Cut off?

Recently, I broke off two stems from a shrub I enjoy propagating and stuck them in water. A week later, one was wilting, and the other full and green. Looking at the roots, it was clear why one failed to thrive.

After a couple more days, the difference was even more dramatic.

The weak plant finally made a tiny effort to spurt a few roots, but not enough to get the job done. I tossed it in the compost pile.

The one that put out roots right away is now even stronger. With a growing root system, even in water, it is ready to go into the soil.

With the suddenness of the COVID-19 sequestration back in March, for many of us, our lives felt chopped off like that plant, broken or severely altered in countless ways: connection with others (too little or too much), job/income or business losses, schools, worship gatherings, athletic events worked so hard for, birthdays, anticipated holidays and trips, long prepared-for confirmations, baptisms, weddings and graduations postponed or drive by only.

Even being able to go to the store and choose our veggies became a no-go for many of us. (I won’t go into the time and energy to decontaminate groceries once they arrive at our house.)

After months of this, I’m wondering how many are floundering without their on-the-go busy life, no concerts or meet-ups, dining out, parties, or gym workouts, or church services to attend.

Hugs, anyone?

The diversions that used to keep introspection at bay have been sliced out from under us.

How have you handled the severance of everything we call normal?

Was it okay for a while, but now you are beginning to fray around the edges? Wilting, asking, “How much longer?”

Like the two stems, broken from their normal source of nourishment, when life cuts us off at the knees, we decide how we are going to respond. If we want to flourish, then our first priority has to be developing a new root system.

Life, as it used to be, won’t support us anymore.

I love Psalm 1. The ones who delight in God’s law, who seek his wisdom, are like trees planted by the riverbank.  

If we want to thrive, we have to go deeper for our life source.

Not find a different diversion or distraction.

Or comfort food.

And certainly not yielding to old habits, patterns, or addictions that used to enslave us.

At some point for all of us, life will offer challenges. Even if we’d rather not face them, in reality, it’s when it gets hard that real living begins. For a plant to thrive it needs a good, strong root system and a consistent source of water.

And so do we.

But I’m not going to give you advice on how to improve yourself, or Bible verses to memorize, even though that might be helpful.

Sometimes it’s in doing less that our roots go deeper. As I’m learning in lessons sprinkled throughout my adult life, I can’t do anything to actually make good roots grow.

Ps 37: 7 says: “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” NLT

The same loving hands that knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139) and prepared me to live (Eph 1:4), has guided and protected me through the years, and is here, now, to take me deeper. He will develop in me whatever I need to reach His nourishing love. (2 Peter 1:3)

I’m learning to stop trying so hard to get it right.

It’s in resting I find my peace. Then I will bloom and grow.

God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace. Ps 29: 11 MSG

Today, I invite you to join me in this prayer from The Swindoll Study Bible, p 675

Oh, God, we long to enter into the rest You promise to those who trust in You. Give us ears to hear. Give us hearts to trust. Give us wills to wait. Put stops on our efficiency so that we learn, while resting, that You have all things under Your control—even people who are doing what is wrong. So today I pray that You would help us rest in You.  Amen

Where are you going for strength?

I get up

When 2015 closed out, I cheered the end of a long chapter of grief, illness, and injury. I was well on my way to walking pain-free and “getting my life back.” 2016 was going to be the year!

Months after my hip fracture and repair, I was able to enjoy doggie beach with Lily. I was able to make the trip postponed from November to visit my son and family on the other side of the state,

and visited my brother and his wife in their “new” house in Lakeland. (I’d spent Thanksgiving in the rehab unit, while family celebrated Thanksgiving at his house.)

Part of the time when MD and her family were here from Switzerland, I actually stayed a few days at the beach with them. 2016-05-03-20-57-08


Once again I hosted Easter Sunday, dyeing eggs with the younger ones and feeding everyone a barbecue dinner. When school was out I enjoyed several weeks of Grammi Camp with my youngest grandkids.

I even did a little gardening.

Then pain came roaring back. After months of tests and no answers, I saw a hip specialist. He said it never healed. The ball is collapsing. Bipolar hip replacement surgery is scheduled for November. I’m back to managing pain and walking with a cane.

And fighting infections.

And wondering what I need to do to “get on track.”

After all, I have people to love, Bible studies to teach, books to finish, new ones to write, and weeds to pull.

And time is running out.

As a child, Alice in Wonderland terrified me, start to finish. (It was too much like my nightmares. And too much like my dysfunctional life.) Remember the scene where she needs a key to get through the door, but something keeps her from getting it at the right time, the right size? Sometimes I feel a bit like Alice.

According to my prayer list, I’m not alone. This last year or two has been especially challenging for many. And I’m sure that for every person who has asked for prayer, there are five more who keep their pain close to the chest.

Here we are, on another lap around Mount Sinai.

(God freed the Israelite nation from slavery in Egypt, complete with miraculously parting the Red Sea as they fled from the pursuing Egyptian army. Days later, as soon as they lacked something, they began to complain – about the water, then the food, then the leadership. Instead of a short journey to the land God had promised, they spent forty years taking laps around Mount Sinai, wearing out their hard hearts.)

After seeing me with a cane again and hearing about the new surgery, a friend at church remarked, “You’re just Calamity Jane, aren’t you?” That stung. I wondered if I am doing something to attract the hard stuff.

Is something I’m doing, thinking, or feeling keeping me in limbo?

Is there a lesson for me to learn, growth?

Or is it simply bad luck?

It really is okay to ask any kind of question. What makes the difference is where we go for the answers.

I ask others for prayers, or to open a door, or help to pick up the paper I dropped and stare at helplessly, calculating how much pain it is worth.

But the solid answers, the ones with life and wisdom, the answers with hope and a future only come from one place.

From the one who made me, just as I am. Inherent genetic weaknesses. Placed in a dysfunctional family. God saw all my days while I was still in my mother’s womb.

You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

Psalm 139:20-21

I don’t need to read palms or tea leaves, search the stars or wander aimlessly. God has spoken, and his words are recorded.

I simply need to remember to read them!

The last couple of years I’ve enjoyed The Message, a brilliant paraphrase which gives fresh, contemporary meaning to words I might gloss over with too much familiarity. * (Note: The Message, by Eugene Peterson, is not authoritative. Use a real translation for study or theology.)

I go to the Book, and once again, I am re-focused.

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:27‭-‬31 MSG

I’m reminded that it’s not about the circumstances. It’s about where I am looking, how I spend my energies and thoughts.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Philippians 4:8‭-‬9 MSG

More than health or freedom from pain, the desire of my heart is to be worked “into his most excellent harmonies.” (Maybe that’s why I love to sing alto and make up harmonies with contemporary music.)

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

1 Peter 1:3‭-‬5 MSG

That gives me hope. So, every time I get knocked down, I reach for the hand that holds the world, and fashioned me, and I get up. Again. (Even if that is sometimes only figuratively. When you’re flat in a hospital bed, that’s a big getting-back-up challenge.)

If you’re anything close to as old as I am, you likely remember the ice skater Scott Hamilton. He won four consecutive World Championships, then a gold in the 1984 Olympics. He’s fallen down plenty. Listen to his story.
Olympic Skater Scott Hamilton Facing Third Brain Tumor Diagnosis: ‘I Choose to Celebrate Life’

Have you felt knocked down this year?
What are you facing now?

Photo lovers: Sorry, this time all the shots are from my phone.