Heart Gardening

Last summer we grew our first garden. My sweet husband built a couple of small raised beds in the sunniest, most out-of-the-way-of-rambunctious-children spot of our yard and filled it with rich midwest dirt. We took it easy: one basil plant, four cherry tomato plants, four Roma tomato plants, and two cucumber vines. This little garden produced enough to keep us busy eating, weeding, pickling, and watering.

Then this spring, in full Molly form, I decided small success meant I could grow by leaps and bounds (despite the fact that we did not add any square footage). My unrealistic expectations were exacerbated by the ample seedlings available at the local greenhouse, and we returned with three different tomato varieties (with multiple plants of each), two serrano pepper plants, cilantro, two basil plants, three cucumber vines, and four watermelon vines. Did I mention that we still intended to use only the original two beds?

When we placed the tiny little plants in the garden, everything looked neat, even, and promising. I felt proud of my spacing and planning thinking, I’m providing for my family! I’m basically a homesteader. However, as the summer heat grew, so did the plants. The tomatoes, overcrowded, developed a leaf fungus from the lack of airflow which destroyed the foliage and produced far fewer tomatoes than we hoped. Right after planting, the first trimester of pregnancy hit full force, and I did not find time or energy to trellis the cucumbers, leaving nowhere for the vines to grow. The watermelon vines tangled with the cucumbers and often we wouldn’t find the produce until too large and bitter to be of use.

By late summer, except for inconsistent watering, I avoided the garden. Disappointed and overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done, I simply picked and watered where needed and shielded my eyes from the chaos. The yellow-spotted leaves on the tomatoes looked hideous and vines creeped everywhere possible. Ashamed of my choices, I avoided acknowledgment and care.

Until last week. I armed myself for battle, donning mosquito spray, a five-gallon weed bucket, and a trowel. I pulled off every fungus-infected leaf, leaving the few good ones on the plant to collect sunlight. I removed three non-producing plants, leaving more room for the surviving ones to spread out, and weeded the space around and underneath. I still have more work to do, but the garden no longer looks as hideous, and the remaining plants seem grateful.

The first and biggest garden haul was much more promising than the rest of the summer.

As summer freedom turns to fall rhythm, I’ve realized how much my garden reflects my life. Afraid of insignificance, I committed to too much. I made promises to countless friends and family members. I told myself I would write more and start building a career. I looked up new recipes and planned countless adventures with my children. Outwardly we were busy and efficient, but inwardly my mind became crowded with weeds.

The more tired and overwhelmed I felt, the more I compared myself with others and came up short every time (ironically prompting me to do more and commit to more). 

How is your heart in this transitional season? Are you seeking significance? Do you say yes because you’re afraid of the consequences if you say no? Do you want to be everyone’s friend and confidante? If you nodded along to any of these I empathize with you deeply. We strive so hard, sewing patches haphazardly onto our vests. When we look over our shoulder it seems everyone else has more patches than we, but instead of the panicked look in their eyes, they’re in a happy little circle, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. We start to reflect the J. R. R. Tolkein quote, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

Paul writes of feeling stretched, convicted by his own striving in Philippians 3. By all outward appearances, Paul had it together. His garden was the picture of pedigreed heirloom plants, all neatly ordered in well-manicured rows. However, even though his social media accounts would have boasted #nofilter and #blessed, he writes,

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him”

This past week, after the relief I felt from cleaning out my garden I realized I needed to clean out my heart, too. Over and over I’d heard God’s nudging, telling me to lay down my ambitions, to recognize him as sovereign and holy, to see my own brokenness, to recognize that I cannot do it anything by my own strength. I asked God to reveal to me where my own selfish desires were crowding the good he had planned for me and waited.

Usually, I write these posts after I’ve learned the lesson and changed my ways, but today I’m drawing you into the weeding and pruning. I am saying no, I am laying down perfection, but I am not yet harvesting the fruit of this process. I am still waiting for God’s divine trowel to wrestle the weeds and overgrowth away. If you feel thin and stretched, overgrown or overcrowded, please join me in the blessed relief of letting go.

