Home Again

I’m home again. I have been for a week now and it’s been a full one.

I’m home. Picking blackberries, freezing sweet corn, biking down country roads, picking wildflowers and drinking tall glasses of cold mountain spring water.

I’m back with my family. All 24 of them. You can read the story of how my family grew by three overnight at my sister-in-law’s blog here. It’s exciting and a bit scary that I now unofficially have nine nieces and nephews but I absolutely love every one of them.

I’m back at work, putting lids on hundreds of jars of pickled garlic and labeling case after case of Jam with only an occasional dash out the door to pick a handful of blackberries. Did I mention that blackberries are like my most favorite thing ever? I also pulled an enormous amount of weeds out of the flower beds in front of The Relish Barn. “What makes you think you can do that on company time?” Bert asked, sticking his head out the door.

“No one wants to buy relish from a place that looks like this,” I answered.

“You have a point but the thing is, none of our customers actually come here.”

“You have a point,” I said. But I kept on pulling weeds.

I’m back at my little church, singing hymns and praying with the people who love me as much as I love them. And all the little kids club kids who hug me three times or so and tell me that they missed me. I missed them too.

And this week I’m getting ready for school. I’m excited about being a teacher again and I’m ready to have all my students back again.

But Saturday my friend is getting married.

Next week is teacher’s week at Faith Builders.

And then there’s Literature Camp the next weekend.

But for now, I’m sitting on my rooftop, watching the moon and listening to the crickets.

It’s a beautiful night.


The House on Poplar Street

There’s a weekend’s worth of happy memories in a little house on poplar street. I traveled eight hours to spend a weekend with my fellow soldiers of the cross. I have not regretted it for a minute.

In Soldier style, we got together to do hard things and encourage each other in the fight. We picked up several tons of trash, told the story of Jesus, and worshipped our Saviour together all in one lovely blur of a weekend.

I’m fascinated with city life and the tall old buildings stacked together along the street with tiny backyards out back.

I’m fascinated by the thriving, growing, alive church in the midst of darkness.

I’m fascinated by the strength and courage of people who have Jesus on their side.

I may have left a piece of my heart on poplar street.

I know I’ll never forget my weekend there.

Life-storms and lightning

There’s a thunderstorm in Harlan tonight. The bursts of light show off the jagged peaks of my mountain as the stand against a blackened sky.

It’s beautiful.

Phone cameras don’t really work out for that sort of thing so you’ll have to see it with your heart-eyes.

The tall strong mountain silhouetted for just a moment against the brilliant burst of light.

Standing here, in the darkness, it could seem like the light would be the place to go to.

If I choose to see it that way, the mountain could be an insurmountable problem, holding me back from the light that I crave.

But that’s not how it really is, of course.

The light is only brief bursts in the midst of a storm. The mountain stands as a protective barrier between us. Here am I. There is the storm.

Could the storm cross the mountain? Absolutely. But for now the mountain is my protection.

I think about my mountains and my life. There’s so much to learn from the mountains when we only use our eyes to see.

How many of my life mountains are actually protecting me from storms? How many times are the glimpses of light on the other side of those mountains really bursts of storm-lightening?

I don’t have an answer.

Instead I have a God.

A life-storm protection.

Rest Awhile

Come ye apart, it is the Lord who calls us. And oh what tenderness is in his tone! He bids us leave the busy world behind us, and draw apart awhile with him alone.

Sometimes life gets heavy. Maybe there’s not big problems but the little things wear on you.

The hurts. The sadness. The constant struggle.

Sometimes life just seems too much.

The work is too hard.

The laborers too few.

And we need rest.

Jesus was wise enough to take times off of his busy schedule to rest and to reconnect with his father.

I am often too proud to admit that I need it.

But sometimes I do.

I’m spending the next ten days at Soldiers of the Cross. They have three objectives they say, (1) To give practical help on how to witness effectively (2) To deepen our personal walk with God and (3) to give us a chance to draw apart and rest awhile.

In my experience they so a great job at all three.

It’s a stretching time in some ways. There’s a lot if time spent actually witnessing. The small group of students makes it impossible to remain anonymous or uninvolved. However the days are structured to give you several hours throughout the day to simply be alone with Jesus.

I’m excited.

We may be tired and weary. We may long for Jesus’ return. But still we pray “wait a little longer, please Jesus, there’s so many still awandering out in sin, just a little longer, please Jesus, a few more days to get our loved ones in.”

