Afternoon Hunger: Finding the Miracle Deeper Still

Afternoon Hunger and Looking for GodOn these regular normal, ordinary days, I can forget not one of them is ordinary. All night I rested, slept long and hard and awoke. To this day. To this moment.

A miracle.

I awake too many days taking for granted the moment of right now. We have so many descriptions of time. We talk about how it marches or it flies. We describe how it drags or runs away.

We want to seize time. We want to rustle it; be the boss of it. We watch it. We regret it. We chase it. We rebel against it.

I want to mark time as holy, as sacred. I want to worry less about what I do with my time and enjoy more the moments, one by one, I get to live with God.

Holy Spirit, come. Show me how you are in this moment. Right now. With me.

It can take stopping, pausing, recognizing our breathing, even–in, out–to see a hint of the miracle.

It can take looking–determined faith that if we search hard enough for God we will see Him; we will hear Him; we will know more of what it means to have Him.

For if we want Him; we have Him.

And in this moment, as I type these words. My eyes are not on the keyboard, but looking out, past plates of glass to see tiny sparkles flit about near the stone bench in our yard, little bugs dancing above water droplets on green grass.

And I see, but I stop looking out, and I look in, my heart hungry to be filled.

Pull me in, Father. Pull us in, deeper still.

Disco Ball Light and Choosing God’s Joy

I am stretching high on chairs and bending low with dustpan, putting away Christmas garland hanging in the dining room and brushing up piles of pine needles from the Christmas tree being taken out the front door. A disco ball, bright globe of whimsy given to me from a smiling Justin, scatters light over the walls of my dining room. I watch light dance and spread as the ball turns, polka-dotting hope upon dark corners. Specks of mercy, paint-brushed love-dots from God.

Oh, how He wants us to see–to bathe in–His light.

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I tell friends how I can breathe a bit easier so far, this season. I feel like I am trying less to reach some goal just out of my reach. Rather, I am resting a little better, a little more. And I can’t point to another season in recent memory when I have been able to tell you I am doing that, really, at all.

Rather, I can point you to year after year, month after month, of striving and stretching and longing. And the longing wasn’t the kind of longing that is good–the kind of pure-hearted freedom when we stretch our hearts out to heaven and claim the beauty of truth we know is real but which we can’t, otherwise, see. For too long, the longing has gotten twisted up a bit–twisted into something a little darker, a little more like bindings stretched tight across my lungs and less like the sweet, fresh breath of freedom from wide-open windows that stretch to hope that never ends.

I am realizing something now: I think I have been dying.

I think another part of my false self has died. I didn’t begin seeing this happy truth until yesterday, when I verbalized it to friends. We sit in a circle, asking the tough questions with gentleness: how busy do you feel right now? Do you feel like you are stretched too thin? Are you filling your plate of to-do’s too full? How are you resting in God? In what ways are you anxious? How are you choosing to see God in the moments of your day so you feel like His strength is what you lean on and not your own?

I am surprised by my own excitement to join in the discussion, and I can’t help but jump in first (a bit uncharacteristic of me, by the way). But I was bubbling up with joy and thanksgiving as I realized I actually feel so filled up with God. I felt restored and jubilant, even. And it is simply because of two simple things that I am saying ‘yes’ to now. These are things which, for much of my life, I struggled to give myself permission to do: (1) get enough sleep; (2) do something fun and relaxing, regularly, that I love to do.

These past two weeks, during the holidays, something in me just let go. I stopped getting up early, never set an alarm, and slept in as long as I could (who knew my body actually wants eight hours of sleep, when it can get it?) We also, as a family, started turning off all electronics, all technology, all noise-making devices, at eight o-clock every night, and retreated to the front room of our house to sit together, our own separate books in our laps, and read. I think it has been since high school, when I would happily curl up on my bed and read novels that stirred my heart, just for fun. Not for work. Not because I had to. Not because it might be “good for me” to do. I did it because I found rest in doing it. I did it because it was fun.