Heavenly Father, we know that striving is not wrong. You call us to say our best yes and to divine work. However, sometimes we strive too hard and say too many yeses instead of finding our fullness in you. Remind us that we do not have to work to receive the blessed gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Weed out our “too much” and replace it with your peace. May we always be found in Christ.

Unchanging Faithfulness

I am honored to introduce Emily Schatz to the campfire this week! Emily and I attended the same University (THE Concordia University Chicago), and I was always struck by her calm cool and devotion to the Lord no matter what life threw her way. Today, she is an incredible mom to two gorgeous girls and devoted mentor to many youth. Emily is truly a woman seeking to see and share God’s heart. Please enjoy her heartfelt words today, and may they encourage you as you live in your season.

A Season of Change

Our family has had many changes in the last four months. These changes include leaving my job, relocating our family from Colorado to Missouri, and moving in with my parents. Then I started a new job, and to add even more change, now our family is getting ready to close on our first house. Change is inevitable. We find it everywhere. We find it in every season of our lives.


Sometimes change is hard.


Sometimes change is needed.

Sometimes change is God’s grace disguised.

Sometimes change is welcomed with open arms.

Moving back to my childhood home in Missouri has felt like an extended vacation. I have lived far away from my parents for years working as a Director of Christian Education. (For those that don’t know, a Director of Christian Education is a Lutheran church work position that handles all aspects of Lutheran education in the church for all ages. Typically, many will work in youth ministry, but DCEs are a jack of all trades.) I have worked in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington and the Denver Area of Colorado, so it’s been a while since my Midwest heart has been home for any longer than a week at a time.

To be honest, it was a bit scary. My husband and I felt the pull to move back home for many reasons, but the desire to be close to be family was top of the list. This momma wanted to be by her support team. But, any big move is a massive leap of faith. What will my husband do for work? Where will we live? Can we make it work so I can stay home with our girls? All these questions arose.
So, my husband and I prayed. We prayed for an opportunity to come home. And we waited for what seemed like ages. When we visited our family in St. Louis for Christmas, there was no doubt in our minds. It was time to come home.

“God will provide.” My husband told me. God gave me a good one, this husband of mine. Always reminding me when I try to do things myself to lean on the Lord.

When we headed back to Colorado, we started to take steps to see if we could really do this. My husband’s job offered him the opportunity to work remotely from Missouri. I told my job I was leaving, and we sold our condo. Good Friday morning we headed out in the moving truck and headed toward the sunrise.

Honestly, after we moved there were weeks wondering if I would ever take another job working in a church or to even have that opportunity come up in the St. Louis area. The Lord heard many prayers from me asking what was the point? Am I supposed to be doing this youth ministry thing, because right then, I wasn’t so sure. Then, like God does, he answered my doubts with faithfulness, tender love, merciful grace, and reassurance.

Two doors opened for me to go back into youth ministry. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how I felt about jumping back in so soon. I was enjoying being a stay-at-home momma. I had been weary and I was just starting to feel restored.

When we walked into my current church for a site visit, both my husband and I felt filled with peace that could only have come from the Holy Spirit. I clicked with the staff. I was excited about the vision the Pastors had for the church’s ministry. I hadn’t felt this excited about church in a while. After taking some time to really discern God’s will for our family, I accepted the position of Director of High School and Young Adult Ministry with this church. It’s been the most refreshing change I’ve experienced in years. Even through my doubt and being afraid to take another chance, God showed up, faithful as always.

All these changes have been full of up and down emotions. Yet, we’ve seen God’s hand in every single moment. In the low points, it’s not always easy to see why we go through certain seasons. Now looking back, we can thank the Lord for every moment that He showed our family His generosity, His love, His forgiveness, and His unchanging faithfulness.

God has placed a verse on my heart for the last few weeks as I’ve reflected on all these changes. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Those words ring in my mind and soul as I’ve begun this new chapter in my new church.

There is a piece of fabric that I have entwined around a cross that sits on my desk at work next to my computer.

There is a piece of fabric that I have entwined around a cross that sits on my desk at work next to my computer.

