doing so. Their care and comfort for one another is all bound up in their faith as they walk through the desert places where God has, for now, placed them.

That’s hard to write. It’s hard to even think about. Harder still, to endure.

We’d love to say that faith in God makes life an easy thing, but that isn’t always the case. WHY? Because in His infinite wisdom, God sees and knows things we can’t. He places us in these hard places ON PURPOSE. He does so, at times, for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom and yet, I know this to be true: He loves us. He is good. He is perfect in all His ways and He is always with us.

These things seem contrary, don’t they? I think that’s another one of my favorite things about God. He’s not afraid to be contrary to MY way of thinking. Instead, He uses each desert place to show me a new facet of His love, His care, His provision, and His mercy,–and what may be all of those things for someone else, may just put me in a desert place for awhile.

In this year’s focus on margin, I am continually drawn back to this invitation:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)

Grief–no matter the cause– is hard work. If we’re to find our way through it, we will NEED a place of rest for our souls. God, in His goodness, tells us He has already provided it. He becomes our Provision, our oasis in the desert…a place of nourishment, renewal, and, yes, even growth.

J.O. Sanders perhaps said it best, “God does not waste suffering; if He ploughs [sic] it is because He purposes a crop.”

No matter on which side of the desert–or oasis!–you find yourself today, I pray rest for weary souls, for respite from the harshness of the load and the landscape, and for companions who comfort and point you to Christ. I pray that you have God as your life companion and I pray for growth…even in the desert.

Be an oasis–a blessing in the desert–for someone today. It may help YOU more than you think possible.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

 

Weeks of water and wonder

God’s been on a mission around here lately. He’s been answering some prayers and watering my plants–and everyone else’s!–with abandon…for days and days.

As He’s done so, that low place in the driveway filled up and made a spectacularly large birdbath delighting me and the birds who have taken full advantage. The hard Georgia ground has softened up to accept a few more new plants so I could take advantage of a break in the downpour and finally get around to planting some iris rhizomes that were gifted to me at the beginning of April. (Yes. April! I know. Blessings on you, Cyndi, and please thank Will, again, for his patience about returning his bucket!) Though I won’t see anything from them this year, they’re already holding a promise for the Spring–and isn’t it just like God to use something we normally complain about to help us become more pliable and full of beauty for the future?!

As we’ve watched the waters fill up buckets and overflow rain gauges, God has also filled up our home with guests and laughter. He sent us out to minister to others and helped us enjoy seeing that adding margin to our own lives can actually become a blessing to those around us, as well.

Our guests have been delightful and nourished us much like the rain has blessed our plants. We’ve seen some incredible growth in both plants and relationships–and both are beautiful. I’ve lost count of the number of hydrangeas arrangements have left this place to find new homes and, hopefully, give cheer in their new locations.

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It seems that nature has used this rain to fullest advantage…and now we have a new, though unplanted crop being enjoyed by our local squirrels. Although their abundant presence in our yard often annoys me as I work to stay ahead of planted nuts growing into trees in all sorts of odd places, I laughed to see how the squirrels have nibbled all around the edges of a string of mushrooms all lined up like a buffet. I guess God thought He would provide for those guests, as well.

As I wandered through the yard this afternoon, I couldn’t help be be reminded how blessed we all are and along the way, I found a few more things to share. For those of you still asking after Grace, I’ve included a picture of her below. She’s showing out these days…just like God.

I’m looking forward to seeing what God does next…and to home-grown tomato sandwiches and a caprese salad or twelve, as well. In the meantime…

Grace and Peace!