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keithsbabybraceletc

If you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

There’s only one rule for further reading: Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story is for you, too.

In just a few days, we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Savior who died to save us – to save us from a life of separation from the Father. He became the forever sacrifice, his spilled blood covering our sin so that our creator, our Father, could look upon us, his children, pull us into his embrace, and walk with us homeward.

December 20th, my husband and I started a journey, where Christmas, Passover and Easter collided and burst alive, bringing into sharpened focus what it is to believe. it. all. And in the believing watch the writer of our story unveil a plot designed to shorten his life before my husband took his first breath.

December 20th, Christmas  time- a mistake just realized. . .

Noticing a discrepancy between his heart rate when kayaking and walking, when my husband went for his annual physical, he was referred to a cardiologist he’d seen the year before. When he returned from the heart visit, he told me there was a problem.

There’d been a mistake.

The tests from the year before hadn’t been forwarded to the primary care doctor – and no one had notified him. Last year’s test results showed severe aortic stenosis. He needed a heart valve replacement. He was only 59 years old.

He came home without a description of what a heart event would look like – or what we were supposed to do in a heart event. I wanted a manual with step-by-step directions. I wanted to be prepared. I felt like we’d been handed a time bomb that could go off at any minute.

I wasn’t willing to wait around. I’m pro-active.  He was in to his primary care doctor in 30 minutes. Surely there was a mistake, we thought. Wrong file? Wrong name? Wrong person? My friend’s 94 year old father’s aortic valve was replaced the year before – this is something that should have been 40 years down the road.

At 4:28 that afternoon, after not hearing anything further, I called to make an appointment with my friend’s father’s cardiologist at St. Thomas Heart in Nashville, two minutes to closing. The receptionist listened to the story – I hung up  with an appointment for two days later with the promise of a referral following.

We weren’t ready to tell our sons – not until further information was accurately gathered and a plan formulated. Besides, it was Christmas.

“Who’ve you told?” he asked, seeing my sheepish expression. Well, my friend who gave me the name of the new cardiologist.

Another friend drove over with a smaller Christmas Tree cookie cutter that evening. When I walked out to her car and she handed it to me, I burst into tears – so two people knew.

Two people God sent across my path who believed in the power of prayer, who believed that God still heals, still does miracles, still answers the prayers of his children.

God knew I would need to keep my hands and heart busy on the day  in-between.  We were surprised but He wasn’t. . . He was already steps ahead of what we knew. . . which is why weeks earlier he’d dropped this idea into my heart to build friendship, to fill my home and heart, to mix, bake and find space for laughter.

I baked a hundred cookies that night, with dough for 50 more. You see, I’d invited a family with as many kiddos as mine over to decorate cookies. . . the day before the cardiologist visit  – cookies to take to a local assisted living at lunch time to share and sing Christmas songs. We cut out more cookies, talked birth order personalities, baked some more, talked spiritual gifts, laughed, made icing, had fun with decorating points, made a huge mess, and delivered the results with Christmas songs and time spent with the residents.

christmascookiescThe new cardiologist diffused the time bomb and scheduled further testing January 2nd to solidify the plan for an aortic heart valve replacement.

Another in-between, another wait. He had complete peace; I baked: my grandmother’s coffee cakes, Christmas cake, majeskas and bourbon balls, Christmas casseroles, and hot chocolate. I measured, stirred, whipped, baked, washed the measuring spoons and cups, the mixer, the pans over and over. . . and kept my focus on the one leading us through this journey. . . . and thankfulness for the reason for Christmas steeped the in-between, the wait, thankfulness the son of the king agreed to come down from his throne, be born a baby in a manger. . .

Yet, just as quickly as I thanked God for the birth of his son, I was thanking Him for Easter, for the crucifixion and resurrection, for the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb whose shed blood would cover my sin so God would be able to look upon his children – to love, fight, protect, heal each of us, to hear our prayers, know our fears and abate them, save us from Satan’s attacks.

“The sun has finally come, heralding the hope of the Christmas Season! This seeming constant rain and darkness has been a reminder of life without the birth of our Savior – and this sunshine drives home the symbolism of the saving hope He brings and what this celebration is really about! Wishing you and all you walk among the saving hope born of Christmas!” ~ December 24th, Instagram

A couple of challenges ago, I learned not to hold my breath in the wait of a prayer sent out. Breath-holding until the challenge has passed isn’t trusting God. There’s no peace in it, no fully living with a breath-holding mentality. God leaves such precious blessing in the wait of a prayer sent out, but when we live holding our breath, pausing until the prayer  is answered, we miss the blessings. The most important part of living happens in the hard wait, so I breathed in, “Lord, Jesus Christ” and breathed out, “Have mercy on us.” Breathing Jesus in. Breathing mercy out.

Intentional living, intentional loving, intentional focusing on the one who had the map to this journey. . . The Christmas gifts we gave weren’t all spot on. The stockings looked like a slackard elf put them together. Everything seemed a step off except for when my focus  was on the one who held both of us by the hand and guided us.

It was an I Believe Christmas. . . 
run smack into an Easter resurrection. . .

Maybe that’s what everyday living should be – a collision of Christmas and Easter in a come alive way.

lakeleafcWe decided before Christmas to tell the boys on Bucher Family Hat Day, January 1. I think it took a while to process this significant health challenge, to solidify how we were going to walk this forward, and finding the words to use to express and encase this challenge.

At no point did Keith ever doubt what the outcome would be: God had this! He didn’t doubt it for a moment.

My heart’s desire, maybe it’s my mission statement, is to show the boys what marriage looks like as we grow old with God as the center of that relationship. January 1 we were ready to tell our boys, to lead them forward through this challenge as God led us. They were about to realize marriage with God as the center isn’t challenge free but faith full.