Last week as I was sitting at my desk working on plans for the upcoming months, the fabric caught my eye. You see this strip of fabric has been with me from the beginning of my time as a DCE. The day I received my first internship placement this fabric was part of a larger piece. As it was prayed over, a strip was pulled off for each DCE in my class. Every time I see it I am reminded of God’s unchanging faithfulness in my life. He’s been with me through each job change, through each move, through each up and down life has brought me.
Looking at the fabric wrapped around the cross reminds me how I want my entire life to point back to my savior. Things like how I act, what I say, how I serve others, how I parent, and how I disciple my students; I want all these things to point to the one who restored my soul. The one who rescued me from sin and death and instead, through the waters of baptism, gave me faith and eternal life.

You see our Lord doesn’t just sit up in heaven and ignore us. He is active in our daily lives. He is with us through every moment. Grieving with those who cry. Dancing with those in joy. The Holy Spirit is a comforter for the heavy hearted and a cheerleader to those who spread God’s gospel message. Jesus is for all. He is active in baptism and through the Lord’s supper. Those means of grace give us a glimpse of the joy of heaven.


You will face many changes in this life, but you will face them with a God who never changes. He is always with you. He hears your prayers and God is always faithful.

Rest in the truth of the unchanging faithfulness of our risen Lord Jesus today.

May the peace that passes all understanding be upon you in whatever change you find yourself facing today. Bring that change to God and know that he is with you through it all.

Steeplechaser

Halfway through an eight-miler, our feet crunching the gravel roads, my running partner pointed out that although a mile out of town, we could still see our church’s steeple. “I like to see how far away I can get and still catch a glimpse of it poking out above the trees,” she continued. St. Pauls’ Germanic steeple towers above almost everything else in town, gently giving dimension to the skyline. It’s a good thing Victoria is a distance runner, because we have to get pretty far away from town to no longer turn and witness its beauty.

Many, many years ago, according to Business Insider, runners “would often race each other from one town’s church steeple to the next. The steeples were chosen because they were easy to see from long distances…The countryside would also require runners to jump over various barriers over the course of their race. These included stone walls and small rivers.”

Modern track and field competitions modernized this race by using hurdles to simulate the walls and a water pit for the creeks and rivers, naming it “Steeplechase.”

Although I never competed in track and field, I often engage in my own steeple game. Running through life, I get stuck in a path of self-pity or selfish pursuit. How long can I pound down this pavement of self-pity and selfish ambition while still peeking back and seeing the steeple? I can always stop and run back, I tell myself, I’m not that far gone yet…my self-righteousness must not be too bad if the steeple is still in view behind me.

Yesterday I read Psalm 25. A beautiful prayer, which I encourage you to digest in entirety, but I want to highlight a few sections specifically.

David pleads in verse four, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your path” and then in verse ten recognizes, “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” In contrast to my own selfish plans, God’s ways are full of love and commitment.

But praise be to God we are not left alone to right our footsteps: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” We are promised that our sins are already forgiven through Christ’s work on the cross, and we are given the Holy Spirit as a helper when we are caught in the path of self-centeredness. What a gift!

If you run through Concordia, be sure to look for the steeple and remember the steadfast promise waiting for you in love.

Vickie Pottschmidt is a lovely person to run alongside 🙂

Knowlton, E. (2016, August 17). Here’s how steeplechase – the wackiest event in track and field – came to get its name and water jumps. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/olympic-steeplechase-history-explainer-2016-8.

Silence

I am excited to introduce Nancy Gowen to the campfire community. My (Molly’s) writing teacher, mentor, and mom! Thank you for sharing your gift of words with us today and welcome the the Campfire.

The silence was deafening. All that deep quiet, intending to give a sense of peace and tranquility,
nearly exploded in my head and made sleep elusive. The mountain was dark and the cabin completely void of noise, but I was not calmed by it. I finally got out of bed and put in my earbuds to listen to a podcast to drown the quiet.


A combination of life events evidently caused tinnitus, a constant whoosh of noise in my left ear. I’ve had it for years and it is hardly perceptible until I listen for it, or I am in a noticeably quiet place. Being in that much quiet was painful.


