Fruit in Season

I don’t know about you, but one of my great joys as an adult is to enjoy fruit and vegetables that are in season. Juicy red watermelon and bright berries for the summer. Creamy squash and crisp apples for the fall. Bright red pomegranates and oranges for the winter. Crunchy carrots and tender strawberries in the spring. Oh yes, these are a few of my favorite things.

Some seasonal pumpkins. Oh, and my girls.

Some seasonal pumpkins. Oh, and my girls.

The Bible talks a lot about how if we are rooted in Christ, we will bear good fruit. I read this verse in Psalms today.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” -Psalm 1:3

 

This verse struck me a little differently today. Not just fruit, but fruit “in its season.” I think there has been a general shift in our culture that emphasizes a very full, busy life. Applied to Christians, there is a lot of pressure to be constantly being productive in Christ’s name–productiveness measured by how many people we invited to church, how many we witnessed to, how many people we served, etc.

We don’t call an apple tree a failure just because it doesn’t produce fruit all year. Now if it never produced fruit, that would be a different story.

Taking a look at the life of Jesus, it’s interesting to note that He didn’t start His ministry until He was 30 years old, and even then it only lasted 3 1/2 years. One might say that wasn’t a very productive use of his life–I mean seriously, what was He doing throughout his 20s??

Jesus bore fruit in season. His “season” was his 3 1/2 year ministry before He was crucified. I think we can take comfort in that rather than worrying that we aren’t doing enough for Jesus.  So if you’re feeling a little dry or perhaps even useless, wondering if you should jump into a different ministry or why your current efforts with a friend don’t seem to be productive, perhaps it just isn’t your season right now. His Spirit provides the opportunities and the seasons, and as long as we remain deeply rooted in Christ’s love, we will bear fruit when the time is right.

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Special Protection

As a new mom, I’ve found it hard to write any blog posts that aren’t just pictures. It’s not that I don’t have a ton of thoughts running through my mind, it’s more that I’ve been too angry/hurt/confused to share them. The birth of my daughter was a very traumatic event for me. A stalled out labor led to a homebirth transferring to the hospital and ended in a c-section.

Since Abrielle’s arrival about 10 weeks ago, I’ve experienced a kaleidoscope of emotions which I finally realized has been a process of grieving. I am so thrilled to have a healthy daughter, but was so incredibly disappointed with my birth experience. I have felt robbed, betrayed, hurt, angry, and guilty. You name it.

I find myself feeling angry with God. A c-section has always been my worst fear. I have wondered why God didn’t shield me from it. Why didn’t He protect me from a really awful chain of events? In my heart, I want to find someone to blame. Was it my fault? Was it human error? Was it God’s fault? Am I being punished? I hear a scream in my head asking God, “How was this ‘your best for me’ ??!!” I question the verse in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Yesterday I realized something. I am not omnipotent. Big shocker, I know. I am imagining that I know how things would have gone if just a couple things in early labor had been different. I am imagining that God has harmed me, that the incredibly painful back labor and the c-section were some kind of punishment inflicted on me.

I realized yesterday that the chain of events was divinely orchestrated and may very well have been God’s special protection for me and Abrielle.  I want to blame Him for what I consider a very negative experience, but perhaps this was His special protection to save mine and Abrielle’s life. I can’t know and will never know in this life.

Romans 9:20, “ No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?’ “

Losing Control

I really like being in control of my life. Or at least, thinking that I’m in control of my life. I make schedules. I make lists. I keep a very good calendar. I dejunk frequently. The illusion of control was a lot easier to maintain before I got pregnant. We were living on two incomes, and I knew I could always put in a few more hours if I wanted. Although I had frequent migraines, they could be managed (to some degree) with medication.

Being pregnant has definitely been one of the more humbling experiences in my life. I have always prided myself on not being a picky eater, yet suddenly I find myself with a plethora of food aversions. Italian food: out. Alfredo sauce: out. Greasy food: out. I don’t have control over what I could eat on any given day, or what might cause me to throw up. On top of food aversions, I’ve lost control of my ability to push through exhaustion and do all my house cleaning in one day. I am lucky to get the dishes washed on a daily basis.

Those things aside, pregnancy has made me realize how dependent I am. Fairly early on, I had to cut back my hours at work. I cannot financially take care of myself without my wonderful husband working so hard to pay all our bills. It’s scary to not even feel like I have good earning ability. My hours at work continue to dwindle as my pregnancy progresses. And then—I am carrying a little person, a little girl, who for the time being is safe inside me. But come July, she will enter the world, and I will only be able to control so many factors in her life. I will be dependent on the fact that God loves her even more than I do.