Living over 1 1/2 hours from every major city, including downtown Nashville, we experienced a lot of drive time at 4:3 a.m. for the next 8 weeks. January 2 began a series of tests: a TEE, and heart catheterization were the big ones.

His arteries were great. My cooking did not cause the problem. It wasn’t that he’d eaten the wrong diet, not exercised enough, not lived the right kind of life style – whatever that may be.

He was born with a two-leaf heart valve (bi-cuspid), instead of a three-leaf heart valve (tri-cuspid). He was born destined for a life cut short. Our sons will need to be tested eventually.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy – he does it slyly, a sneak-thief thinking he can outsmart God: switching three-leaf heart valves with two is just one way. If we put our heads together, I imagine we could fill a book with a list full of ways Satan tries to interfere with God’s kids. Yet, no matter how Satan tries to interfere, God isn’t just a few moves ahead. He’s already implemented the steps for the win.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them” ~ Psalm 130: 13-16

The heart-valve study chooses the procedure for valve replacement: open heart surgery or the TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). One is very uncomfortable with an eight week recovery, while the other requires only an overnight hospital stay.  The study chose open heart surgery, and within six months was no longer an option. The procedure needed to be done quickly because since last year’s sonogram, the aortic valve was now critical.

A mistake had been made a year before. . . or had it. . .

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

Rummaging through Keith’s top drawer, I found his hospital baby identification bracelets. His mom and dad had no idea they were expecting twins. The story is a sweet one.

Dr. Mahaffey came out to tell Lloyd, my father-in-law, he had a healthy baby girl. Some minutes later he came out again and congratulated him on a son.

“But Dr. Mahaffey, you just told me I had a girl. Don’t you know which? Is it a boy or a girl?” my father-in-law, 25, asked.

“Son, you have one of each,” the kindly old doctor said, at which point, Lloyd slid down the hospital wall in shock.

They still laugh about the audacity of how Dr. Mahaffey charged double for the two: $75 a piece.

Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan.

As we stepped deeper into this “All is well” journey, one by one, God sent people across our path who stopped for real conversation, whose “How are you doing” wasn’t just a hand-off greeting, people who still believed miracles happen, that the power of God overcomes. I also invited a hand full of women I’d written with in the blogging community for years, women with a heart for intercession to pray with us. 

Slowly, a small brigade formed, praying with us for complete healing, for unflagging strength and courage for the journey, to encourage us to keep our eyes focused on the one who works those miracles, who heals the broken places, who has the best battle plans and wins.

This small brigade were the Aaron and Hurs in the hard of the challenge.

So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17: 8-13).

These intercessors who believed with us: “All is well!”

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During the pre-tests for open heart surgery, a nodule was found in his lung. The plan changed. Though the PET scan was borderline inconclusive, the pulmonologist thought it was Adeno cancer. An eight week recovery was out of the question. Open heart surgery was switched for the TAVR to be followed by a biopsy followed by lung surgery.

I asked God how I needed to pray. He sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-37, the story of the Shunammite wife and mother whose son had fallen ill and died. She didn’t wail and tell the world of her challenge, her grief, her fear or heart-break. She just said, “All is well.”

“All is well”  I said as we followed him.

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

Nodule in the lung? Cancer? “All is well”

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

That mistake? It wasn’t a mistake after all. . .

(The rest of the story in Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide)

lakeleafc

Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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chilicc

Let me set the table here – the historic table – about recipes and reputation. Growing up in my grandmother’s house, I had the luxury of learning all sorts of recipes – daily recipes, bridge day recipes, celebration recipes and feast recipes. It was long after I married that I came to recognize that a recipe wasn’t just a recipe – a recipe had the potential to be reputation defining – if you could create a delightful dish others couldn’t, then the day you hosted a table full of ladies for bridge was a guaranteed culinary success – because bridge was so much more than bridge.

As I collected recipes for my family cookbook, I also collected their history – the story of how they came into the family. Machiavellian cunning in the kitchen? Deliciously so!

For example, Aunt Joyce’s Grits Gruyère recipe came from her husband’s Aunt Ruth who had been trying to wrest it from one of the ladies in her bridge group, Mrs. Curry, for quite some time. Not one to concede failure, Aunt Ruth called Mrs. Curry’s youthful daughter, inexperienced in Machiavellian tactics, when the lady was out of town – and successfully filched it. Aunt Ruth had the ability to play a deep game – with gloves, cotton or kid, on or off.

I was oblivious to the undercurrents, the power plays, the Machavillian side to these sweet ladies – probably just like Mrs. Curry’s daughter who so trustingly gave over her mother’s secretly guarded recipe. I can understand, looking back. We hadn’t yet entered a world of culinary competition and intrigue. We were just babes in the kitchen, enjoying plateful after plateful of deliciousness, year in and year out, who never imagined a good recipe was social currency. We probably didn’t even know what social currency was.

Years later, I remember watching a dining-room table discussion with two of my very favorite aunts about whether or not to share my great-grandmother’s, their grandmother’s Corn Fritter Recipe. It was a contentious moment, a throw-back moment to a time that doesn’t really exist any more. It both saddened and gladdened me.

The internet, cooking blogs, and cooking channels have changed how women by their cooking. Recipes are neither soul defining nor social currency. Instead, cooks are defined by the generosity of spirit of not just recipe sharing but showing how to make it successfully. That is one change I adore!

I grew up with good cooks who enjoyed kitchen competition in a very lady-like fashion (a competition probably born out of The Depression and WWII when produce was so hard to come by),  but when I met my husband’s family, I learned it was a grace thing, too.

