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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Voskamp’

snowice_edited-1

“I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory” (1 Peter 1:7)

These snowstorms have challenged the people of our county. Its boundaries climb up toward the Cumberland Plateau.  Often school is cancelled because snow falls on up the mountain, while roads and yards are clear in the mid and western county ends. Nine days ago, the ice came – from west to east – and in-between – houses were without electricity. The interstate was shut down at one point. The road up our little part of the mountain was closed.

We were fortunate – somehow, our little in-between space didn’t lose electricity. The propane man filled our tank at 6 p.m. before the ice storm came. (We had ordered it a few days before, and it had run out 2 p.m. the day he came). We experienced moments of cracking, popping and flickering systems – but no outages. Our birch split down the middle from the top halfway down. The coyotes came close, too, yipping, showing themselves around the edges of home.

A state of emergency was declared in the eastern county town. It looked like a war zone – power poles and lines down, trees split, roofs on buildings leaking, caving in – interstate and main roads shut off. I’ve heard resourceful stories of women cooking dinner on warming plates, sleeping under seven blankets to keep warm. One family drove over an hour away to buy a generator, so they could have a bit of light, heat – and a stove to cook on and be home.

One friend described the night after the ice came – loud popping, cracking – and trees just falling, crashing to the ground loud in the quiet, icy, white dark.

Another described her husband going in to work. Because the electricity was out, the sump-pump didn’t work – and water created havoc in a storage room while roofs leaked and awnings crashed due to the weight of the ice and rapid water melting.

snowicetree_edited-1Just as a bit of thaw and melt came, so did another round of wintery weather. This time, it was snow – fluffy, build-a-snow-man kind of snow.

The road up to our mountain shut down again. On Friday, the eastern end of the county still didn’t have electricity, though from my house, to the court house, to the university to the west end of the county, the snow had melted, back streets just had ice remnants in shady areas.

Listening to the telling of it, of the can-do, the taking-in-stride – the hope and faith of lives choosing to live full instead of empty – these women of our county exhibited not just the American spirit – but the grace of Christ evident in their walk and talk.

These women found it – the treasure in the storm. God put it there – that treasure.

Ann Voskamp said in One Thousand Gifts, “Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

Besides resourcefulness and grace, I heard stories of family being stuck together by this ice – and making the most of it. We were one of those families.  One of the treasures in the midst of these storms was time – all the time to love and not be rushed.

One son and his fiance brought their two puppies and stayed for the few days they didn’t have electricity.  We had Zuppa Toscana soup on the stove, warm scones – and hot chocolate (blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, carrots and broccoli, too – but not in the hot chocolate), coffee or Swiss Apple Tea with honey. This boy and his sweet fiance – they still managed to get out in the icy ice and snowy cold to go to work. When I popped into the coffee shop where another son works, his manager told me my son was one of the few who managed to make it in for every shift when others couldn’t. It was a sweet thing, to be able to savor these boys grown into men, taking care of business in the midst of these storms.

We made it down the mountain for a pancake breakfast with friends. We passed phones around taking the 5 Love Language Test. I discovered that the youngest, whose love language had always been a mystery to me, was a Quality Time/Physical Touch love language, while my 16 year old was the same (Physical Touch not a surprise, but Quality Time took me by surprise). The Quality Time diagnosis explained the feeling of relief I felt from the boys since I stopped working outside the family.

There’s been a lot of, “I just want you to know I’m using my quality time to . . . . ” – and a lot more smiles from these boys. I have a God-designed excuse now to give hugs, rub arms, scratch backs, too.

The youngest, he asked, “Mama, wanna make me some Hot Chocolate?”

“For a snow man,” I countered. Smirking, he brought me a miniature snowman.

Smirking, I handed him a cup of Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate. What he really wanted was my special hot chocolate. Payment? – a snowman with a hat, scarf, carrot nose, arms and eyes.

There are pitfalls to negotiating with your children, but it does teach both of us that words do mean something.

He crafted a snowman with strawberry eyes, a carrot nose, scarf and fedora – and I poured him a cup of my special hot chocolate.

One night, he used his quality time and surprised me with a clean kitchen. What a beautiful hug! This son also proved that one out of five sons knows that a clean kitchen means an empty sink.

On the way to school in the mornings, one boy leads in The Lords Prayer and the other in the Psalm 23. Around the time of my last day of work, the words, “He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3),” stuck to me – like ice on the mountain this last week.

There was restoration to this soul of mine during last 9 days. Maybe some of the popping and cracking I heard was part of that restoration process. Gills Exposition of the Bible likens this process as follows: “he fetches it back again, relieves, refreshes, and comforts with the discoveries of his love, with the promises of his word, and with the consolations of his Spirit, and such like reviving cordials.”

God sent something precious in these storms, despite the devastation, the challenges, the hardships. He included incredibly valuable treasures for each of us within the storm. Did you find yours?

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whiteflowerUn tout petit peu de français
– but enough to recognize the French lady sitting across the table from me calling her son a “couchon” when he wolfed down the truffles I’d made for our afternoon play date. I’d had French in high school, college and graduate school – enough to find a good restaurant one weekend in France with my husband – but not qualified for everyday talking.

Ich spreche noch weniger Deutsch
– You would have taken 2 semesters of German, too, if you’d taken the German culture class I did in college. Dr Ursel Boyd – inspired us with her stories of her grandmother marching out of the church when Hitler’s people tried to commandeer God – you would have taken German, too. Sadly, German 2 did me in. If a girl like me reads the ends of books first, then how could I ever survive speaking a language where, in many instances, you have to wait until the end of the sentence for the verb.

