This afternoon I harvest raspberries in the rain. It’s perfect this way; the bees stay hidden, so I don’t need an epi-pen.
Do you remember the story about my raspberry bushes? We received the canes from a neighbor and learned about passing on great things to our community. I also, back in 2010, learned a powerful lesson about fruitfulness from My Huge Gardening Mistake. I learned that you must not let your berry bushes produce fruit that first or second year in order to let the roots go deep. God comforted me greatly with the spiritual principle that when my life isn’t producing obvious fruit, it’s the time for growing the deepest roots possible so I know how to draw from the Lord.
As you know, in the last three years, we’ve had more berries than we can even handle. I freeze them, make sorbet, pies, breakfast crepes, smoothies, and cobblers.
Well, not this year. It’s been a cold, wet summer. All summer, nothing. No fruit. In fact, the plants look brown and shriveled. There’s a general miserable feeling about the garden. Perhaps, my days of raspberry farming are over, at least with these canes.
Nevertheless, by habit, I check the plants this morning to find that each plant holds more berries than I’ve ever seen before. I know it’s September, but obviously, the berries obey a different timeline.
I pick the first few ripe ones. They are the best we’ve ever had! Sweeter! Plumper! Juicier!
I learn not to evaluate potential fruitfulness by appearance, age, my emotions about the thing, or what I think is right timing. Those canes abide deep in the soil and produce glorious fruit when it’s their time. Yes, they seem shriveled and brown and dying and old. But they have a source I obviously cannot see.
Today my wise friend reminds me that when I make teaching, writing, or speaking an offering to God and others–rather than something I’m doing to gain something for myself–I experience true freedom.
We don’t have to imprison ourselves by measuring outcomes like money, influence, power, or prestige when our work is an offering, a gift.
It’s simply amazing to think we are, every day, sent.
In John 20:21, Jesus says, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus sends his followers out as sent ones to deliver something.
What am I to deliver? What good news, what encouragement, what blessing, what aid, what prayer, what hope, what truth? Or rather–and better–not what but whom?
I’m to deliver God wherever I go.
The day changes when we receive the mission: We’re sent.
On the walk to school, I remember the patterns of late summer. I recall other years of capturing photos of acorns. I love these green ones, fresh from the tree. I’m so excited for a new season. Come Autumn! Come quickly!
But (of course), I know better. There’s something to glean here.
I examine a few treasures of this season of too much: a mushroom born from too wet conditions, for example.
I notice the spotted jungly feel of this mushroom and remember the same spotted pattern in the snapdragons:
I love the heat of the jungle in this little neighborhood today. I can take the heat of summer for a few more weeks. Wishing it away means I miss some treasures that only grow right here and right now.
I recall the quote by Jonathan Swift that “vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
I think about having great vision for the beauty of this day (that so many things attempt to obscure). It’s invisible–the underlying joy, wonder, and peace here–so we use a different spiritual vision to experience it.
I think about having great vision for people who, on the surface, present hopelessness or despair.
I think about having great vision for not-yet writers. I think about all my new students who hold within them great, life-changing writing that we just cannot see yet.
What else sits here, invisible, but here? When I see disappointment, the visionary sees possibility. When I see an obstacle, the visionary sees it as a stepping stone. When I see everything going all wrong, the visionary sees everything going all right.
I want that vision that sees the invisible thing.
I only have a five more back to school dinners for my oldest daughter. In five years, she’ll be in college! I suddenly want to make tonight’s dinner so special for this back-to-school night. I know just what my daughters love:
Honey chicken isn’t even fancy; it’s just chicken tenders lightly breaded in flour and sautéed in olive oil (or coconut oil) and drizzled with honey.
We’ll celebrate with honey chicken. And yes, I may share that honey represents living with flair; it’s the product of bees making something out of nectar. It’s a little disgusting, actually. Honey forms through regurgitation. I won’t go into it, but you get the point. What I love is that bees take from their environment and create a nourishing thing.
No matter what we encounter tomorrow at school, we’ll take it in and offer the world the sweetest honey in return.
Do you remember how God cut off the flow of the Jordan river as the priests set foot in the water? It wasn’t before; it was as they walked.
If you reread Joshua 3, you’ll find that Joshua says the famous lines, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” It’s so exciting! It’s so dramatic! Get ready: God is about to do something huge.
But it wasn’t before anyone began to walk the impossible path. The miracle happened as they set foot into the waters. I see Indiana Jones (in the Last Crusade) walking across the invisible bridge that appears only as he begins to walk across it.
Yes, we consecrate ourselves in anticipation of amazing things. We also realize these things occur as we move out in faith and not before. We launch ourselves out into the unknown and the unseen because the way appears as we begin.
I find myself increasing controlling as the new school year begins. I worry about my daughters’ teachers, their friends, their activities, their health, and their happiness. Even after all these years of seeing God’s faithfulness, I still want to micromanage and craft the perfect childhood for them.
This morning, I find myself full of fear about this or that situation regarding them. As I sit there praying about it all, I say to myself:
“Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten already that every problem, disappointment, stressor, and point of suffering is an opportunity to see God work and to know His power? Why would I deprive my children of this particular pleasure?”
In my attempt to generate environments of only happiness, only ease, and only comfort, I’m depriving my children of the pleasure of depending on God, of knowing His power, and realizing His sufficiency in their lives.
Suddenly, I’m not praying the same way anymore. I’m not praying for easy, comfortable, or only happy. I’m praying that “they would know Christ and His power for those who believe.”
My husband comes into the kitchen at this moment, and he says, “I stopped praying for a good day today. I prayed that good or bad, I’d have a spirit-filled response to whatever happens.”
Oh, the pleasure of knowing God in any circumstance, in any suffering, in any disappointment!
A older friend of mine and I were discussing how absolutely fantastic we feel after a great night’s sleep. We talk about the health benefits, of course, and that incredible feeling of waking up at 6:00 AM having slept deeply for 8 full hours.
Sleep changes everything. I’m nicer. I’m myself. I’m able to solve problems. I’m positive. I’m the mom and wife I want to be. I’m the teacher I want to be.
This friend reminded me that as we get older, sleep becomes more difficult because we feel too warm to sleep. She informs me that I must stay cool if I want this great night’s sleep. Unfortunately, our husbands and children might not appreciate this chilly environment.
She reveals her secret for a great night’s sleep that doesn’t freeze everyone else: A frozen water bottle wrapped in a cloth, tucked either behind her neck, right next to her body, or under her pillow. The cloth absorbs any moisture from the slow melting frozen water bottle, and it provides a nice cushion of blissful cold.
Sometimes she uses three of them. I’m laughing as I imagine her all tucked in with frozen water bottles flanking her sides.
Cooling down at night makes all the difference for a great night’s sleep for older women in particular. The brain, apparently, enjoys a room temperature of 64 degrees for perfect sleep. That’s pretty cold! And for those of us who don’t have air conditioning in these last days of summer, the frozen water bottle trick works wonders.
For this new season of back-to-school, lesson plans, meal planning, housekeeping, speaking, writing, and grading, I want a fresh start each morning. Making sleep a priority blesses my whole family. I commit to an early bedtime and some cooling down tips.
Oh, ladies: Aging isn’t always cool.