Recipes, expectations and cultural differences have the potential to create big messes, little messes, short-term messes and life-long messes. Messes, I have learned, are happenings in need of God’s kind of grace – not just given, but received, too!

Saturdays and Sundays always contained the ability to burst into family day at my husband’s parent’s house – both when we were dating and after we were married, living down the road, over a few hills, around a few curves. It’s where I learned a bowl of ice cream was more than a few tablespoons, and hot chocolate didn’t just come in tea-cup sizes – but tumbler sizes, too. Mountain Dew came out  of the water faucet – Really! For a girl who grew up not even having one coke a week, it sure seemed like it did!

I remember the first time I had soup beans. My father-in-law showed me the best way to eat it: take a peeled onion, bite into it, along with a spoon full of beans – and, well, I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as he did. I remember trying to make Soup Beans early in my marriage because my husband so enjoyed them (sans the onion). I threw in salsa, cheese – and, well, utterly failed with the soup beans. For about 30 years, I gave up on Soupo Beans.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when someone used the words, “Chow-Chow” that I was able to cook them without trying to make them something they weren’t. I just put some Chow Chow on top! Success!

But one day, after the souop beans and onion,  Ann had a pot of Chili cooking on the stove, simmering, just getting ready to fill a bunch of bowls. Thinking Keith’s mom had been waiting for the chili to simmer before she added the spaghetti, I thought I’d help her out. I pulled the spaghetti out of the cupboard (we must have been engaged by then), broke it into pieces and was stirring into the chili when she came in from the other room. Remember the girl who haplessly, naively gave Aunt Ruth her mother’s prided recipe? I think this was my haplessly, naive moment – totally unwary, unsuspecting of potential territorial recipe undercurrents.

I met the Grace of Ann, not in the breaking of the spaghetti into the chili, but in the no-turning-back, stirring-it-into-the-chili moment. There I was, eager-to-please, oblivious to the fact that people outside of Louisville, Kentucky ate chili without spaghetti. Face-to-face with my mother-in-law who’d just walked into the kitchen, I learned my lesson – but there was no territorial battle, no sulks, just unmerited favor, forgiveness and acceptance. She gave me grace – and I gladly took the grace she offered.

I remember both of us laughing, but I am sure she must have thought her son was marrying one crazy girl.

I’ve spent about 36 years trying to pin down my own recipe for making chili. I haven’t had any complaints, but I hadn’t yet been satisfied enough to write one down and say, “This is it.”

I believe I finally have a chili recipe for my family cookbook! Yes – there’s spaghetti in it because that’s just the Louisville girl in me! That it took me 36 years is just the never-give-up in me!

Maybe it will be made even more complete when one of my boys brings home a girl with enough good kind of crazy in her to add a special ingredient from where she comes from to make it even better. But for now – this is what’s in the family cookbook:

Chili Recipe
Brown 3 lbs. and drained and place in dutch oven
In a food processor, dice up the following:
One large sweet onion
1 green pepper
10 oz. cans whole green Chile peppers
Add onions, peppers and Chile peppers to hamburger mixture, let simmer for 5 minutes, then add the following:
1 – 46 oz. V8 Bloody Mary Mix, original
2 packet/boxes Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit mix
Stir well.
Next blend in the following:
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Dark Red Kidney Beans (Dark Red for Color)
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Black Beans
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Chili Beans
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring to a simmer.
Add 8 oz. spaghetti, broken into 2-3 inch pieces
Simmer until ready to serve.

I always serve with some kind of hot sandwich. Grilled Cheese, Bacon Cheddar Twists, or Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls are my favorites. See recipe or links below.

Grilled Cheese Recipe:

Melt butter and dip both sides of two pieces bread in the butter.

Depending on size of bread, I use one to two pieces of cheese (two much cheese makes it just too much) and possibly a slice of country ham.

Grill until golden on each side.

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Bacon Cheddar Twists from Farm House Rules
bacontwists
Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls from Jen Around the World (When you run out of croissants – biscuit dough works just as well! Made mine with Mild Italian Sausage! Held some filling back for my low carb diet. It’s a recipe that makes for happy people in my house!)
sausagestuffedbiscuitscc

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baklavacc

“Give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good;
His loving devotion endures forever”
~ Chronicles 16:34

“The LORD is my strength and my song” ~ Exodus 15:2.

My husband received a call the other day about unclaimed money – apparently, there’s some out there, and we ought to go claim it. Yet, what about the unclaimed goodness God has left for us since the day we were born? God has left and continue to leave his goodness in every day of our lives. This isn’t about prosperity. It’s about the goodness God leaves us in the daily, how he lavishes his love on us, letting us know he is there, wooing us into relationship with him. There are years and years of unclaimed gifts because I didn’t know – years I spent not understanding how he is present in every moment of my day, how he leaves reminders of his great love for me . . . in what seems like the everyday ordinary. Maybe I cannot vintage all the goodness He left me in the past, but I can certainly claim the goodness he has left me today and in the future.

I’m in the middle of a challenge right now – and I find myself needing to keep close to the one who knows my heart – who designed it and understands it better than I do, so right now – and maybe throughout the summer, I’m going to be journaling God’s goodness He leaves me along the path of each day’s journey. Maybe you will join me with your own journals of his goodness and leave a link in the comment section.