Thinking back on that situation makes me wonder about the noise we “hear.” Is it background noise or is it disruptive? What is that hum, barely noticed in the milieu of life? Are we tuned in to the noise of the daily or have we learned to ignore it? I remember the long-long-short-long whistle of the trains behind my childhood home, the constant buzz of cicadas in summer while living in a farming community, military aircraft practicing over the house and whining sirens from first responders coming into and leaving the hospital across the street. Have you had similar sound experiences that you have become accustomed to?


The ear doctor told me that I had better hearing than most of his patients, which seems kind of paradoxical. With constant distraction, do I really hear that well? Apparently, the noise is superficial, or perhaps my brain has accommodated for it. Rather than lament its annoyance, what can I learn from this noise?


Elijah heard sounds that seemed to carry God’s signature, but it was the still small voice that spoke His word. Here is Elijah, waiting on God to speak, and God used a quiet noise to get his attention. (I Kings 19:11-13)


Jonah had to be swallowed to hear God’s voice. Noah and Abraham waited years to hear the plan. Jeremiah couldn’t hear God for all of his complaining.


Henri Nouwen wrote many books about prayer and in most of his books, he connects prayer with quiet listening. He suggested that in order to really hear God, a closet was a good place to start (and this was 25 years before War Room was published!). Nouwen writes, “the real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice…” (Life of the Beloved) He also understood that we are easily distracted people. Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer all the way through without losing concentration? To stay focused, Nouwen recommended repeating a short Bible passage repeatedly, perhaps 2-5 words long. With practice, we learn to hear what God is saying. I want my whooshing ear to be the silencer of other background noise, or maybe to hear that background better. Maybe that’s the Voice. Maybe I just need to talk less and listen more.
Maybe it is time to find a good closet.

30k by 30

On March 6th, 2021 I ran 18.6 miles. No, it’s not a new fad race distance; it was my birthday party.

The idea began with an innocent conversation at the breakfast table. “What was that race I did with you mommy?” my oldest asked.

“You ran a 5K, sweetie,” I responded while spooning scrambled eggs onto the baby’s tray.

“Oh, yeah, because I’m five. Next year I’ll run a 6K,” he responded. I acknowledged his idea with a smile and went back to my steaming cup of coffee.

An hour later, I stepped out into the clear, 65-degree morning for a quick two-miler. As my feet crunched gravel on country roads I mulled over conversations from the past week: acknowledging the fragility of life, lamenting current events, naming personal disappointments and sorrows. My heart ached for circumstances out of my control. I needed to remember the purpose of striving.

My son’s words echoed in my head, and I wondered: could I run a 30k on my 30th birthday? If I could conquer this somewhat crazy goal, and God used my efforts for his glory, then maybe even one person could find hope to conquer their own challenge.

Later that day, I started looking into my crazy idea. I had about six months before I hit my next decade which, according to most training plans on the interwebs, was plenty of time for a decently in-shape mom to get off the couch and get in some Ks.

If you read the first sentence of this blog post, you already know I completed my goal (so much for suspense).

s/o to Pastor Michael for the artistic sign!

And while I don’t want to diminish the incredible feeling of crossing the (imaginary) finish line, the time spent training is where God worked in my heart, bringing me to my knees and lifting me into his care. I journaled throughout my experience and, through reflection, compiled the top 30 things I learned. Just kidding, no one has time for that. Here are my top six wisdoms-in-progress:

  1. Tell someone

About a week into my training I told my longtime and very dear friend about my goal. She frequently checked in and always spoke kindness and encouragement over me despite my roller coaster of self-doubt (which probably got pretty old pretty quick). Although she lives several hours away, she surprised me at mile ten on race day, and at mile fourteen, Melissa laced up her running shoes and inspired me through the last 4.6. Through her generous spirit, I realized that no matter how big or small a goal might be, we need to open up to one (or several) people. It will be hard. It will push us to actually follow through on what we say. I promise it will be worth it. 