And I think that my saying ‘yes’ to letting God restore me–by choosing to make changes in how I live, how I use my time–is restoring me, is creating space for God to fill me, is killing the pride in me that enslaved me to a life of doing and striving.

God wanted to kill another piece of the false self in me that was pulling me away from Him. And I didn’t even know He was doing it.

But looking back, this makes sense. He wants our whole heart. He wants us to rest in Him. He knows what is best for us. He knows his presence fills us, and overflows onto others, when we trust how he has made us. We are made to get rest; we are made to love God; we are made to love to do things that help us to see him and worship him, with our whole lives.

God wants us to abide in his joy.

And we have to fight for it, sometimes, His girls.

So, I sit in my dining room and position the disco ball so that sunlight streaming through shutters reflects off the hundreds of little mirrors and shines light all over the walls, all over the dark room.  The ball only shines, illuminating walls, when it is positioned to let the light hit it just right.

And, girl, remember this: that disco ball is made to shine.

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Shall we stay here, in God’s whimsical, beautiful, jubilant light? Shall we let God’s light for us bring life to our hearts? Shall we let light dance all around us, covering us, filling us with bright, shining joy?

Father, shine!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Is there a place in you where you think God wants to shine his light? What is one way God fills you with His love for you?  What action are you taking (or you plan to take) to seek the light for you that he has? How is God inviting you to receive his joy?

More than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life's battles. ~Margaret Feinberg #fightbackwithjoy

Here is a book, just released January 5, that you don’t want to miss: Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fearsby Margaret Feinberg. Fight Back with JoyI got to meet Margaret at her Writer’s Bootcamp, in Colorado, in October, after reading all of her previous books and loving her heart for God. Fight Back With Joy is a powerful and beautiful encouragement from a woman who chooses to fight life’s battles with joy, rather than succumbing to fear. She writes from the experience of knowing what it is like to stare death right in the face, but choosing God’s hope and joy for her, while she battles cancer.

Don’t wait to check it out and be blessed by Margaret’s story, as well as her encouragement, faith, and wisdom. Here are two of the places where you can find the book Fight Back With Joy: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And here, you can find the Fight Back With Joy, 6-Session Bible Study Kit.

Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

Before You Look Ahead to the New Year

Before We Consider Any Plans for the New YearI can forget what it takes to get through a day. I can forget it is up to me to choose whether to go right or left, and how God is in it. He is in the choices. He is in the moments before the decision making. He is in the space of indecision, especially, reminding me how He holds my hand and does not leave when a moment is too difficult and I feel frozen in what action to do next.

God does not get overwhelmed.

This week Justin and I were talking about the tug we feel this time of year, when we are on holiday, these precious days between Christmas and New Year’s Day–the pull to reflect on the past year while thinking ahead to the next. We both appreciate the thought of a fresh start, the invitation to set goals and define thinking about vision, plans, dreams.  Yet, the reality is we are smack-dab in the middle of moment when we just want to be present and slow, these last few days of 2014.

While we talk a lot about what are hopes are for the next year, we don’t want to rush there to thinking about them too quickly. Before we look ahead to getting down on paper our dreams for 2015, we want to look around a bit at this day, and the next, and the next, too. We want to notice the condition of our heart–and when I say condition, I don’t mean the miracle of its beat, the glorious wonder of it pumping blood all through our bodies and keeping us alive without us willing it to. We want to notice what, at our heart, at our center, we are made of–how we are restless and lost and unfulfilled without our whole self turned towards God.

No plan, no vision, no dream will be worth a thing–or even get off the ground or be realized in any way, really–without taking moments each day to recognize what it really takes to get through a day. I love what God whispers in Loop:

My daughter, it is a fight to stay close to Me. It is a choice you make each moment. Pay attention to the rhythm of your days, the way you wake–what you do when you first get up, what your first thoughts are, how you approach what is for you to do. Right when you wake, try turning over the plan for your day to Me, first. Before you attempt to accomplish one thing, ask Me what I think of your plan. Can you imagine wiping your list clean, the details scrawled out, and then rewriting it, in my hand, my fingerprints upon the page? Are you willing?

