Friday, October 23, 2009

Abundance and chicken broth

The house is filling with wonderful aromas, chicken is slowly boiling on the stove, bubbling its way to jerked chicken and homemade chicken stock. White northern beans are simmering with bacon, celery and onions; all they need is some warm cornbread. Apples are cooking down again into another apple crisp (we just didn't have enough last weekend) and I am again reminded how loved I am! How wonderful is the Lord who seems always to bring out my creativity in the kitchen when we are so broke and without funds for the weekend yet a banquet am I preparing.

I am often humbled by God as I lament some turmoil only to see His wonderful hand at work in my life. Today is no different. Mark woke early to start a project that I was to complete and get to the PO by 5 PM today; but once I woke, we knocked it out, removing the need for me to leave my cozy nest today at all! Mark and God both know how I often hate to leave my house, loving the joy of working at home and feel all safe and nutured in my own surroundings. Once that was out the door, I opened the pantry to begin the process of making sustaining food for us this weekend as our plans are another working weekend. In short order I was able to fill the house with the homemade smells of Grandma's cooking (thanks Grandma! for teaching me to cook and love doing it) giving me the perfect backdrop to get my real work started.

Mark is off to his full time job but his head is turned toward home; he too wishes we both worked out of the house as we love the cozy place we've created. Sometimes I'm afraid we'd become hermits as much as we love just being at home and working and sharing our time and faith through letters and writing and our work. I feel a bliss at this day that I have to give over to God. I am doing the work I love, reaching out to women who have become my family and dear friends. I am cooking and enjoying music and reading and learning. All the things I love to do and the Lord has provided me a way to live a life that can only be called abundant.

Sure, Mark and I are often pinching pennies and often trying to balance the income with the outgo. Sure, we sometimes have to forgo a fun event or decline an invitation. But when I feel blessed, when I have allowed Him to open my eyes so fully to see the abundance in my life despite the lack of funds then I have to share the wonder. Finding contentment in what He provides brings Him great joy. My Lord is pleased when He can see the pleasure boil over in my heart, spilling warmth all around me.

I love the smell of home cooking and the warmth of a cozy footies on my feet. I love having work to keep my mind alert and hobbies that make me smile. I am overjoyed with my Lord today. He loves me and on days like today I can see His love fully active in my life. And in these moments I am reminded His grace is enough for me. He does provide all I ever need. Even in times of draught, He works in me to adjust my needs to His ways. He is always present in my life and He can bring me through any darkness.

My blessings are to be counted and my ability to see His work in my life is the grace He provides. Joy in the everyday is the wondrous ways my Father often sees to my needs and I am humbled and content in Him. While the chicken stock cooks down and the beans continue to simmer, I can see my Lord and share this time with Him. When He takes our lives and puts on the heat, cooking us down to what we really are and what we really need, He creates in us something truly unique, something that cannot be rushed or imitated. This life He has created for me could not have been rushed either, for too early and I would not have appreciated it as I do now and too late, I might have not been able to see it as clearly as I do today.

Yes His grace is enough and because I trust in that, He gives me so much more! Glory to Him for He gives me chicken broth that makes my house smell wonderful and my heart remember.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Honesty

I walked out to the visit and faced the last person I ever expected to see or wanted to see in that time in my life. My father stood on the other side of double steel doors and glass, peering through no doubt waiting to see what he couldn't imagine, his daughter in yellows behind glass. Inside I wanted to refuse the visit, turn around and go back to my bunk. He had flown 800 miles at his own expense to come face to face with my reality. He came to check on my daughter and assist my son with all that was on his young shoulders, and finally to face me and say all the things we'd never said to one another. Outside he no doubt wanted the same, turn around and pretend this wasn't real. The unwavering truth was here. I was in jail and he was staring through the visitation view window in unbelief. Of course, I had no mirror, no make up, no flattering clothing; not even a hair brush. I can't imagine how I looked but I know it wasn't what he was used to seeing when he sat across from his daughter.

We slammed each other, first he with the information from sources outside then me with the other side of the life that had come unraveled. We flailed at one another. We ranted and raved. We told truths we'd never been willing to speak. We held nothing back.

Then as we sat back, worn out emotionally and spent, he said what I had waited my lifetime to hear, "You are my daughter, I will always love you no matter what."

