Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lessons from an Arctic Willow

For the past few weeks in my reading, my time with the Lord, and through The 7th Year study, I've become conscious of a new perspective God wants to give me.  The Holy Spirit has gently revealed this truthful picture:  "Lattice, some of my children feel secure thinking of Me as their safety net, then balk when they see that I intend to lead them through a refining fire.  But you, My are much more secure.  You tend to light the fire, enthusiastically jump into it, then invite Me to get in with you!"  (No wonder half my relatives think Christianity is crazy, huh?!)

What can I say?  He's right!  I have always preferred masterminding and lighting prescribed burns to putting out catastrophic wildfires!  ;~)

His point, though, is that while I am secure in His planning, I struggle with His pacing.  So these weeks, the Lord is retraining me--restraining my habit to anticipate His next move, then just roll up my sleeves and dive in and do it.  His training method surprises and intrigues me.  For instance, last week when I was out running intervals (running is not something I love or am good at, and I particularly don't like running intervals, but sometimes it's time...), as I looked ahead and anxiously tried to anticipate where I'd speed up and where I'd slow down, or which way I'd go at the next intersection, I suddenly became aware of God's presence, remembered that "I" was really "we," and the Lord murmured consolingly, "Don't fret.  Don't anticipate.  I'll tell you when it's time..."  You know what?  Running seemed a lot easier this way,!...running with God?  It's a whole new concept...  Who'd've thought?

He's also changing my picture of our relationship.  Until we had the fire talk above, I sincerely used to see us as Him leading and me trying to follow, but not really follow from behind so much as understand Him to the point that I could anticipate and work for Him independently, like Gibbs and his NCIS team.  But now I understand why I felt like I was on my own so often, in spite of His assurance that He'd never leave me.  Since I was often jumping ahead, I lost sight of Him regularly.  I used to reassure myself by praying, "God, thank You that You're always with me wherever I go..." Or try to get myself back on track with, "God, please lead me follow..." But now I sense that a more accurate prayer is, "Father, please take me with You."

Immanuel means "God with us."  

Not "with" as in alongside us, but rather "with" as in in us.  

Not "with" as in me right here and you right there, but rather "with" as in one.

My 7th Year assignment this past week has been to:
  1. Prayerfully ask the Lord to show me how to transition my actions from originating in my head (my own reasoning, my plans, my pace) to originating from His heart.  
  2. Hold this prayer throughout the week with gentle attentiveness, not wrestling with it, but offering it as a continual question and willingness to learn.
  3. Take it with me each day as I go on a walk with the Lord outside, investing the walking time in noticing details of God's creation.

And here is one lesson I learned on a very short walk (just a few yards from my front door) as the Arctic Willow planted beside my driveway captured my attention and I paused to peer more closely:

All of its leaves do not bud out at the same time.  Look at the photo, taken yesterday, and notice that the top-most tips of each branch still look like barren sticks.  A few weeks ago, the leaves began budding at the base.  Next, they budded out in the innermost center of the plant.  Gradually, they've worked their way out and up.  I haven't researched the ecology/physiology of the plant, but it appears to me that the leaf-producing nutrients must work their way up from the roots.  As each section of stem sucks up nutrient-rich water, saturating it at a high enough level, the leaves bud.  I bet my friend Far Side of Fifty has a name for this phenomenon. (She went to school to learn horticulture.)

I bet God has a name for it, too.  But I don't think the name matters as much as the concept.  The concept is that God doesn't do or fix or adjust everything in our lives all at once.  He builds precept upon precept, a little here, a little there.  (Is 28:10)  There is a time for all things...and it's not time for the whole plant to be leafed out yet.  This concept is to be a source of rest rather than anxiety.  God's pace is perfect.

I do struggle with pace.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with too much to do, or sometimes I feel like not enough is happening or that good things aren't happening fast enough.  I feel stressed, confused, and wonder where God is.  It's not God, or lack of Him, that's the problem, though.  It's me, wrestling instead of being gently attentive, taking myself out of pace with Him.  Me, anticipating ahead of the nutrient-rich water that brings life and energy to the situation.

God's answer?  Be like an Arctic Willow.  The Arctic Willow is really a very patient plant.  It doesn't fret that all the other bushes around it have already finished leafing out and the lilac is even almost ready to bloom, while its still got half-bare branches.  The willow doesn't worry that it's being left behind, unable to keep up, shorter than all the other bushes, or that because of these differences its existence might be considered insignificant.  It just sits in the ground, soberly letting God's blueprint work out at His appointed pace.  The only part of a willow that really actively works is its roots, seeking, growing, and taking in life-giving nutrients.  Beyond that, God's plan just kind of happens to it.