You are good, Father, my strength and my song
two red birds chasing each other, flying
ahead of me
God invited to the table
a little boy snuggling close, trusting,
falling into nap
ice cream joy
the quiet with God before the busy sets in
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

morning footsteps in the kitchen, sharing coffee and the needs
for the day ahead
courage to push the clamor of tasks back to give attention to the call of my soul
golden-retriever comfort
the soothing repetition of layering, brushing melted butter,
layering, brushing pastry sheets
for baklava
in a space not hurried by the clock,
the methodical layering, brushing, layering, sprinkling walnuts slowing
my harried heart
the layering, brushing, sprinkling training me in healthy barrier setting
so God joy and peace in the little things
aren’t rushed away
before being savored
little arms hugging in excited, happy welcome
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

vanilla drops in ice water
hearts that don’t let misunderstanding stop the conversation or break the connection
chocolate kisses, sour-patch kids and jelly beans in candy jars
remembering good memories
self-less prayers for others
for God-designed plans fulfilled,
insight into choices,
needs met for the day’s challenges,
for success to rise out of failures
and desire fanned to draw closer to God –
self-less prayer not to make me breathe easier
worry less
but for others to live their God-designed plan
because their story is their story
not mine
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

the bantering of my boys
cooking behind the kitchen counter and watching . . .
one son opening books to study,
another sitting down to take an on-line quiz,
a group sitting around the table talking,
the plastic glasses taken out of the cabinet,
filled with water, one stirring chocolate into his milk,
shoes kicked off and left in the middle of the floor,
“What’s to eat?”
daughter-in-laws who break the boundaries to become daughters
Sadie, our golden, running for her stuffed bunny when someone walks through the back doors.
chocolate ganache over white butter cream.
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

Thank you Father, for your goodness, for your enduring devotion.

Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

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lonesheepblur

The old man, he sat on the front porch in the heat of the day, turning his head right, squinting his eyes in the high noon sun westward down the long dusty road. A hot day in the south can be awfully unforgiving.

After he had assured himself no one was coming down the road, he turned his head left, peering closing down the eastward dusty road. There weren’t many trees along this stretch of the road – until you came to the old man’s yard and the borders of his fields.

Satisfying himself, there wasn’t anyone on the road, he sighed, picked up a glass of sweet ice tea. There’s nothing like a glass of ice-cold tea on a hot afternoon to cool a body from the head, down the throat. . . nothing.

The old man continued sitting . . . and watching. There wasn’t much else to do, not like today. I don’t know what the old man thought about – maybe he talked to God inside himself. Maybe he thought about his regrets, his misdeeds, dreams that never came to life.

Maybe he saw a rabbit hare off through a blueberry bush, trying to get away from the antics of a frolicsome pup – and thought later how he’d tell his wife about it.

What did a man – or woman – do when there wasn’t so much to fill up time with . . . stuff.

The old man, he didn’t sit as though bored, tapping his foot in a hurry-up way or huffing a what-can-I-do-fun attitude. He sat with calm, pregnant anticipation, a hopeful expectation. Maybe his nephew coming to visit? Maybe a neighbor’s children coming to see the new baby lambs? An old friend with which to share the heat of the afternoon? Maybe someone to haggle with over seed, hay, sheep, chickens and cows?

After his long drink, he shut his eyes for a minute, savoring the fluid coolness. With a quiet, drawn-out “AAAhhhhh,” he opened his eyes and began once again his vigil of looking west, then east. As the sun reached its pinnacle, he took another long draught, closed his eyes for a moment, savored the coolness of the tea – and opened his eyes.

Three strangers stood at the gate by the road. “How? . . . Where? . . . What? . . ,” he thought. How did he miss them? Where had they come from? What in the world?

He bound off the porch, joy breaking across his face in a wide smile, welcome outstretched in a hearty handshake.

“Come! Come! Rest a while in the shade,” he said. “Let me get you some cool, sweet tea and something to eat to give you strength. This mid-day heat sure is a scorcher today.”

The men probably hemmed and hawed about how they didn’t want to put him out, but the old man pressed them, “I want to do this for you now that you have journeyed by my place.”

To you and me, the old man might seem desperate, too desperate, for company. It might have been off-putting – and maybe you and I would have not gone beyond the gate, been wary of accepting a glass of water or tea from this old man. To the old man, this was the tradition of his father, his grandfather and his grandfather’s father. Many people had abandoned this tradition of hospitality, but he had not. Possibly many travelers didn’t understand this generous hospitality, maybe mistrusted it.

The three men accepted his invitation, walking through the gate the old man had opened for them and settled into the comfortable porch chairs, the shade giving cool respite.

The old man opened the screen door and disappeared into the depths of the house, returning a short time later with a tray holding glasses and a large pitcher of water. There were three bowls, one for each guest, filled with freshly picked blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to stay their hunger until supper could be brought out. He’d told his wife to make sure she prepared the best steaks, the most golden buttery potatoes spiced just right, savory green beans – and her angel biscuits cooked to perfection. Nothing was to be spared for the weary travelers.

His wife didn’t rail at him, berating him for this last-minute meal with these last minute guests that she didn’t know from Adam. She didn’t begrudge the extra work, sharing the best food they had, or the time spent preparing the meal because it was a way of life for them. She’d gotten used to unexpected guests. She’d been trained as a child for moments like these. She’d been taught that hospitality prepared with a generosity of gift blessed the food and the time. Begrudging was a spice that spoiled the gift. Not all her neighbors continued this tradition of hospitality. It was a tradition started long ago in the long, hot stretch of road – to give travelers a meal and rest in the heat of the day, to refresh them to continue on their journey until evening came.

While the old man’s wife prepared their meal, he brought around from the well two white tin basins filled with water so they could soak their feet. The three men removed their shoes, leaned back and soaked their feet, relaxing as the soreness ebbed.

The old man talked with these strangers who weren’t his daily responsibility as if they were cherished guests. Maybe they talked about the news from the towns they had come through. Maybe they talked about the price of sheep and cows. Maybe the old man talked to them about his God, what a mighty God he was who had provided this home, the farm land for grazing, planting and harvesting.