Before we look back at 2014, before we look ahead to 2015, let’s spend the next few days of 2014 resting in God, looking to where He is in us–how we consider him, how we think about him, how we look to him. Does he feel far away? Do we feel him close? Do we begin our days, right when we rise, thinking about him first? Or do we begin our day with worries, with schedules, with plans about how to get from A to B?

What is on your heart when you rise? How can we possibly begin to consider what a day holds–or begin assessing what the last year held, or what we hope to achieve in the new year ahead–without recognizing our heart for God right now?

Justin and I will be talking about that a bit tomorrow, on our podcast on Holy Entanglement. And we’ll be sharing, also, a challenge we have for each other, to complete as a warm up for considering any plans or dreams we have for the new year.

Let me give you a hint: it comes down to your heart . . . and considering how you are made . . . and if you are letting God restore you . . . so you can feel His presence in you . . . . It involves the simple question some of you have heard me talk about before . . .What do you love?

So listen in tomorrow morning (you can subscribe right here) and let me know what you think. And until then, let’s not hurry off to make those big plans yet for 2015. Rather, let’s ask God how we can be present to Him and all the wonderfulness and hope He has for us now, this moment, this day.

Before you lookahead to the New Year GATHER PIN

Do you look to the New Year with excitement and expectation? Do you like the idea of a fresh start? Would you like to join me, these next few days, and noticing where God is taking residence in our hearts, before we scrawl down any goals for the new year? I’d love to know what you think.

This Advent? You Have Permission To Stop Doing

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It’s been a long time since I sat down and tried to not do a thing. One month? Two? Yes, I think the last time might have been in September.

Truly, I hadn’t sat in stillness with my Father for two months. And when I say “stillness” I mean sitting down in a place with no input (music playing, internet beeping, phone buzzing) and having no agenda except to be in the presence of God.

I know there is a lot to do now. I can feel it. The pressure to do is almost tangible, isn’t it? Write those Christmas letters. Wipe the cookie flour off the counter. Decorate the house. Call that friend. Make sugar cookies and smile the whole time while you do it.

Do.

For a few minutes a day, this Advent, can you join me in rebelling against all that pressure to do?

Contemplating stillness

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Even in this beautiful invitation to celebrate Advent, I can twist all the beauty right on out of this season and try to do rather than await, with open heart, the presence of my Savior.

Let’s keep this simple: will you join me each day, this December, and sit with me with our Father?

Just a few minutes.

Mute and turn off all electronics.

Turn your to-do list upside down.

Go to a room or a corner where you can be by yourself. (I know how this is tricky and nearly impossible with little kids at your feet, but be creative with the when and the how and the where. You can do this!)

Get comfortable.

Close your eyes.

Put your hands in your lap, maybe even with your palms open. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

(Of course, lying face down, I know, works for some of you . . . but just don’t fall asleep . . . )

And just wait.

Wait on God.

Listen to your breathing. And as you listen, let God draw you in deeper. Let your imagination go.

Let.

It.

Go.

He wants to show you where He is. He wants to show you where you are with Him.

Right Now.

I’m doing this.

Every day. Just a few minutes.

It’s going to be good.

This Advent

Are you with me?

*Join me over at my friend Kristin’s today remembering “I am desperate for you, Father, and this desperation is my strength.”

Also, don’t forget that this Friday, December 5, is the last day to order Loop and guarantee delivery from the publisher for Christmas. AND, if you order by December 5 and you email me your receipt (jennifer@gatherministries.com) you get 6 free 8 x 10 free arts prints and/or a free Loop audiobook (if you order 10 or more Loop books)! You can order at Amazon or lots of other places where books are sold. Click here to learn more.

Loop free gifts incentive (5)

For You Shine Bright, My Love

You Are Bright

For J.

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[O]h, it’s been cloudy here, God. This heart of mine drifting, unsure of what it feels. Sleeplessness can do this, I know. For I am so tired, stumbling through days with this precious life, my newborn, swaddled close. You journey me back home, where family is, and I am sure you are here.

