Sunday, April 26, 2009

Working the Soil

Yesterday I had about 2 hours between Benny's 85th birthday party and dark, so I changed into my dirty shoes and pulled out the tiller. Sandy and I picked up some veggie plants on Friday and I knew I needed to get them in the ground before the predicted rains began to fall. My tiller, "Bessie" is not a little thing, but I was pretty confident I could handle her. There is a setting for using the tines in reverse and one for using the tines in forward. In reverse they dig deep and really turn up the dirt. We had already done that several times so this time I decided that I just needed to loosen the ground well enough to be able to stick some plants in.

I backed Bessie out of the barn, pulled the cord a few times and she started up. The neighbors grabbed the binoculars ready for the show. I got over to the garden and engaged the plow. We were going along pretty steady for a little bit then hit a patch of hard ground. I don't know how much tiller experience you have, but if you have any at all, you know that those tines will dance right over hard ground. So there I was, steady she goes, then all of the sudden I look up and I've covered half the garden, I'm sure my legs were flapping behind me. If I would have let go of the handle, it would have stopped, but there was no letting go. I was hanging on for dear life. It's been a long time since I've eaten a mud pie, and quite frankly, didn't remember them tasting quite so, well, . . .MUDDY. Maybe because when I made them when we were little we made them out of west Texas mud (more like wet sand) and it hadn't been fertilized with Fannie droppings.

I finally got to where I would hunker down when I saw a patch of ground that could prove deadly for me. Making the corners was another story. Somehow this thing would speed up on corners. The first one I felt like I was being thrown off a bucking bull. Finally got it all tilled and began to poke squash plants into the soil. I felt a bite on my ankle and looked down to see my foot planted firmly in a fire ant bed. Cue the music. For being raised a baptist girl, I was doing a pretty good job at "getting down with my bad self". Shoes were flying through the air, clothes were about to come off when I remembered we had neighbors. I composed myself and finished the job at hand. I got to the last watermelon plant, dug the hole, then it was so dark I couldn't find the hole. Dug another one, stuck my finger in it, grabbed the plant, stuck it in, covered it up and ran to the house. I left everything out. I was done. I didn't care at that point if I ever had a garden.

Until this morning. Pulling out of the drive way, I looked over and saw those little plants poking their heads up out of fertile soil and it made me smile. We're going to have tomatoes! and squash! and cucumbers, watermelon, onions, and peppers! We're going to have black eyed peas and sweet corn of the cob! I have a blister on my hand from the hoe and blisters all over my feet from fire ant bites. I have a bruise on the bottom of my right leg because after the fire ant ordeal, every time my shoe string tickled my leg I looked down and slapped at a freckle I've had for years - thinking it was an ant.

It's gonna be worth it.

Today I was back at it again. Hoeing and making rows, making my garden pretty. I was praying for my family. My kids. My church family. For me. Praying that our hearts would be fertile soil and that the Word would be planted deep and grow up to bear much fruit. I was grateful that my Father never gives up on me. He keeps tilling, fertilizing, watering, and pruning to make sure there is plenty to harvest. I wish I could say the same for me. There are times I feel bruised, beat up, bitten and just want to run to the house and forget what He has called me to.

Until He reminds me. This morning after church, a man came up and introduced himself as "Frank's brother". Frank is someone I wrote about at the beginning of my blogging journey. How when I would get discouraged I would look at the picture of his baptism at the age of 82, weeping in the horse trough. It would inspire me to keep on working for the Lord. I knew about this brother, because he and Frank hadn't spoken in years and years, but after Frank accepted the Lord he went to all of his family and reconciled relationships. This brother lived in Hawaii and after Frank called him, they began to talk almost daily, making up for lost time. Frank told him about Jesus. After Frank got sick, his brother flew over to see him. They spent a week together while Frank was in the hospital. Frank died two or three days after his brother flew back home. When I looked into his face this morning, I saw Frank. I saw Frank's tears. I couldn't help but put my hand on the side of his face and then I asked him if I could hug him. His arms embraced me quicker than I ever thought 80 year old arms could. We held each other and cried. Sweetness. Frank's fruit. In the last days of his life he bore more fruit than most of us do in a lifetime.