In the end I know today that what brought out the words I'd waited to hear had more to do with our honesty in that moment than anything else and today as I approach my heavenly Father I also know that my honesty with Him always gets His full attention and outpouring of love. Nothing means more than the real heart showing through. In truth, honesty was never my strong suit so coming clean with my Dad was not high on my list. Learning that nothing is hidden from God is a freeing lesson that allows the life giving relationship full bloom. While I may have lived my life hidden behind a clouded veil from family, friends and community, my life was never unknown or cloudy to God. He not only watched my life but knew its twists and turns before He chose to create me and therefore each breath I take is part of His plan for me. Despite myself, He chose me to be one of His children whom He would always love!

Why we cannot believe that kind of love exists for us is a mystery but when God finally unveils that wondrous truth to us, nothing is more warm and inviting than His Fatherly embrace and love.

I have been gifted with two loving Fathers and that makes me double blessed. I am fully aware that not all are so fortunate but even in the stark reality of some lives, our Heavenly Father is there to make up the loss of our earthly parents or family. It is reassuring to know that despite ourselves, our secrets and dark moments He is there waiting and listening for our call. No matter who you are, where you live, how much or how little your family...there is an abundance of love that is our inheritance.

My honesty brought me the love I'd waited for and my continued honesty keeps that love close and growing. I would never have known any of this had I not been brought to my knees in honest tears and repentance but God knew in my own time I would have more love than I had ever known. I love my fathers. Honest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A shake down

I sat on my bunk, as I did most days, watching her across the aisle. She was playing a one deck, handheld game she called "jail solitaire". She had been here for 326 days "fighting her case" and she was accustomed to being "bunked up." Everything about jail was familiar to her as she was rounding out almost a year of time. She flipped the cards three by three from front to back, sitting indian style on her lower bunk without a care to the chaos the guards were inflicting.

Down the way, on the first set of bunks I listened to the squeals and cursing of inmates as guards did their shake down. Mattresses were overturned and flung to the floor. Property boxes were dumped out on the steel bunk. Boxes of letters, cards and paperwork; once folded neatly were scattered about to be gathered later once the guard gave permission. They were searching for something. I could hear the chaos, the anger steaming up from the floor and billowing under the cut out walls that separated one aisle from another. As the guards made their way down the aisle and came to the head of the next, women filed out into the main walkway to wait.

Sam* sat quietly, playing her cards without a care. She hummed to herself, flipping card after card with an orchestrated purpose. I watched her, then looked at the women in the walkway, slapping their legs or throwing fists in the air as something was upended or thrown into the trash sack drug along behind a guard.

Shake downs happened about once a week. Sometimes because something was heard. Sometimes because of a snitch. Sometimes I think the guards just needed something to do. No matter, they always brought a tense mood, disgruntled inmates and self righteous guards in the end. This was homemade chaos for the purpose of chaos and generally produced very little. Oh perhaps a label wrapped stick pen made stronger and thus easier to write with because of the added stiffness; maybe a commissary sheet, its heavy paper cut out to be a stencil for card making. Seldom anything of any real significance. Contrived "cases" created for paperwork and busyness and to make a guard look alert and on top of her pod.

Always it instilled a feeling of "us against them". The inmate against guard. The system against the criminal. It reminded us that our lives were theirs and not ours. We had involuntarily given ourselves over to a group of people who unlike us had been caught in their indiscretions and were now paying an earthly price. We were no longer children of God but groups of people divided by attitudes and actions and bars. And it was in this involuntary state of inmate status that I grew to know the Lord and understand voluntary submission and service to Him. The State may have garnered my involuntary submission and because of this they received in return an involuntary cooperation. I did not seek them out and I did not always fall into alignment with their rules and agendas.

But through this involuntary submission I learned a great deal about the value of voluntary submission. I learned about the value of the gift of choice that God has granted each of us. In His plan for our lives He willingly stepped aside so that our relationship to Him could be one of choice. Whatever involvement we would have with Him would be because we chose to voluntarily submit to His ways and His love and in return receive His gift of salvation. Therefore, submission becomes a two way street of choice and redemption.