Who knows what this little girl will bring? It’s out of my control. Will she have ADHD or ADD? Will she have food allergies? Will she be an easy child or need extra care and attention? My fear of giving up control (because I obviously had control to begin with….right??) has caused me to emotionally pull away from God. A part of me is holding back. Can I trust you with my child, God? What a silly question! The real question is: can God trust me with His child?

Our pastor is preaching a timely sermon series called “Marriage and Children and Debts-O MY!” One of the first “lessons for parents” he preached about was this: Our children are not our property, they are our primary ministry privilege. God has given me the privilege of being Abrielle’s mother for however many years He has allocated to her and me. I may be her biological mother, but first and foremost, she is God’s child.

The Question of Purpose: Success vs. Progress

If you grew up in the church, more likely than not you are familiar with this catechism question: “What is the chief end of man?”, and its answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It sounds trite, but I think all of us at one time or another have asked this question: Why am I here? I think this question is likely to be asked when we are in the thick of the mundane: folding socks, cleaning the bathroom…again, waking and rising, or eating steel cut oats for breakfast…again. I’m sure you could add a few of your own.

I find myself feeling insignificant and asking myself that question: Why am I here? In both secular and religious circles, there is pressure to be a “success.” To achieve something. To make your life count for something. To start that new church ministry. To rise in your career. To invent something new. To become famous. To be, in a word, a “success.”

I don’t think of my life to date as a “success,” but more like “progress.” What have I achieved? Few tangible things come to mind. Progress makes more sense to me because I do see growth. I can look even just six months back and see incredible progress in my life. Success? I’m not there yet—but growth, yes.

When a young person dies, it’s a tragedy. They had their whole life ahead of them. For those who are not followers of Christ, it’s devastating, because this life is all they had. This young person didn’t have time to achieve anything great. They hadn’t succeeded.

We’re taught growing up, “Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars.” We teach our children and teenagers to shoot for high goals, that they can make a difference, that they can be great. This is not bad. Some of us will be a “success.” Some will plant churches. Some will write books. Some will found orphanages. That’s great. But some of us, many of us, won’t. We’ll be mothers, fathers, laborers, and janitors. We won’t achieve anything that might be considered “great.”

The good news is this: God doesn’t grade us on “success.” Our daily lives, the way we glorify God as we face each day, that’s what matters.

I like this quote from Martin Luther: “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

Sometimes I worry that I’ll die before I [insert major life event here]. I have to remind myself that me following God every day is enough. Perhaps I have the opportunity to minister to someone, and while I’m on my way to meet that person, my car breaks down. Alas, my plans have been thwarted and I won’t be able to accomplish what I set out to do. And yet, this is what is before me. The car is broken. God knew it would break down, and He allowed it to happen!

From C.S. Lewis, “The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one’s “own” or “real” life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”

I frequently notice young mothers who are frustrated because they didn’t “accomplish” anything that day. The baby fussed and wouldn’t nap, and they were unable to do what they set out to accomplish. Those of us who aren’t mothers can also identify with days like that. When I have a day like that, I am working on reminding myself that this is what God has for me today.

Coming back to the question I first asked, “What is the chief end of man?”—I say this:

To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To grow. To heal. To exercise. We do “not yet gleam in glory,” but His grace is sufficient for us.

Grace Sufficient–in “The Hiding Place”

This week finds me in my third ever reading through of Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. As is true with rereading any book, some things struck me this time that I had not paid particular attention to before. I’ll just highlight two special passages from the book.

Toward the beginning of the book, Corrie is struggling with the concept of death when a little baby dies. Her father finds a special way to help her.

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?’

I sniffed a few times, considering this. ‘Why, just before we get on the train.’

‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.’ ”

I loved this analogy that Corrie’s father used. The verse that comes to mind is “my grace is sufficient for you.” I can’t emotionally fortify myself against the unknowns of the future, but I can depend on God to give me the strength to face those unknowns just when I need it.

After Corrie’s release from prison, she ministers both to the victims of persecution, and to their persecutors. She finds herself in a rough place when she encounters one of her own tormentors in church. He comes to greet her after a church service:

“’How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.’ He said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

If you, like me, have ever struggled to forgive someone, you will understand Corrie’s struggle to give someone who had literally tormented her and those she loved. How wonderful that God has truly done it all for us. I find I am able to forgive and love in difficult situations when I pray that God will provide the love and forgiveness for me to give. I’m still rolling this quote around in my head, and I hope you will too.

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”