Fruit

Fruit

Not going too far back for today’s throwback post…Revisiting FRUIT. Original Post Published February 27, 2020.

We love fruit in our family. Fresh fruit, canned fruit, dried fruit, jammed fruit, fruit from our own garden, or fruit from the other side of the world. We love citrus fruit, stone fruit, berries… Fruit can be a taste of the familiar or the tang of the exotic. We love to eat it raw, to bake it into recipes, to puree it into smoothies. Last week, I even learned to make homemade fruit roll-ups. With a kiddo who despises vegetables, fruit is often the way I get much-needed nutrients into all of us. And a much-appreciated taste of yumminess too.

Fruit is a pretty amazing thing. As a homeschool mom, I’ve had the opportunity to study it with my kids in our science classes. And as a Christian, I of course read about it a lot in the scriptures. For instance, take this passage from Colossians 1:3-6

3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth… (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

To take out some of the phrases there for focusing purposes, that says “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, which you heard in the gospel, which is bringing forth fruit.”

Now, anyone who knows me even a little knows that hope and I are good friends. I’m not only an optimist, I’m a see-the-good-in-everyone sort of person, a cling-to-hope-at-all-costs sort of girl. So any time the word is mentioned in the Bible, my spiritual ears perk right up. As we were discussing this passage in our Bible study last week, my mind kept circling around those particular words. Hope comes from the Gospel…the Gospel brings forth fruit.
As we talked about what this fruit is, it’s easy to come up with the usual answer: spreading that same Good News to others so that they can believe too. Yes, absolutely.
But, with memories of strawberries and blueberries and mango and peaches still fresh in my mind from my fruit roll-up making adventure a couple days before, I had to look at this a little more closely.
In other passages, we hear of the Gospel message as a seed. It’s planted, watered, fed. As it sprouts, the seed itself passes away and becomes a plant. It’s no longer a seed at all–it’s changed. Transformed. Why? So that it can become something more.
I love that it’s likened to a fruit-bearing plant though. Because part of the very nature of a plant is to spread its seeds. WHY do we bear fruit? Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control? For OTHERS.
One of the things I learned in our science class is that the plant itself doesn’t benefit at all from the fruit it bears. The sole purpose of it is to be delicious. Alluring. To appeal to animals so that they come, eat it, and thereby transport the seeds elsewhere, so that they’re deposited far and wide and the plant can find new life somewhere else.
Photo by Brian Jimenez on Unsplash

So what is the purpose of us learning to produce those fruits of the Spirit? Not for our own sake–for His. So that others come, smell the fragrance of His peace, see the beauty of His love, taste the perfection of His Joy. Our job as Christ followers is to share those things with anyone who walks by hungry. So that they eat of it, and the seed nestles deep inside. So that He can water it and it can grow. And so that then that person too can experience the transformative power of God and turn from fallow ground with a dried up seed inside to a life-giving, thriving tree spreading out their limbs and offering His love to others.

I’d always considered the Fruits of the Spirit to be things we should want for our own sakes; or for their own sakes. Because they’re, well, good. Because they’ll make us better people. Holier. More worthy of Him. And that’s certainly true…
But that’s only half the story, isn’t it? The other half isn’t about us at all. It’s about THEM. The other people in our world. Our spouses and children, our parents and grandparents, and our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our friends, our neighbors, the strangers in the grocery store. The drivers who cut us off and the customer service rep who won’t listen. The homeless man begging for money on the street corner. The mother desperate for clean water in Africa.
Each and every one of them needs the fruit–because that fruit carried the seeds of the Gospel, and that’s where our hope is found.
I don’t know about you, but that changes my perspective a bit on why I should be working hard to be the person He wants me to be.
And it makes me look at my beloved fruit differently too. My daughter and I joke that the orange marmalade we made is “sunshine in a jar” (because seriously!)–but it’s not only that. In a way, it’s hope in a jar too. A reminder that the goodness of others is our nourishment…and that our own ought to be theirs in return.