We dare not quite. We dare not become discouraged. We dare not give up.

But we cannot give what we do not have. Sometimes we must be refilled before we can overflow.

So come apart if you need to.

Rest with Jesus.

He loves when we come.

The Shadow of His Wings

I write a lot about my mountains. I love my homeland and I love it’s people. We live, in many ways, in a lost culture. I count it as one of my blessings.
But there’s another side to my mountains. A side I would like to forget, to ignore, to pretend it doesn’t exist.

But it does.

And silence in the face of evil is wrong. When we have an opportunity to speak out and choose silence, we are cowards. God has asked us to be strong.

When I think of this other side of my mountains I think of Fairlight Spencer in Christy and about the shadow that came down over her mountains and of the terror she experienced watching them descend.

Her mountains are not much different from mine.

There are shadows on my mountains too. Both literally and figuratively.

Shadows over the child who is afraid because doors open and shut in his house during the night “for no reason.”

Shadows over the child who is left with her uncle who has spent time in prison for sexual assault.

Shadows over the child that no one likes at school because she takes things.

Shadows over the child who at age 12 is a mom to her siblings because mom is always working.

Shadows over the child who is always in the middle of a fight.

So many shadows. Family fueds are a very real thing here. Drugs are rampant. Social Services is overwhelmed and poorly run. So many hurts. So much pain. So much brokenness.

When I see all the times that the kids club has given us opportunities to shine light on the shadows, I am no longer surprised at how hard the Prince of darkness fought to keep us out. 

Light can come to these shadows. Light always triumphs darkness in the end. 

We are not the light. We come to bear witness of the light. 

The Light of life.

There’s more than one kind of shadow. There is also the shadow of his wings. 

There is a shadow of safety. 

Let the children come to Him.

Thoughts on Spring

Spring has come to my mountains. Come in all it’s brightness and splendor. Come finally.
I thought it would never come. There were breif respites from cold and snow but only in teasing bits and then winter would swoop in again, dashing our hopes. 

But I think it’s really here this time. I spent the last 3 Sunday afternoons roaming mountainsides, taking back the freedom lost to winter. 

I feel alive again. 

We sing a song sometimes that goes like this: oh yes it’s always springtime in glory/springtime in glory/where the flowers are blooming rich and rare/ where happy angels are singing/bells of glory are ringing/it’s springtime forever there.  

Sharon and I were talking about that recently. About how spring is only possible because of winter. We could always have summer but spring is a transition. Without the change there is no spring. Spring is, in essence, change.

Change can be beautiful. Spring has proven it’s point. But like spring, change is also unsettling. It doesn’t have the settled deep feeling that summer does. 

But Spring turns into summer and summer to Autumn and Autumn brings winter, changing back into spring.

So there’s a permanence even in the changes. Things change but ultimately stay the same.

I feel like there’s a profound lesson in this somewhere but I haven’t discovered it yet. Maybe the changing seasons will bring wisdom to me eventually.

For now, I simply wait and watch.

He Comes like Rain

I have a love/hate relationship with Rain. It comes in so may ways. light and drizzly, or in strong gusts, warm and refreshing or bone-chilling. 
I love it in all it’s forms. Sometimes. I hate it in all it’s forms too. 

It brings life.

It can also destroy life.

It all depends.

On what, I’m not sure.

Why is the rain sometimes beautiful and sometimes terrible?

Or is it even?

Maybe it’s not the rain at all but the way we see the rain. Maybe it’s not in the raindrops but in our perception of those raindrops.

He Comes to us like Rain. 

He can be beautiful.

He can be terrible.

It has nothing to do with who God really is. Only with our perception of him. 

Our God is a life-giver.

Sometimes He also takes away.

This does not change the character of God but too often it changes our perception of Him.

He is God. 

We can trust that even when He Comes in stormy ways, His goal is life. Eternal life for us.