“No,” he said. “No, I don’t have any children,” he responded probably to the questions about his family, a brief shadow of disappointment crossing his face, giving hint to the sorrow at a dream unfilfilled.

Midday ebbed into mid-afternoon. The great oak tree’s shadow grew longer. Supper was served. A satisfying supper it was, too. Some might consider it a feast. A quiet contentment stirred in those sitting on the porch. The conversations were quieter.

One of the men asked the old man, “Where is your wife?”

“In the kitchen,” the old man answered, suspecting that she was probably now sitting near the window listening to their conversation.

The three men put their shoes on, stood up, readying themselves to continue their journey.

The old man stood with them to walk with them to the gate. One of the men grasped his outstretched  hand, “I will surely return to you about this time next year. Your wife will have a son.”

The traveler’s strong grip kept the old man from falling. Who is this traveler, he thought to himself.

The old man’s wife was listening inside the house. “I’m an old woman,” she thought to herself. “Too old for a young woman’s dreams to come true.” She laughed a bitter-sweet laugh. Old as she was, too late as it was, the idea of the joy of having a baby of her own was a dream that still stirred in her heart. Does a heart ever really give up on dreams? Or does a logical head bury them, hiding the dreams voice from surfacing?

One of the men revealed himself then as the God the old man had told them about, when he heard the old woman’s bittersweet laugh, “Why did you laugh old woman? Why did you say, ‘Will I really have a baby, now that I am old?’ Is anything to hard for me? I will return to you at the appointed time next year. You will have a son.”

The old woman, now standing inside the door, frightened, denied laughing.

The Lord looked straight at her, knowing her heart and her secrets, “Yes, you laughed.”

Would the old man and the old woman have been blessed with a son if they hadn’t hearts of hospitality for those they didn’t know? If the old man, Abraham, hadn’t invited them to eat of the best he had, with a heart free of grudging of time, effort and product, would God have given them their heart’s desire – a son? Would God have made him the father of a nation if Abraham had not extended such gracious, welcoming hospitality? (storyline from Genesis 18:1-16)

Generous, heart-outstretched hospitality in the everyday ordinary – God blesses us when we serve with generous, welcoming, heart-felt kindness like the old man did, like Abraham did.

favherdsheepccGod has a history of blessing those who welcome him unawares with a generosity of spirit. Before Peter was invited to become a fisher of men, he invited Jesus to his house (Luke 4:38). His mother-in-law wasn’t well. No one was prepared for company. Food stock might have even been running low. Yet, Peter invited Jesus anyway. While there, Jesus healed his mother-in-law, and then stayed to eat with them. Imagine that conversation. Peter is known for his bold questions and conversation. Before Jesus called Peter, according to Luke, they sat around the table eating an everyday ordinary meal. Maybe it was kinneret sardines with bread, something as simple as our tuna sandwich. God doesn’t expect us to prepare meals fit for a king. He expects only the best of what we have in our cupboards. He wants willing hearts not grudging giving of the our time, our resources or our energy. If Peter hadn’t been willing to make room for one more at his supper table on a regular everyday night when there was sickness in the house, just maybe the opportunity to be called a fisher of men might not have occurred. Peter did ask Jesus into his home, to sit at his table – and a day or two later, Jesus asked him to become a fisher of men.

Arms-wide-open hospitality is what God calls us to. Unabashed hospitality! No matter your social standing. No matter your financial condition. No matter whether you’re prepared or not! God just wants a heart waiting with expectation to sit down with whoever he sends to your gate, to your door, or to your kitchen.

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God blesses those who love one another as he has loved them. Two men, on the Emmaus Road, deep in conversation, were caught up in their own grief of their savior crucified. If they hadn’t made room for one more, not only in their walk but at their roadside table, what would they have missed? Instead of dismissing a stranger walking near them, dismissing him because they didn’t know him or their story, these two men invited him with hearts wide open into their conversation. Then, like Abraham, they urged the stranger to remain in their company and eat with them. . . . they urged him, meaning they didn’t give up when the stranger expressed, “I don’t want to intrude. You have only enough for your journey – not for a stranger, too.” They urged him, pressed him, tried to get beneath codes of etiquette to establish sincerity in the invitation. This stranger wasn’t part of their community, their intimate group, an insider. Their sincerity, their determination convinced the stranger, who after being urged with a generosity of spirit, acquiesced.

This stranger, “when he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” ~ Luke 23: 30-31

What would they have missed, if they hadn’t welcomed a stranger into their conversation, into their meal, pressing him with a hospitality filled with a generosity of spirit that gave truth to their invitation. They would have missed seeing the newly resurrected Jesus Christ.

Feed my sheep, Jesus tells Peter (John 21:16).

Feed my sheep! Through the breaking of bread, eyes are opened—those of us who believe and those of us who don’t yet.

Feed my sheep! Sons and daughters of the father, live making room for one more in the everyday ordinary

Every day, look to the east and west, the north and south, look with joyful expectation for God to send someone. Invite unashamed God’s sheep and lambs to your table. Sit long and talk much. I imagine in the shade of Abraham’s tent, in Peter’s house, on the Emmaus Road, there was a lot of time to sit or walk long and talk much. Sitting long and talking much is a seed planting and watering time. Sometimes the conversations are directly about things of God. Sometimes the conversations are nothing about God but the spirit of God plants seed from the discussion. Sometimes it is just God seeing if we will welcome his blessing.

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Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: A Heart Looking with Joyful Anticipation

Linking up at the following:

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I remember back in the day . . .