Surprise!
  1. Find a tribe

In February 2020 I was six months postpartum with my third baby and hadn’t run consistently since becoming a parent six years ago. When my across-the-street neighbor learned of my pre-child marathon days, she invited me into their weekly running group. Although intimidated by marathon running mothers, I nervously laced up my Brooks and walked across the Trail of Memories one Saturday. They did not laugh when I stopped at three miles, and the community running eventually pushed me to five, and then eight. When I shared my 30k by 30 plan, once again no one laughed, and Victoria even chirped, “I’d love to train for and run it with you!” (she did!) They told funny stories during hard miles, offered their own equipment as a loaner until I could get my own, and opened up their homes for post-run celebrations. (While a tribe can be any group of like-minded people: a mom’s Bible study, a church community group, a book club, or a softball team, I realize that finding an in-person tribe can be difficult right now. Our running club met outside year-round and is a naturally socially distant activity, but don’t give up if your only tribe options are online… see my next point)

Cheers to many more long runs with this lovely group.
  1. No step is too small.

The other day I had an opportunity to run for fifteen minutes. Pre 30k, I would have turned up my nose, whined that I didn’t have more time, and served iced coffee and chocolate at my pity party. While training, I realized even walking my kids to school instead of driving built muscle, perseverance, and desire for more: a domino effect that ultimately helped me accomplish a big goal.

  1. Look around.

The town where I live is only 1.78 square miles, so during distance runs, I got to know the neighborhoods very well. I recognized new paint jobs, flourishing gardens, and where extra prayer might be needed. Now, as I walk my children to school or enjoy an afternoon run, my eyes are looking for opportunities to pray and praise.

  1. Invest wisely.

At the advice of my running group, I purchased running “gadgets,” and my body thanked me for proper nutrition, hydration, and a muscle roller. Investing in the care of my body meant I was better able to serve my family and friends as well as enjoy the training.

  1. Rely on God 

In the last weeks of training, I continually fought the fear of not finishing. What if I let all these people down? What if I got injured? I relearned the beauty of casting my burdens and fears on the Lord, taking them to him in prayer and resting in his promises. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7) 

fresh air

This January my husband and I made lists of achievable, yet challenging, goals that would push us beyond our limits in a good way. I loved the process and I am seeing progress.

One of my goals is to bring more joy and slower satisfaction to my morning by using my french press daily (instead of the Mr. Coffee percolator). On quiet mornings I clean out the previous grounds and measure in the days’ coffee while waiting for the water to boil on the stove: a slow and awakening process. Ideally, with a fresh steaming cup of joe, I sit down at the kitchen table to read scripture and journal for thirty minutes before the children amble down the hallway, hungry and talkative.

Midway through January, my toddler set her internal alarm clock to 4:45 a.m., turning my gentle mornings into groggy automation. Like poorly placed dominoes, my first actions of the day clinked haphazardly instead of creating beautiful ordered patterns.

The downward spiral leached into other parts of life as well, and my goals and dreams suddenly felt bossy and restrictive: run more, screen less, read more, shop less, listen more, talk less, be more aware, whine less, wake up earlier, complain less, play more, be less distracted. Although worthy strivings, the breathe-in in breathe-out script started to feel as overwhelming as groggy trips to the refrigerator and halfheartedly wiping smeared banana off the wood floors.

My ache for caffeine still throbs in chaos, and stubbornly I refused to put Mr. Coffee back on the counter, so the morning coffee routine survived.

Eventually, our mornings evened back out, but it wasn’t until then that I realized the gift of fresh air. It isn’t an inductive Bible quiet time, a three-mile run, or a sun salutation yoga routine. It’s two minutes tops of stepping outside in my pajamas and unceremoniously dumping coffee grounds onto next spring’s flower bed with unbrushed hair and half-open eyes. But, I inhale deeply of the fresh morning air and praise God for the goodness of a new day, a tiny bit refreshed and ready to return to the madness. It’s not perfect and it’s not a magic pill. It’s a gift that I embrace wholeheartedly.

This is free grace. An unexpected grace. I didn’t research the importance of fresh air in the morning and budget time out of my day to make it happen. I simply realized I liked the taste of french press coffee best and was too lazy to take care of old grounds before the morning, and God took care of the rest.