10 Things I’ve learned Lately 

  1. February is a long month. I probably shouldn’t start out with a discouraging things but that’s been my feeling lately. I know it’s literally the shortest month but every year I barely survive it.
  2. I like to paint. Not like paint houses but like pictures. I’m not very good at it and I think I’d like it more if I’d invest in some better paints and brushes but it’s kind of a cool hobby.
  3. If I don’t take B-12 vitamins I’m not a happy person. For years I had a problem with my hands and feet “going to sleep” the minute I sit down and hold still. It affected my sleep since I could only sleep on certain positions. I lived with it for years before I did a little research and found that B-12 was the answer. It’s a big deal in the winter. Big enough that I’ll make a special trip to Wal-Mart to buy it and I don’t know of really anything else I’ll do that for.
  4. Kids are amazing. They are so resilient and durable. Yes, I know that kids have life long affects from childhood things and yet I’m constantly amazed by how much they live through and still survive and smile and have fun with simple small things.
  5. I need to be learning something. I get bored with life when I’m not studying something. I don’t really have a criteria on what to learn about. It might be how atomic bombs are built or it might be psychology or it might be the Montessori method. But it’s always something. I feel restless and unsettled between pursuits and can’t be comfortable until I find something new to study.
  6. It’s the little things that mean the most. Leon read my blog post about forgetting to get the cross in my car. He stopped to get it for me, and also gathered up all the rest of the things in there. On Valentine’s day, Larry stopped at school with a rose for each of the girls. We were delighted.
  7. It’s good to have the family all back together again. It’s been a literal month since all of us are at home. It’s taken it’s toll on all of us. Texting conversations are great but they’re still not the same in the end.
  8. Sometimes I need an adult to talk to. I’m at school with kids all day. If Emily leaves right after school than we never really get a chance to talk (Since neither of us are really into talking in the mornings). Of course there are days when I spend my evenings with crews of kids too and I love it, I really do. But occasionally there comes a day when I really feel like I need to have a conversation with someone who pushes me to think beyond kickball games and settling petty quarrels.
  9. Walking in the rain can be beautiful. I know I’ve written that before but please please try it! Especially if it’s one of those slow summer rains that drizzles down.
  10. There’s nothing quite like grace. Amazing Grace. If I could only recognize and hold on to the grace in each moment, the grace in each ordinary gift sent from heaven. If only I could.

Afraid of what?

When I was just a wee little thing, we were still part of the Amish church. That means we didn’t have a car. We did have a tractor though, and an old gray/blue trailer that had formerly been the bed of a pickup truck. Except for Sundays, when we hitched up our horse and buggy, this was our main mode of transportation. Dad would drove the tractor and mom and us kids piled onto the trailer with some blankets to keep us warm, and away we went. 
Now I have a good mom and she believes in reading stories to her children. She’s also a huge fan of Laura Ingalls. That means that we grew up with Laura and her little house in the big woods. We lived those stories in our imaginations, and felt very much like anything that happened in those stories could also happen to us. 

Now Grandpa’s lived not very far away and it was all small country roads. On one stretch of road there was a loooong hill and the road wound downhill through the forest. Many nights we would come home from grandpa’s after dark and I would huddle in my blankets and look up at the trees silhouetted against the sky, tense, waiting for the moment when the panther would jump down from those tree and land on our speeding trailer.

Of course there were no Panthers. Never had been any panthers in that area at all, but later my siblings all confessed to having the exact same fear of that exact same stretch of road. 

I’m not afraid of panthers anymore but I wonder sometimes, when I take an honest look at my fears today, if they look as irrational to God, as my fear of panthers looks to me now.

I don’t think I’m afraid of a lot of things. I hate to be high up but I don’t think I’m irrationally afraid of heights. I’m afraid that something will happen to someone in my family, (especially when dad does things like ride motos in Haiti) and sometimes I’m afraid of being lonely.

But I think my biggest fear is simply becoming a mediocre person. I am terrified of becoming satisfied  with my life. I fear living a “good enough” life, a “normal” life, a boring life.

I’m afraid I’ll stop having adventures. I’m afraid I’ll stop noticing the every day adventures. I’m afraid of becoming old and jaded and cynical. 

Surely I won’t.

But I’ve seen it happen to other people and it makes me afraid.

I’m not sure how it happens so I don’t know how to avoid it. The worst part is that people never seem to realize what happened and just accept that as an inevitable part of their lives.

I pray about it sometimes. Like I said before, I believe truly following Jesus is an adventure. So I think the solution is to simply follow Jesus. 

At least it’s the best one I’ve come up with. If you have any other solutions you can let me know.

Rain and Hope

It’s rained an awful lot lately. The yard squishes when I walk across it.The creek across the road is swollen to overflowing. There are flood warnings. 

My life seems a but rainy lately as well. Muddy and mushy, wet and dreary. Gray skies. 

But tonight I walked out in the dark and the wet and I thought This much rain must bring an awful lot of flowers. This much water must bring forth much new life 

I pray it’s the same in my life. That out of  days of rain would grow something beautiful.