What if we were to focus all our energy on seeking and growing our roots in our Life-giving, nutrition-rich God?  Doesn't He promise that as we became saturated in Him--abide in His Word, His Life-giving Water--our leaves will bud and fruit will blossom, offering sweet, abundant Life to everyone around us?  God will prune, and we'll produce more.  God will fertilize, and our fruit will become sweeter.  God will tend us, and we will be His crowning glory...without even having to work at it!

"Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.  And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us."  
--1 John 3:24

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

We've been done with school and de-cluttering for two weeks now.  This is the week in between high school graduation parties and our end-of-year dance recital, which is an annual graduation party in and of itself.  Recitals are exciting, thrilling...wonderful...  And once all the performances are over, we will feel like it's really summer.

For graduation gifts these days, I like to give Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go!  I hope the high school graduates really read them.  I hope they laugh...and dream.  Life is a special occasion.  May our dreams know no limits...

In the midst of all the exciting May events, last weekend a group of us homeschoolers also helped some friends move.  We got to talking about how many times we've each moved, and one mom asked me where-all I've lived.  Ha!  When, during our house closing, we had to list all our addresses for the past ten years,  I used a whole sheet of paper and our banker called me a gypsy!

The memory got me to thinking...

The Places I've Been

I grew up in northern CA and southern OR...
Went to college in MT
To study English and sociology while canoeing the Yellowstone

And alpine skiing at Red Lodge...
Married and moved to my husband's family's ranch in northeast WY
During a summer of great drought,

And lots of grasshoppers,
So no grass...
Thus, the cattle were shipped off to the feedlot early
(Everybody asks:  It was 40,000 acres; 10,000 owned, 30,000 lifetime lease, 16 miles long, 30+ miles across; 1,000 cattle and 750 sheep)
And we took off to AK
To make big money for school by sliming salmon...
For the next few years, it was WY...AK...WY...AK
Back and forth between college in WY (where I now majored in geography)
And salmon (where I packed and shipped frozen filets, loved shoveling shaved ice, and spent my free time picking fish scales off my arms),
Until we ran out of school money and moved back onto the ranch
To help with the cattle and raise 360 of our own sheep.
I liked moving and branding the cattle,
And buying and raising sheep,
But not with my husband or his father.
Thank God for the neighbors...
At the same time,
I worked in the office at the local bentonite plant for three years,
And then went to work for the USFS, 

Inventorying timber and fighting fires,
Which I loved...

But my husband hated.
We divorced.
I trained and fought fires for one more season in the Black Hills,

Where I met my future HE (Husband Extraordinaire!),
Then moved to ID to live with my sister while
Working as secretary and teacher's aid for forestry professors
And finishing my bachelor's degree,
A very strong degree in general studies,
With plans to hurry up and start a Master's in fire science...
(So I could write curriculum and teach wildland fire mgmt/ecology...)
Then moved to MN and married my HE, Bear Bait.
Colleges in MN were not willing to work cooperatively with U of I
And we could not leave Bear Bait's mom and younger siblings,
So we managed apartments for a few months,
Then rented a basement apartment while we shopped for a home.

Which we found and bought
Just in time,
Because God promptly made us parents,
Then sent Bear Bait out as a suitcase steamfitter.
And while we've now had a home base for over a decade,

My gypsy days are still not over.
Until my mother-in-law, N, moved in with us four years ago,
The kids and I packed up our school supplies 
And traveled alongside of Bear Bait,
Coming home only for a few rooted, stationary meetings like
Church, dance lessons, wrestling practices, Scouting events, etc...
At the same time that N moved in with us,
Bear Bait "just happened" to be hired for jobs closer to home,
And THANK GOD!, because N's needs kept me on the road!
Doctors, hospitals, Mayo, Social Security office...all hours from our home.
God made me a caretaker,
A place I never expected to go,
But it was good...very good.
And now?
Now I am a dance mom of two young teens,
Which is like a soccer mom in that
Chauffeuring keeps the gypsy blood from boiling over,
But different in that every year
I get to watch the kids graduate!

Psalm 139:7-14 celebrates that our comings and goings need not be blind wanderings.  They can be joyfully led, securely guarded, and satisfyingly purpose-filled:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,"
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Congratulations Graduates!!!