Take me up close now, God. Take me in deeper. Take me where I hear you, where I feel you, where I recognize you, through the haze of my sleep-deprived state.

There is color all around and I want to step out into it. There is music singing. I can hear it in the trees, the aspens stretching gold fingers to blue sky and shouting aloud your name.

Help me shout with my whole heart, my Father. Help me to sing out loud this beauty you give me. Help me to inhale your rest, ingest you food. Let your words sink deep into my heart, your presence all around letting me rise.

You shine so bright, my Lord. Your holy presence fills me and equips me for standing. With you I sing and I stand.


[M]y bright shining one, there is color all around you. You radiate hope my darling. You illuminate me.

I see you. I know you. You are given rest. You are loved and not forgotten. You are found and held.

You are my darling one who speaks healing with her words. You are my song, my poemia, my crafting of beauty when it stays and doesn’t fight and lets me show you how special you are, in my name.

My lovely one, close your eyes now. For I am here, in the turmoil. I am here, in the chaos. I am here, in the uncertainty. I am here, in the wondering of what’s next and when and how.

You, my shining one, know how to rescue because I’ve rescued and I am here, in the beauty of this moment, asking you to let me hold you close. No searching for me is required, just an acknowledgment of your desiring me. For you are made to desire me, and here, in the desire, I speak love and restoration into your heart.

There is more for you, in the staying close, in the trusting me, in the letting me hold your heart.

you shine bright


Song to listen to: “I Am Yours,” by Misty Edwards


[J]oin me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

turning towards God isn’t just about quiet

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My phone vibrates on the table near my bed, and  I grab it quickly and shut it off. It’s one of those misty California Bay Area summer mornings–gray blanket thrown gently across quiet sky. Everything feels quiet. I picture God tucking me in still, even as I stretch my arms, rising slowly out of bed.

I know every creak in the beams of this old bungalow, nearing 100 years old. So, my steps into the kitchen are careful, ginger. The rest of the house still sleeps. The stillness is tangible–so amazing and beautiful and rare I can hardly believe it. I coax my noisy, excited dog out the back door and sit on the couch in the family room, right off the kitchen. This is sacred.

Oh, God, thank you.

I sit for a while, breathing in the beauty of this space–and then I lay down on the couch. Oh, I want to drink in this stillness. I want to wrap myself up in this quiet. This is no small thing.

For each of us, our time with God looks different–and different situations call for different experiences with Him, too. This moment–in the stillness? It was one I didn’t want to forget. So I grabbed a blank piece of paper in the kitchen cabinet and a pen–and I wrote.

How rare and precious it is, this quiet, this time with you. I love my family around me, and I would be sad to be alone for days. But periods of quiet, of complete silence, when things, even the air around me, feels completely still? I am grateful. And I want to stay.

I have trouble desiring to hear you, Father, in the noise. It is not that I think you can’t speak to me in loud cacophony. But I am so easily distracted by sound around me. I know, this morning–the stillness–drew me to you. You can use anything–and you desire everything to draw me to you. I wonder what atmosphere you like to inhabit most? What is your favorite place to be, Father? You must enjoy it all.Or, are there places or situations you don’t like?

In the margin of the paper, I write a little heart–to remind me, when I read this page again, where I wrote down my words–and what I heard God say back:

I don’t like distraction. I like focus and intentionality. I like rest and play and laughter. I like stillness, too.

I fill every space, child. Look what and where I inhabit. Practice turning, so your mind, so distracted, can fix itself on where I am. And your heart awakes. It knows what it wants and needs.

Within you, seek the quiet space, wherever you are. I love noise and music. I love the joyful calling of voices. I love praise.

You are most yourself and at peace in the inhabitance of praise.

In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things. But it is the turning towards me, in all situations, which lets your mind be focused on me–so your heart and mind cannot help but praise. And in praise you are not distracted and you are most yourself. And when you are most yourself, you are free; you abide in freedom. And that freedom is my love.