Speaking in The Spirit – with  utterings or groanings that only the Holy Spirit can understand. One day, the Holy Spirit gave me the translation the translation:
That my son’s mouth would be loosened
That his ears would be opened
And when he turned to him
his mind would be freed

God wasn’t surprised with the challenges that would unfold as my son grew. He gave me a heads up on His plan. I have held on to that message for 21 years – stood on it during some pretty challenging times. God knew I needed to prepare myself ( click here and here for the story).

Messages from God are available in all languages. You can find the Gospel of Love in Thai, Swahili, in Chinese, Hindi – all languages – even Holy Spirit languages –
Spoken, signed, read with fingertips on Braille.

We read with our hearts
We read with our eyes what the body language says
We read with our ears – not just words but what the tone says

booksflowersWe read rack magazines, shelved books, ipod news alerts
Thank you notes, heart messages from our children’s art, sweetheart letters and notes from our husbands,

But Shaddai – He is not confined to a book though His book’s message is imprinted everywhere – for free – His writes love letters to you, to me, to my sons, to my daughter-in-line, my mother, my aunt, my granddaughter – He has love letters written to us in the stars and fish, the sea and sand, the roots and blooms, in a spider’s web and a rain drop.
Love letters and messages
All around us
All available for each of us to read and if we do read, we should share – like the loaves and the fishes,

Thank you, Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience and 1,000 Gifts – for showing me how to read– these gifts, these blessings – these messages of His love.

An Arab student one time told me his mother didn’t read. I cannot comprehend not reading – a recipe, The Secret Garden, the prodigal story, a manual on how to use a snake to clear a sink pipe, The Christmas Story, the Wall Street Journal over a cup of coffee, The Brave Cowboy, the U.S. Constitution, or an escape-hatch story like Miss Buncle Married or Pride and Prejudice – or the contrast of Grace over Law, of Salvation, Redemption and forgiveness in the Les Miserable by Hugo.

I cannot comprehend being illiterate.

Seeing my dismay, the student said, “Oh, she still has a full life.”

Her fullness seemed limited to me – like having wings but not knowing you can soar.

Yet, 100 years ago – how many of our parents read? Yet still had full lives? How many since B.C. became A.D. – how many have been illiterate of reading and understanding the Word of God with their own eyes? How many souls relied on others to read His messages – the message of adoption from Abraham, Jacob’s hope in a God-made Ladder, that even prostitutes like Rahab who take risks for God can find true love in a man like Joshua, that bullies like Saul can become Paul’s of the world, that Jesus came so no one could ever come between the individual and God again – not a priest, not a king – no one.

Yet,  I have lived most of my life, illiterate of the His messages to me in the daily.

Thank you for teaching me to read the  message of the cardinal darting out before me on the way home.

The message in the dove call from the roof top – answering back to the call my husband and son send from curved hands, lips and air.

Or the message I found when I freed myself from my work desk to stand under the portico during a torrential down pour, as thunder grumbled to my left – and to my right miniature water rivulets riffled and bubbled through mulch and grass– and the green and the bark deepened richly and the streets glistened like ice.

Or on the way home, so tired, so tangled by how many times Murphy’s Law can jump into my day. It rained – buckets – and the sun shined through the downpour, shined so brightly the rain looked like crystals – and it blew toward my windshield like bits of snow – a rain blizzard.

Or the gift in a cupcake container, once filled with chocolate ganache cupcakes topped with sugared chocolate mint – carried through my back door, returned with a smile and kitchen counter conversations.

poppysOr in the orange poppies grown too tall pulled out revealing perennials wanting more space.

And zinnias that bloom regardless of the weathery moods.

All of these are messages to be read – messages He gives us during the daily. . .
Messages that tell us He loves us, champions us, knows our struggles, knows our hearts desires – and knows how hard it is to live in the wait of a prayer sent out.

And messages that teach us – like the barren creek that rarely flows with water, the path to the blueberry patch, beach birds enacting a madrigal – and the blueberries deep within the bush.

They’re all like letters in an envelope – just waiting to be read.

Have you read much lately? These daily messages from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Each message can be translated into all soul languages.

Guess what the message was I found in the blueberries?

Other messages, gifts and love letters this week – 1067-1072 above

    1. Celebrating 30 years of marriage with my husband
    2. 30 roses for 30 years
    3. My Freshman trying not to smile as I conjugated  each verb he used one on the way to soccer practice.
    4. Listening to my two sons recite in Latin, “I Love. You Love. He, She, It Loves. We Love. You Love. They Love.”
    5. When my 7th grader explained singular and plural, first second and third person.
    6. My boys pulling out classical literature in the first 2 weeks of school, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Narnia and Gilgamesh.
    7. That God answered my prayer to move my husband’s heart if we needed to make education changes –
    8. and we were able to enroll them in a Classical Latin School where we no longer feel the need to supplement just support
    9. baby girl greeting me with a fist-bump I taught her – and remembering her pup-pup beanie puppy at our house
    10. the older I get the longer I need to celebrate my birthday (just a few days before my anniversary) – taking the time to savor the relationships the Father has given me – who have become family to my family.
    11. tree frogs in the dark
    12. laughter from my sons’ friends on the porch
    13. rain the slows the schedule, providing an inside refreshing
    14. butterflies in the sunshine
    15. the feeling of home all weekend long

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