. . . when there really was nothing in the fridge. I was just young enough that I didn’t know then how to make something out of nothing. I knew how to bake a prune cake, homemade thousand island dressing, how to wash a chicken but not fry it, how to make creamed tuna on toast, fry bologna, how to prepare boxed Kraft Italian spaghetti and bake Martha White blueberry muffins on Sunday morning. It seemed like a lot, but it didn’t really prepare me for filling my own fridge and planning a weeks worth of meals, even if, in the beginning, it just was for two.

When my husband and I married, we were both still college students. No phone, no t.v., no hot water for three months because the gas company required a $150 deposit. Rent was $185 a month. Our grocery budget was $25 a week. I remember spending $32 one week. I just couldn’t face my team-mate for life. I felt like I’d let him down. I wanted to go home to Mom – but she was about 1 1/2 hours away – and that would have cost even more, so I went home, faced up to my failure – and discovered that love still loves when you bust the budget by $7.

I didn’t know much about feeding any kind of sheep – literally or figuratively.

That first winter was challenging. We lived in the upstairs apartment of an old house. A group of young men rented the first floor of the house. When they went home for Christmas, they turned off the heat to save money. Our water pipes suffered – and so did we. When we got home from class or working at the newspaper, I’d have to boil pots full of water to pour into the toilet to thaw the pipes. Hearts warmed with love don’t make icy water any warmer – but it sure does make living through icy-water-times worth living through!

Thankfully, my mother and father-in-law raised cattle and shared a freezer full of hamburger, cube steaks and chuck roasts. They shared a lot of meals with us, too. They didn’t just open their freezer for us. Their refrigerator was always full, always waiting for us to come make a sandwich, make a piled-high bowl of ice cream – and fill a bowl with chili, soup beans or vegetable soup. I remember my husband making me hot chocolate once at their house – a tumbler full of hot chocolate. I didn’t know hot chocolate could come in tumblers. My new mom and dad never once looked dismayed when we walked through the door near dinner time – or lunch or breakfast time. My husband’s sweet family taught me a lot about the condition of the heart in feeding sheep – both literally and figuratively.

“We’re going to look back at these days as the best days of our lives,” my husband said. Those were sweet days, indeed. I admit – I did hope that hot water in all our pipes would be part of best days to come. A hot bath on a regular any day makes any day a best day – believe me, a newlywed does not have enough pots to fill a tub full of hot water no matter how much determination is behind the effort – especially when when all you’ve got is a one and two quart pan. I hoped, too that best days would come when I could spend over $25 at the grocery store.  After a failed attempt at having friends over for dinner (a one quart pan cannot cook enough spaghetti for 4 at once) – I hoped one day, having people for dinner would look like a best day, not a fail day.

I wanted to grow up and feed the sheep from my herd just like Nanny and Papaw did – and maybe even feed those that God gave me who maybe just weren’t part of my herd – and not have them stop by McDonald’s on the way home because they weren’t filled up.

Thirty-five years down the road of from the First of The Best Days, 5 sons later, 2 granddaughters and one grandson later, one-still-in-high-school-later, I have that full fridge. I have hot water for baths more often than not, though there’s no hot water in my bathroom sink. Sometimes when the gas runs out before we’ve realized it was running low – there’s no hot water – for the tubs, the sinks or the water pipes. Instead of everyone dissembling and falling apart, everyone swallows their disappointment with a pushing-through-the-bitter-cold-for-a-shower perseverance – a stoic, crazy exercise building family unity that we’d rather not experience but do every so often!

Those meal schedules? There’s a bunch of schedules now – not just breakfast, lunch and dinner schedules. There’s all-the-people-in-my-nest schedules. Running-a-business schedule – and, maybe the hardest to learn of all, the no-way-the-schedule-is-going-to-behave-so-go-with-the-flow schedule. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that all these schedules give birth to additional schedules. There are schedules that have  moved out, though, and made their own schedules.

December wore me out. January came like a Monday – I never plan appointments on a Monday. It’s my day to get the week’s schedule organized in my mind. The laundry gets caught up. The kitchen gets put back together, more or less. I make a stew that should last for a few days.  It’s a restart – a new beginning. January does for the year what Monday does for the week.

Mondays typically start out as a Feed-My-Sheep kind of day. The stew will last for two days – unless they don’t care for it. Then it lasts three. It’s the beginning of the work week, but my grocery stock has dwindled down from Friday – and it has to last five more days. The schedules start snowballing – and the fridge empties. It empties itself of milk first (I really need a milk cow). Everything else follows.

The clock runs out of time, all the good energy within me drains dry, and the fridge starts reminding me of its waning stock, until one of the boys opens the door, and announces, “There’s nothing to eat,” when, usually, there really is. It just takes more thought and gumption to make something out of slim pickin’s. Eggs and cheese can make an omelet. Grilled cheese is a feast, if someone’s hungry. Pillsbury biscuits brushed with butter, garlic and salt go straight to the hungry heart.

However, sometimes the fridge just sadly opens to announce in dismay, “I’m empty, too  – No help for you here.”

Sometimes, though, it’s me that’s empty.

How then, when there’s no room in the budget, within myself, or within time constraints, how can I feed these sheep God’s given me – both literally and figuratively.

Some of my boys will try to persuade me that not everything is about God (and that’s for another post), but I tell them . . . it is. . . . it’s all about God. You don’t get 34.5 years of best days without God in all of it. Even out of the brokenness, God can make best days. It’s all about training the mind and heart to remember what God has to say about it, and when I don’t know what He has to say about it, to go looking for what He has to say.

So when there’s no room in the budget, within myself, or within time constraints, how can I feed these sheep God’s given me – both literally and figuratively.

Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep three times. The second time, Jesus asks Peter:

“‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?’

He [Peter] saith unto him, ‘Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.’

He [Jesus] saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.'” ~ John 21:16

“Feed my sheep” – not just when it’s easy . . . not just when the bank account and the fridge is full . . . not just when you’re feeling it.