God forced nothing upon me. His agenda was based on His love for me. His justice perfect. His correction without flaws. His gift all I ever needed. While He might conduct a "shake down" in my life as I submit more fully to Him each day, I do not cringe as He throws things out for His purpose in doing so is not for His entertainment but for my safety and security in my future with Him. There is no chaos or randomness in His ways. There is no arrogance or haughtiness. He needs none. But rather, as I voluntarily place myself in His care, I am privileged to learn from my maker, the wonders of life and the wonders of His love.

He tosses my property box, clears my mattress and leaves for me the comfort of His arms tonight. And that makes for a very balanced relationship indeed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mindless pursuits

Sometimes its easy to live a mindless life with daily schedules, grueling work hours and to do lists that never end. We focus on the here and now. We check things off our list and move on to the next task. We drive to work and suddenly wonder about the highway we didn't see the whole way there. We eat dinner and by bedtime can't remember what we had. We click through tv stations and land on something that doesn't tax our brains or force us to reason. We lay down knowing tomorrow we will rise, start the day and the same mindless things will occupy our time.

I feel that way sometimes. I stare at paperwork, check off a list of must dos and can dos and will dos. I notice the clock and hours have passed. Sometimes Mark will ask me "what did you do today?" and I wonder, not really fast with an answer. I know I was busy.

I'm reading a letter from Kissy and she is anxious and excited about her upcoming release.

I remember the days counting down to my release; the plans, the thoughts of tomorrow, the arrangements to be made and the lists that have to be checked off. Yet, on my release day all I could do was sit in a sort of half daze. I walked out of the jail and the town I knew so well looked different. The evening sky was blue and clear. I hadn't seen the sky in months. Sitting in the van on the way to Joy's house I was on the phone with my Dad, leisurely talking and not rushed to get through a $5.00 a minute call. I watched familiar streets pass by my window. I took repeated deep breaths as we drove toward her house. In my haze I knew there would be no 4:30 meds call and no chow call at 5:30, I could sleep undisturbed and wake when my body had stored up some rest. I took in everything around me and it was a cloudy, sort of dream like movie in slow motion. I was fully in the moment and fully aware of the grace He had shown me through six months out of the world. I wanted this day to last forever as I just looked at everything as though I was seeing it for the first time.

The next morning we woke by 8 am in order to get to the courthouse and Megan's court date in hopes of assisting with her release. We were busy with preparing bibles for the delivery to the jail that afternoon and Joy still had several women to see before the day was done so I went into court so Megan could see a familiar face in the stranger crowd of the small court room. It wasn't long before my days of laying on my bunk, slowly reading scripture and spending hours in prayer were replaced again with lists, and to dos and schedules and tasks.

I hear Kissy's excitement and I know her desire to return to something normal and I wonder. I wonder if God intended us to rush through our days and spend so little time in prayer and attend to so many mindless tasks that we forget to pray or read or spend time alone with Him.

We are returned to a tv full of sights and sounds and temptations. We are returned to busyness for busyness sake. We quickly become wrapped up in life and plans and lists that it becomes a Sunday of Him and a week of us and it stirs my heart to know He intended we have something so much more. He created us to walk with Him in gardens and fix our minds on what is just and true and right.

It's 5:10 PM and I watch the clock turn minute by minute, frantically trying to finish this post before rushing out the door yet I rejoice. I am headed to bible study; a wonderful study with other women in my church and my busyness is the business of Him. I drive with purpose and thought. I fix my mind on what is just and true and right. I fix my thoughts on Him.

I have luxury in my life as I can schedule my days and monitor where my mind is taken. I am not wrapped up in the business of the world but can take moments when I need to in order to remember that our lives are not mindless ticking of time clocks but rather orchestrated destinies that He has given us and I walk calmly through my day, no matter how busy knowing it is always within my grasp to look at Him and talk with Him and share Him with others. That is luxury indeed.

I too have the mindless pursuits in my life; but because God is a grace filled and merciful God, He allows us to return to Him whenever we need, want or desire Him. He let's our minds drift and gives us the gift of choice to return to His pursuits. Some days are better than others but in those moments when our minds drift to places we often go, I think I'll be more mindful to fill my head with Him and if I travel down the highway and forget where I am, at least I'll be with Him and not some list somewhere.

He is my mindful pursuit.

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