You keep me going, Jesus. It's gonna be worth it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Baptism of Jay

Several weeks back Jay called Michael and was wanting to get together to talk about getting baptized before he and Suzanna got married. We needed to visit with them one last time to go over ceremony details so they came to town for dinner. Jay told us that he felt very strongly that the Lord was leading him to be baptized so that he could enter their marriage equipped to be the spiritual head. So sweet. He had accepted the Lord several years back but hadn't gone through those waters.

We set it up to do it before their rehearsal on Friday. It was cool and drizzling outside. The water was freezing. The joy he showed when he came up out of those chilly waters, I suspect, even warmed the dog. Suzanna, her mom, Michael and I were there to witness his step of obedience to the Lord. I absolutely LOVE this picture of him and Suzanna.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The waters are a-stirrin'

Last week before we went to San Antonio for Jay and Suzanna's wedding, Michael pulled the horse trough in to get it ready to fill and heat for our baptisms on Sunday morning. We had two couples and another man that were ready to continue in their new journey by going through the waters. I was standing at the back, but the excitement went through the whole room until it was all over me. When Bill stepped in and two of his cowboy buddies stepped up to help get the 6'6" (or so) down, drenched, and back up again the emotion was great in me. When I saw him with such a heart for Jesus, I looked around to see where that sob came from. It came from me. It just slipped out. I was so moved by this man who was so moved by his Saviour.

Wendy got some pictures because I forgot my camera. I asked her to email them to me so I could share them with you. You can't help but be touched.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter Sunday

We didn't dye easter eggs this year. We washed mud off of shoes with a water hose as people came into the building. We didn't eat ham, we had the best hamburgers and hot dogs you ever lapped a lip on. It was sweet. Oh, wasn't it sweet. Greg McDougal sang some songs and shared some testimony and it sure touched the heart. As I was sitting there I kept thinking that something didn't feel right and was hoping that our close quarters in the other building wasn't what made things seem like family. I was anxious for Michael to preach and when he started, oh my, everything inside me went "this is it! this is it! This is what this building is for - to speak the Word over the people who walk through those doors. To let them know every Sunday that we serve a ressurected Lord, which gives us a reason to get out and work! Thank You Jesus for showing me the sweetness of that." There were 470 people tracking mud in that new home Sunday. That mud was beautiful. At first we were told 463 but they came back and said they forgot to count the cooks. Our cooks are important to us so we had to throw them in the mix.

Thank you for praying. Continue to do so, if you don't mind. We aren't through and it will be a process, but in the meantime the family is growing and the needs are adding up. There is a lot of work to do.

It just keeps getting sweeter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Want to be a Lois

After Bible study one night, a young lady came up to me and said, "I want to be a Lois!" She was referring to the service the day before at church when Michael had a young man give his testimony. When he asked Benny to come up, it took a few minutes for his almost 85 year old legs to get to the front. I called him young because he is just a toddler in the Lord. Jesus didn't have a place in his heart until almost two years ago. He stood in front of that microphone, with his head down, telling the crowd a little about his life. He said he was scared to death - that it was only the second time in his life that he spoke in front of a crowd.

He married Lois when they were in their early twenties and then he went to war. His company had over two hundred men when they left and only fifty something when they came back. There are lots of stories he has to tell about that time, but one was about when a grenade exploded in his face. After his return, there was not a night that he slept more than 4 hours. The nightmares kept him awake. He said when he got up around 2 or 3 every night that Lois would get up, make him coffee, and let him talk.

Benny said he's always had a horrible temper. Sometimes he would say a bad word or throw something and he would look at Lois and she would be smiling. He'd ask her what she was smiling about and she would say "I'm just praying for you." She prayed for him the whole 62 years they were married. Don't picture her as this quiet little thing. Her daddy was full blood Cherokee and her mom was full blood Irish. In Benny's words, "that makes a fiery combination!" He came in drunk one night and she used a house slipper to hit him. Not just once. Benny said his face was so sore he couldn't shave for a week.

He never went to church with her but she never stopped asking. When she was in the hospital a couple of years ago she knew she was dying and asked Benny for two things. She wanted a phone on both sides of her bed so it would be easy for whoever was in the room with her to get to the phone. Then she told him she wanted him to go to church and ask Jesus into his heart so that she could see him again. Benny did both. He went to a church in town and got baptized. He started coming out to meet with us on Sundays over a year ago. He and Michael sat down and they talked about the things that went on when he was in the war and he came away with a real peace. This past year he'll tell you he sleeps soundly all night long. Some of the men that were in his company during the war still call him. They've asked him why he can sleep now and he tells them "I found God!"