I had a lot of learning ahead of me 34.5 years ago – the cooking, the budgeting, the planning, the sheep feeding – both literally and figuratively. I didn’t know anything about children or loving them. What I knew about marriage probably wouldn’t even fill a thimble. What I knew about who I was to God was even less than that. . . . but that didn’t stop me from trying to learn.

 Feed my sheep, he said.

God takes small to middling hearts, steeps them in his Holy spirit, filling them with his kind of love until something extraordinary happens – one day they have developed the capacity to love more than they ever imagined, as many as they dared to love.

Elisha said to the widow who had nothing, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “’servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”  Then he said, ‘Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.  Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.’  So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.  When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, ‘There is not another.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.” ~ 2 Kings 4: 2-6

I bet if there had been one more vessel, there would have been enough oil to fill it up.

He does that with the time, the energy – and the fridge when there’s his sheep to feed.

He takes the five loaves and two fishes (Mark 6: 37-44) of ourselves – and turns each of us into more than enough  – more than enough to feed God’s sheep, to live the daily always making room for one more or 5,000 more, even if it’s serving just grilled cheese and sweet tea.

Do you want to? Are you ready to make room for at least one more?

Feed My Sheep, Jesus told Peter – and you and me.
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Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: When Blessing is Invited to the Table

Linking up at the following:

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday

 

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Chocolate Chip cookies, Muddy Cakes, Hamburgers and Hotdogs, chili, chicken soup and beef stews, bacon twists and grilled cheese – and tomatoes and lettuces: Kale, Spinach and Chard, even chocolate mint leaves! Turkey, stuffing, oyster dressing, mashed potatoes with sour cream, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, butter and garlic, homemade salad dressings – Feast Day and Everyday kind of food – mostly the everyday kind of food.

I love cooking for people, making sure they’re filled up, that they don’t leave my house hungry – but I have no efficiency for keeping a pristine kitchen. If you came to my house, you’d find me behind the kitchen counter. I’d ask you to pull up  a stool while I poured you a cup  of coffee or a glass of sweet tea, offered you some honey or creamer, maybe a smackeral of something if I had it – and we’d talk while I tidied up my kitchen. Most likely, my sons who are students and sons who work might pop in, might even pull up a stool for a small bit, weave themselves into the conversation and out again.

A homey diner with one short-order cook? Sometimes it feels like that. By the time you’d leave, you just might notice the kitchen still needed cleaning and organizing, and you might wonder how it wasn’t with the time I was behind that counter – and at the same time understand why it wasn’t.

When you left, I hope you would have found yourself filled up, found comfort and understanding of brokenness in challenges, maybe like you’d found a place to belong – a place that had a stool just for you, an outpost on your journey where you can re-store your soul supplies and that you’d leave a bit merrier, a bit steadier, more ready for the challenges outside the door.

We all have our little soul re-storing “outposts” – the places where we feed the sheep and lambs. But the kitchen isn’t my only outpost. My outpost – your outpost – is wherever we walk in the daily – and by whom our souls pause in the daily.

Our outpost is where the lambs and sheep are that Jesus asks us to feed.

 “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’

He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’

He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.'”  ~ John 21:15

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about these sheep and lambs. Just who are these sheep and lambs he tells us to feed? Aren’t they the ones I was born to? The ones I gave life to? Am I to feed more than these . . . MORE? 

When my youngest was baptized, I wrote, “Joining a bigger brotherhood,” saying the following:

“Today, precious son, you publicly receive a mighty inheritance. You become a Son of the King. You were born into a remarkable brotherhood, the youngest of 5 brothers. Today, you publicly join a bigger family, a bigger brotherhood that includes Peter, James and John, an amazing, miraculous brotherhood. I am so proud of you!”

The day we said, “I do” to Jesus, we joined a bigger family, not blood relatives, but soul relatives with God as the Father of this big, ever-growing family – the lost and found relatives.

Jesus tells Peter, you and me to feed his sheep and lambs – the lost and found relatives of our family, but who are they? How can I recognize them? Do they come with ear tags? Are they good sheep? Easy sheep? Spotless sheep?

All 2,000+ students at my son’s high school? The thousands at our local college? Plus every single person in the borders of my county?

Sometimes we make it so much harder than it really easy. We are to feed those God gave us in our daily. It’s that simple. I sat down to make a list of those God gave me and where I find them in my daily.

  1. My husband
  2. My sons, their wives and my grandchildren
  3. My parents, aunts and uncles, cousins
  4. My husband’s family who became my family, too, when we married – my mother-in-law and father-in-law, my husband’s sisters and brother, my nephews, their wives and children.
  5. My friends, my knitting group, my bible study group
  6. Those to whom I say, “Good morning!”
  7. Maybe even the fellow driver on the road who irritates me (you don’t have to have a conversation to pray for someone).
  8. The grocery store greeter and checker, the product stocker, the deli lady slicing my country ham, the bookstore clerk, the school’s attendance office volunteers and employees, the receptionist at the doctor’s office – where have you been today?
  9. Anyone my boys bring through the door.
  10. The person sitting next to me at church, the soccer fields, at a play, or the ballet.
  11. The disagreeable person in a check-out line. God doesn’t always give us the easy to love. Sometimes he wants us to pursue for him the challenging, the rebels, the ones who think they don’t want him.