It is no surprise that we crave things that feel scarce. And quiet, for many of us, can be one of those things. For me, with summertime and three kids and our little house and our dog, quiet happens–but rarely. I fight for it sometimes, managing to cajole the kids to join me in our studio in the backyard, where there is a big couch and my writing desk pushed right up against Justin’s. There’s a big windowed door that stretches across to the patio and there are tiny lights strung across the ceiling beams. This converted garage is one of the sanctuaries He’s given us, and we use it as a place of escape from noise–even as it doubles as a mini-gym and occasional video game haven, too, with our exercise equipment near the door.

And sometimes, in the still, still quiet of early morning, I practice listening.

We need to do whatever it takes–and it will be different for each of us–to practice listening to God’s voice in our hearts. And as we listen, we are filled with praise. And when we praise, our hearts are turned to God. And we are most ourselves. And we are free.

The Father’s words encourage me to fight for whatever it is that will help me turn to him. He says, “In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things”. But it is my choice, as his daughter, to practice turning.

TURNING TO GOD PIN

 I want more of that. How about you? How do you practice turning towards God?

 

looking home, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s Atlas Girl

This post, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s new book, Atlas Girl, is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour.  To learn more and read the other posts inspired by Emily’s beautiful book, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga's blog tour: Atlas Girl

Three years ago, the afternoon of Mother’s Day, we scrap the bike ride plan and decide to cuddle close. All five of us on the bed, three under the covers, two at my feet.  My husband and my oldest grab the two edges of the big bed first: one with plans for a nap, the other with his book. I climb into the middle, and the two youngest begin silent paper airplane building, steadfast and determined. Their attempt at book reading–burrowed in between us all, under the covers–lasting a good five minutes.

We had planned to take a road trip to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day, but when that got complicated and we didn’t get to go, a day together was what we found God had planned for us anyway. Time together, just the five of us, is what we often need when the world around us feels like it is beginning to swirl.

This isn’t a usual practice of ours, all climbing up on the big bed together to read or to pursue a quiet activity, on a spring afternoon. The May temperature had turned unusually blustery cool, though, the wind spinning the leaves of the trees, and I loved the excuse to pull in close with this small flock He has given us.  I know it will be soon when we won’t all fit up here, and the kids’ idea of “quiet time” on a spring afternoon may include something far different than this.  We’ll see. But I wouldn’t be the mother I am without these four souls, here.

So on this day that happened to be Mother’s Day, when these three little children, still soft and sweet, are open to cuddling together with Mom and Dad, I jump at the chance to be close.  I soak them up and stay, my heart celebrating what He gives.

This moment, this moment now, and the next one He brings, so full of beauty and love and hope and joy–I know. I know, in my head, this is true. I believe, in my heart, this is real–the gift the Father offers, the gift He gives through hearts that give thanks in the moments that seem like details, accessories to the larger moments of  a day. But I need reminders to take in the beauty of the small. I need reminders to be present where I am. For I so want to be present with God.

***

Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. It is described: “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I am loving every word. You can grab a copy here.

Girls, what moment for you triggers the recognition of “home”?

no longer the brokenhearted: a review & giveaway of Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray

I miss writing here. I miss writing, in general. I miss sitting and listening and slowing. I miss choosing quiet and holding God’s hand.

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I have been reading Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: awakening your soul to rest, a book about choosing to let God in, a book about choosing to let Him guide our time, our memories, our choices throughout the day. It’s a book about surrendering, in all the possible ways. It’s a book about a little girl’s heart that was broken and healed again when she let herself be guided into moments with her Father, especially moments in her past that He longed to heal and rewrite.

Bonnie’s story is stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking and glorious. All of this. She is raw and vulnerable and so amazingly brave in how she shares the details of her life that brought such wounding to her heart, as a little girl–this wounding that she carried with her until less than two years ago, when the weight of her wounds led to her experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

God doesn’t want to leave us in the same place. He comes for the brokenhearted, resurrecting the hearts of His daughters who, as little girls, suffered. He knows His daughters, while even grown, still suffer: He knows when the wounds of the past are too great. He knows when the memories have been pushed down, tucked away, not surrendered to and rewritten by Jesus.