A couple of months ago he had a place come up on his nose that looked infected. His daughter was pressing on it and a piece of shrapnel popped out. A little later he got a call in the middle of the night from the VA hospital to get in immediately. They flew a surgeon in from the Mayo clinic to do surgery on his spine because shrapnel had lodged there. There were also two other pieces they took out. They believe that when he took the grenade to the face that somehow those pieces stayed in his body and eventually embedded themselves. Not only are the medical doctors amazed, the psychiatrists are as well. They've been questioning why he isn't troubled any more. Why he sleeps at night. He keeps telling them he's a Christian now but they aren't buying it. He asked Michael to go with him next week to his appointment. He's so cute.

We were eating with him yesterday and he was talking about Lois. You could see the tenderness in his face. I told him it seems like he feels closer to her now. He said to me, "I love her now more than I ever did". I was trying to keep my tears from falling into my charro beans. He in his refried.

He continues to be amazed by the love he feels. By the peace he feels. I'm pretty sure Jesus let Lois listen to her soldier when he quietly told these folks to never stop praying for the ones you love. I'm pretty sure He lets her watch as he mows the grass at the church. I'm pretty sure there are joyful tears in heaven.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What do You see?

I heard a long time ago that when a couple builds a new house, that if they stay together through the building process they can stay together forever. We started several months back building a new house for our church family. We've made progress and hopefully will be in there for Easter service. It's not complete, but we're hoping it will ready enough. In the process of this short but very long journey there have been very few casualties.

I have to keep prayerful, always asking the Lord to guard my heart and watch my tongue. Lord, when someone complains about the color of the floor, what do You see? I think you see Ross D. with a very unhealthy body cleaning and staining the slab that we will be sitting on, listening to Your Word. He is so sick he can't make enough to keep his bills paid, but wouldn't charge You for labor and I think that makes You smile.

When someone complains about the stain on the trim, what do You see? You see Kyle W. down on his knees staining every piece of wood that will go around doors and along the floor. Never complaining, always smiling with the sweetest spirit and I think that makes You smile.

When someone complains about the rooms or offices, what do You see? I think You see Jack B. with his crew slapping up those walls, once again not charging You for the labor, but giving with such a joyful heart. You see him getting Michael's office ready even though we were going to wait until everything else was done, and I think that makes You smile.

When someone complains about how the money was spent I think you see Jack H. and Jan S. spending hours making sure it will all work and standing up for what is right for this family - and I think that makes you smile.

When someone is unhappy with the paint choices, I think you see Brandi D. picking out swatches and leading her group of ladies to make decisions that will make this new home seem "homey". I think you also see her sitting on that concrete floor with her computer on and makeshift lighting so she can paint the custodial closet while on a conference call for work. Because the custodial closet is important to You, it is important to her. I'm pretty sure You don't smile on this one - You chuckle. Only You, Brandi, and I know why you chuckle.

When people walk into that home next Sunday and see a spot on the floor that may not have come up, I think you see Sandy and Peggy down on their knees scrubbing up the mud, praying for every person that steps foot in that place and every baby rocked in that nursery. I think you see the girls digging out dirt from the cracks with welding irons and Jack Hall, Sr. bending over sweeping up dirt into his dustpan so Don T., Jim Sonic, Doug S. and Eric H. can mop for three days getting ready to put down the next coat of stain. You also see Tom S. and Jim W. helping with the cleaning and staining. Part of Your smile may be a little disbelief in the "not so young knees" down on that "not so soft" concrete floor.

When the water runs and the toilets flush and it all goes to the right place, or even if it doesn't, I think you see Greg, David, Eugene, and Doug R. digging a moat and trying to put heads together to find the best way to run the pipe. You have to smile, because it was pretty cute using that little level on such a big pipe.

You have to smile when You hear the prayers of the faithful ones who continually pray for this family and for us. When you remember all the ones who came up to work (and there were many) whenever they could. For Doc giving up time and resources so our disabled will have a ramp for easy entrance to worship You. For the ones who have given sacrificially so we can have appliances and chairs, counter tops, paint, and rugs - all because they love You.

We have company coming next Sunday, Lord. It will be a very busy week in order to get it all done. My prayer is that no matter what the building looks like when they walk in that they will see why we love. They will see Who we love. That You will see our hearts and it makes You smile.