This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This is amazing grace: a beautiful fresh breath of air that carries us through, lifting a weight off of our shoulders we didn’t even know we carried, sitting in the old air of a house shut-up in the winter. Lost in our chaos. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly, adopting us as sons and daughters. The most beautiful, precious gift of fresh air.

silent storytelling

As the prelude begins, we walk, barefoot, to the front of the church and assume the resting stance. A brief pause, and then we begin dancing. Although I had only practiced once a few days before, the muscle memory takes over and the motions become fluid and delicate, mirroring the other dancers. We wear matching red and white mu’umu’us, floral hairpieces, and star-shaped cowrie shell chokers, celebrating the specialness of the occasion about which our hands tell the story. I wasn’t even in high school the first time I joined this ensemble, candles flickering, strong voices intoning memorized lyrics, and the smell of pine mixed with a bit of must. A rich tradition: the Silent Night Hula.

Since college graduation, my participation in this tradition has dwindled, limited by the time and expense of flying across the ocean to spend Christmas with family.

This year, however, we needed to hold family close, being reminded more than ever of the temporal nature of our earthly existence, so we quarantined, masked, tested, and flew. This year, we marked x’s on the dance area, 6 feet apart. This year, we added liturgical facemasks to our traditional outfit. This year, small family clusters in cloth masks donned face shields and held battery-operated candles. But they sang, and we danced.

I wanted to cry at the beauty and sadness swirling through the sanctuary, but I couldn’t. So many tears have been shed already, so I just kept dancing to the muffled voices.

Hula is storytelling. Ancient dances share history and ancestral knowledge (read more here), and especially before the unification and transcribing of Hawai’ian language, hula carried the stories through generations. Although hula is typically paired with a chant or song, the movements convey special importance beyond being simply an illustration.

Silent storytelling. Muffled voices. Silent Night.

And here’s where I realized the gift of the hula especially for times like these: when almost everything is taken away we can still tell the story of the holy infant so tender and mild. Of the dawn of redeeming grace.

Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

My home church on Christmas Eve

Toy Story

I don’t like the new Toy Story movies. Ok, I enjoy them as movies, but something about them just feels off to me. I finally hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago: Andy grew up. Ok, ok, I know, that’s the whole premise of the movies, but I didn’t realize that’s why they bothered me. Until Toy Story 3, I could dig in the basket underneath our tv, pull out the worn DVD case, and pop in one of Pixar’s earliest classics. I could enjoy a well-worn plot and hear the old familiar lines, “You are a Toy!” by Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. No matter how many times I watch the movie, they are frozen in time and I get lost in the comfortable entertainment.

But the new installments ripped away that comfortable feeling. In Toy Story 3, Andy grows up and gives his toys away… forcing me to recognize that I grew up and left my comfortable home, my parents, and lifestyle to forge a life of my own (soon joined with my sweet husband). At the time, I was excited, a little naive, and also a little… well… young. I couldn’t wait for the next life stage, forgetting to slow down and enjoy the one I was in.

In Toy Story 4, Woody realizes that he no longer is the beloved toy, and has to completely change his trajectory. (Spoiler alert!) He leaves the life he knows and forges a new one with Bo Peep.

I think my whole life I have had this false belief that my memories were not just memories, but bookmarks of time to which I can eventually return. I kept those bookmarks saved so that I can go back to those beautiful barefoot frisbee afternoons at college in the Triangle, back to summers at home with morning daycare and long afternoons on the beach, back to those first moments as a mom, a newborn snuggled to my chest with no other children demanding attention.  Back to our wedding. Back to the best (and worst) times in life. I could just pull the worn DVD out of its case and relive it.

But I can’t. Life is linear. As much as we like to watch time travel shows and movies – it’s not reality. 

Certain parts of linear time appeal, while others bring stinging tears: I’m ok with turning 30 but I’m not ok admitting that I won’t see beloved places and people again on earth. I love the ages that my children are now, but I miss their newborn smell and simpler days. I’m thankful for the wisdom that age has brought, but I’m embarrassed by the way I acted in my youth and I want to go back and fix it.

God is above time. God is not limited by time. And although I struggle with my humanity, it is comforting to know that I am held by a limitless being. That my sorrows over lost time and past time are held by the eternal one.