“He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ 

He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’

He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.'” ~ John 21:16

isheeponecWho are your lambs and sheep to feed? Look through your FaceBook Friend list. If we accepted Friend requests as if accepting them as someone God gave us, a sheep of his to be fed, a soul in which we are to plant seed and water – would our Friend list be smaller? Are you willing to feed all those sheep you are friends with in Facebook? To love them? To make room for them at your table? At your kitchen counter? In your prayer time are you willing to pray something deeper, more interceding than a “bless his/her heart” kind of prayer – but a warrior prayer sent out to save? Are you willing to lay down your life for every friend on your Facebook Friend list? Shouldn’t you be willing – in a feed-my-sheep kind of way?

 “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ 

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ 

and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.'” ~ John 21: 17

Maybe you are praying the prayer of Jabez, asking God, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me,” (1 Chronicles 4:10a). Maybe you have a heart for missions, a heart for feeding the lambs and sheep in Uganda? Haiti? China? Romania? If you aren’t seed planting and watering seeds either you planted or others have planted in those God gives you in the daily – how can you do it across the world in another country? God will not enlarge our borders to take care of sheep in other places if we neglect the sheep God gives us where we walk every day.

“Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 19-30).

Has God given you lambs and sheep that you need to make room for at your table? Love is a choice – and love invites both the easy and the hard to our kitchen counters, our tables to share a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea – grilled cheese or a feast. As we lay out our plates this week and set the table, think about who is coming, who isn’t – and who your lambs and sheep are?

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You might be thinking, “How can I feed more when I have trouble feeding the ones I have? Stop by Monday for how God prepares and provides for us to feed his sheep.

Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: A Heart Looking with Joyful Anticipation

Linking up at Journeysingrace

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Mornings are easier now. I don’t load up a mini-van full of 5, 4, 3, 2 . . . 1 boys for a mad drop-off dash to 1, 2, 3 different schools. Half the mornings, I make a skillet full of sausage and eggs with either toast or biscuits for the ones heading off to work, college or high school. Other mornings, well, there’s chocolate chip granola bars in one of three cookie jars (One has granola bars, another chocolate chips, and the robust, yellow chef cookie jar is full of dog biscuits: know your cookie jar before grabbing and going – LOL).

“Have an exciting day,” a voice says over the phone.

“Exciting is over-rated,” I reply. With five boys, excitement conjures words like commotion (wrestling at the drop of a hat), instigation (“Mom, he touched me), drama (“If I don’t eat now, I’m going to die” drama), adventure (owls, snakes and turtles tales), passions (heart passions, emotional passions, hobby passions, temper passions), humor (note: the chances of five people in a car being in the mood for any kind of humor at the same time? Not often!), goal-tending (and I don’t mean soccer goals), dropping off, picking up and arriving fully equipped (which includes water bottles that often get left behind), finding the car keys, and general hullabaloo.

Excitement overload leaves little time for savoring the good stuff – with family, my husband or God. Surviving is not savoring. Morning grab-and-go-God-moments were standard fare for, well, ever, it seems like. The excitement is thinning out as my nest empties out.

After 32 years of mothering 5 boys, the daily is changing. The idea of getting up at 5 a.m. for an extra hour just about makes me shudder. I’d rather stay up until 1 a.m. to find the good stuff with God. But there’s been a change. One of those changes is an extra hour dropped into my daily. The grab and go is becoming sit and savor.

Not always, but more and more, I am learning how to fit into this more roomy morning hour.

This new, seemingly still hour has been refreshing to my soul.

Whether on my porch, or in a chair by the window, I settle into this quiet that feels like plain woven muslin. One of my sons recently finished the chronological bible in a year – and I thought I’d try it.

. . . . and the chaos of the daily seems held off, if just for 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

The chaos that’s held off? It’s held off by the one I invite into this space – who draws near to me because I draw near to him.

This still space in my daily has become a place of peace where I have room not to just realize contentment, but to allow this contentment to unfurl without it being crowded out.

He wraps this peace that feels like plain woven muslin close about me and gives me time . . . time to vintage the blessings he gives me daily, to sort out what he says to me in those blessings, to let the things of Him redeem my day before I’m in the midst of it, to thank him for all he’s done.

Sitting on the porch as the morning comes along – or by the window where I can see the garden, he wraps me in this peace and offers me a long, refreshing drink of his living water. This peace isn’t binding or restricting. It’s liberating yet protective, comforting yet stretching – like a plain woven muslin blanket.

When I invite him, he brings that peace with him that calms the seas,

that makes me think I can walk on water if he’s beside me,

he brings me the peace that withstands the I-don’t-have-enoughness-to-do-what-needs-doing:

like the wedding host who didn’t have enough wine,

the apostles who had nothing to eat but needed enough to feed 5,000,

or the widow who had only one jar of oil and no means for more –

He generously brings his peace, so much of it, that though I don’t have enough within me to be enough for the day  on my own – He does.  He doesn’t just provide more than enough, either. He has such an ever-lasting supply, that he overfills my soul – overfills it so much that it spills over into the space around me, into the people around me, and the chaos and excitement trying to creep upon me.

Sometimes the only thing separating us from the Spring of Living Water are those doors either we have constructed or doors others have constructed. Either way, we find ourselves separated from what our souls need to survive. The only way to take down those doors separating us from those living waters Christ offers us is to ask him to remove those doors – and he will. Once we have drunk deeply of what he offers so freely, we need to make sure we neither rebuild walls to separate us from him again and that we, ourselves, don’t use doors to God’s Spring House to keep others out ~ Blue Cotton Memory

Oh, yes! There are changes at the blue cotton house, sweet, supposed-to-be changes. It’s a part of my boys growing up. It’s a part of my growing up, too, though I’ve been at it longer than my boys. They would say I was being silly. That I was already grown up. But you and I, we know we are still children to what God knows. Yet, when I invite God into the changes, He brings grace into them and redeems the change.

What changes are you experiencing? How are you sharing those changes with God?

“But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”  ~ John 4: 14

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