I never would have guessed in a thousand years my journey to rest would be paved with so much anguish. But the journey of the soul is one that Jesus is deeply and intimately familiar with (Bonnie Gray, Finding Spiritual Whitespace).

God doesn’t forget and leave the brokenhearted by themselves.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1, ESV).

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Each of us is the brokenhearted, in so many hidden, silent, undiscovered ways. Our memories, our past, our regrets, the trauma we’ve experienced can cause these soul-centered-inward parts of ourselves to split apart, almost as a form of self-protection.

Sometimes, there are things we’ve endured that are too much for a little girl to face. Consequently, a part of us shuts down, turns off, becomes numb. We are the brokenhearted: not fully ourselves, not fully alive, not fully whole.

Our little girl hearts need to be reunited with the new heart Jesus gives us when He brings healing and rescue and redemption to our past.

We are hungry to be healed, eager for our broken pieces to be made whole. Thus we ask Jesus to help us be courageous, to help us face the memories we’d much rather never again see.

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Bonnie’s book resonated with me the first time I heard the title: Finding Whitespace with God. My new adventure with Justin, with Gather, has been stretching me. I’ve been working hard. But I’ve been neglecting letting God care for my heart. I need to spend time with Him, in quiet spaces, in whitespace where I can hear His voice whisper to me. I need to say no to opportunities, even if they are “good” ones, if it means I am saying no to whitespace with God.

For when I rush, when I am busy, when my to-do list is way too long, I feel so very alone. In these situations, my pride tells me I should work harder, be more efficient, dig in and get more things done. But the God who loves me, who created me, who knows me and draws me close, offers me time with Him. With Him, is whitespace–a place where I can rest and be creative and realize the truth of who I am and breathe.

I was gifted Bonnie’s book, but I’ve read it, instead, on my Kindle. I saved the beautiful paper copy, and didn’t read that one, because I wanted to pass the copy on to one of you.

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Would you like more whitespace with God? Would you like to be encouraged to seek Him–for rest, for healing, for a new start? Would you like to read the story of a woman who clung to God’s hand in the midst of facing nightmarish childhood memories and trusting God to lead her through? Would you like to be invited to slow and consider practical ways you can live differently, once God is allowed into all the hidden places of your heart?

I bet you would.

If you’d like to win the copy of Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Whitespace with God, leave a comment below on the blog sharing what is drawing you towards God’s whitespace–why this is the perfect book for you to read right now.

Can’t wait to hear–and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, June 10.

Gratefully,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

Rest

The brown curled leaves gnarl up, twisting on the wooden fence.  The sprinkler’s water hasn’t reached this side of the yard, this little corner in a postage-stamp size space in the back of the  house, and the vulnerable little vine is dying.

I have prayed, Father, for You to be my gardener, the One who waters and cares for me.  And I look out the back window and see the lush green honeysuckle stretching up towards the sky, and the gnarled, leafless, nameless branches next to it.  These two plants share a fence, a piece of dirt, a place in the same garden.  And one thrives and one, in its patch of life a foot over, is neglected and dies.

It was the plant that bloomed with white flowers, its green leaves once kissing the wooden slats with beauty.  And I wonder if I trust to be cared for by my Father, who longs to water me, nurture me, give me everything I need.  I want this tired plant who dies from lack of care to revive, to rest in the care of the Gardener.

But to rest in His word means to know His word.  To rest in Him, means to know Him.  To rest in His truth means to know His truth. Do I know these things?  Resting means having a heart willing to follow Him, doesn’t it?  Trusting and believing I am being cared for doesn’t mean an act of passivity, does it?  Don’t I have to let Him help me, let Him care for me?  Let His word penetrate my heart and bring nourishment?

I don’t want to be in the dry soil, where the vine withers, doesn’t allow itself to be watered, and misses life.