Christ beside me, Christ before me.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

My talented brother-in-law carved “Woody” into my Toy Story loving son’s pumpkin.

fixed point

(This post first appeared on my personal blog, running30by30.wordpress.com)

At the beginning of this week, the trees along my running routes boasted the most brilliant colors I’ve seen all season. The final bursts of reds, oranges, yellows, and a few greens seemed an otherworldly neon which seemed to grow brighter each day. Thursday, while playing outside with my kids post-run, I took pictures of the trees surrounding my house, wondering what brilliance the next day might hold. But on Saturday, my long run day this week, the view held only a few straggling leaves in brown or a muted burnt orange. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Thursday was the climax of color: the fixed point in time at which the leaves started to fade.

On Saturday, March 14th, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful night out (our first real night out since our youngest daughter’s birth). Our school auction was 1920s themed with flapper-style dresses, fun décor, and plenty of laughter. We knew the world was changing, some countries had stay-at-home orders in effect, and the whispers of a quarantined America were growing louder. But while the big band music played in the background, how many of us knew for sure that it was the last time we’d see our friends noses and mouths not through a screen? The last time we’d gather in a large group, or the last time we’d talk with someone without calculating just how far apart we were standing? Where were you the night before? What’s your fixed point in time?

Today, our pastor’s sermon centered on the coming of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 25, and these words stood out to me:

Therefore, keep watch, for you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:13

One day, we will be on the other side. The timing will be made clear, and we’ll recognize all the signs leading up to Christ’s glorious return. We’ll have seen the colors in all their brilliance. But, just as the final days before our world’s turned upside down in a pandemic, or the ever-growing-brighter leaves, we won’t know it until it comes.

My oldest swinging amidst the brilliant colors.

Season Change

We are over a week into September, and if you haven’t seen a picture of someone in a flannel shirt or sporting their first PSL* of the season, are you even breathing? 

Tired of summer’s bold and sticky attitude, wanting cool, crisp air, and all the muted color schemes, hardcore autumnophiles pulled out their cute sweaters and drove through Starbucks on September 1st, proclaiming the oncoming fall season no matter what the thermometer said. Others politely waited until after Labor Day before purchasing white fairytale pumpkins and eggplant-colored mums to place outside their front door. Some might still be waiting for September 22nd and the autumn equinox.

Despite the variance of start dates, the general public typically doesn’t fight the onslaught of fall decorations as much as the no-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving protesters. Fall seems generally welcome; in many areas, the coolness lends itself to long days and evenings outdoors without the need for ridiculous layers of clothing. Fall foods tend to be full-bodied and flavorful, celebrating bountiful harvests before plants go dormant.

There’s almost nothing more breathtaking than grapevines in Napa, California in autumn.

To be honest, fall is something I’ve only experienced in my adult life. I grew up on an island 1,375.30 miles north of the equator (which is pretty close), where fall meant that the sunset usually happened closer to 6:30 instead of 7:15, and the weather changed from 87 and sunny to 85 with a chance of rain.

And this past week my friends in Denver skipped autumn and went straight from “summer” (on Monday the high was above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) to “winter” when they woke up to big flakes of falling snow.

What are your feelings about fall? Are you sipping a PSL while reading this in your flannel, or are you mourning the fresh tomatoes and days at the pool of summer that summer brings? A dear friend of mine (ok, ok, fine, a podcaster that I listen to a lot) says of seasons: “be content where you are. Lean into what’s happening around you, and don’t assume how you live now is how you’ll live forever” (Kendra Adachi, The Lazy Genius Way). Regardless of how we feel about a season, we have to live through it.

My family loves to celebrate fall with jugs of Louisville apple cider and apple cider donuts from a local market.

As we move into a new season I am reflecting on the words of King Solomon and the classic “seasons” chapter:

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 ESV)

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing**;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 

My three fall takeaways:

  1. Recognize this season – What is happening around me right now? What is beyond my control? How can I live despite the challenges?

2. Rejoice in the good things of earth that God has given (even if it’s as simple as an apple cider donut).

3. Remember that the beauties of earth point to greater joy ahead where the sorrows will be no more.

*Pumpkin Spice Latte – the token emblem of fall in America for many (international friends, please enlighten me as to your thoughts on this)

**did he know about social distancing?