Thowback Thursday. . . Book Lovers

Thowback Thursday. . . Book Lovers

***Today’s Throwback post was originally published January 7, 2010***

I will never forget my shock. There I sat, an innocent, in the admissions office at my college. All around me were the usual people that made up my day–the admissions counselors, the office manager, the director and associate director. We were minding our own business, recruiting future students for St. John’s College, a.k.a. the Great Books School. When out of nowhere, it happened. The new data manager (not an alum, let it be noted, unlike most of the employees) showed her true colors. “Tim and I are spring cleaning, and I threw out three boxes of books.”

Gasp! The horror . . . The sacrilege . . . Oh, let it not be so, let not this blasphemer be sitting two feet away from me . . .

We just stared at her in shock until she started laughing at the matching expressions on the faces of the four of us in the room. “What?” she finally asked.

I wrapped my tongue around it first. “You threw away books? And you dare to admit it here?”

Now, it’s no secret that we Johnnies are book-lovers. We make a four-year career out of collecting obscure literature, reading it, and discussing it in class. It’s what we do. In a lot of ways, it’s who we are. We are Book Lovers. We unite to sing the praises of all things bound in card stock with hotmelt and trimmed to size.

But there are those in the world who oppose our Creed. There are those who value Space and Organization above the wonder of typeset ideas. Some compromise by donating their unneeded books to good homes or libraries, which is an understandable decision. But some . . . some toss them carelessly to the side. As if they are . . . nothing! (Sob, gasp!)

Well, I am here as a safe-house. Just last night my husband erected four new four-foot shelves to hold the overflow. Now, most of these books that I so carefully placed in alphabetic order last night will not be with me forever. I am but a steward of them, seeing to their well-being until I find a good home for them, readers to devour their pages and write reviews for me. But oh, how I long to adopt them all!

In my quest to provide an island of safety for books of all kinds, I have developed several identities. I will answer to The Reviewer. The Librarian. The Bookworm. My keen ears can hear the phrase, “I need a new book to read” from a mile away, and my deft fingers will quickly pluck a selection from my shelves and deliver it to the friend or family member in need. It is not always an easy calling, but it is one I cannot ignore.

And we are training up another generation to take over our operations even now. As my itchy fingers dove into the box of books-awaiting-shelves the moment plywood touched brackets, my son and daughter were there beside me. Believing, hoping. And asking, “Mommy, do we get to keep all these books, or do we give them away?”

I caressed the spine of a novel just begging to be read. “These, sweetie, we’ll have to give away.”

A definite pout entered her tone. “But why, Mommy? Why can’t we keep them all?”

A question to bring tears to this Bookworm’s eyes. “Because, sweetie, other people need to read too. But don’t you worry. Though we send these out, new books will come in to take their places.”

I felt a little hand press against my leg. “I’ll help you Mommy. I’ll help you divide them. You just hand the non-fishing to me.” And she picked up a book with a cover that declared it non-fiction and put it in the pile for the lower shelf.

My chest swelled with pride. They’ll learn . . . and they’ll carry on. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.

We are Book Lovers.

Thank you for your Prayers and Faith Like a Tumbleweed

Thank you for your Prayers and Faith Like a Tumbleweed

Just a quick note this week to thank everyone for all the encouragement and prayers as our family had a major scare this weekend with my son.

In case you didn’t see it on social media, Saturday saw Rowyn being life-flighted from our small hometown hospital to Pittsburgh Children’s with a bad case of diabetic ketoacidosis (basically a sudden onset of diabetes that had him so dehydrated and filled with toxins that he couldn’t stand on his own or breath normally). He spent about 28 hours in the PICU and then three days on the diabetic floor–much improved, and all of us have had to be educated on how to live with Type 1 Diabetes.

Needless to say, writing a regular blog post kinda fell off my radar. But I did want to take a minute to thank everyone for the hundreds of comments and prayers and encouragment, for the private messages and emails. He was in bad shape there for a while, but he’s doing great now, and I know that this disease is something we’ll be able to manage–and I have dozens of messages that prove there’s a fabulous community out there with experience they’re eager to share, not to mention the general prayers and support from absolutely everyone.

So that’s pretty much it this week, I pulled a post from the archives for today that you can find below. Just a sincere thank you for holding my family up before our loving Father. He held us through it all. And though I cried more in that first 24 hours than I have in the last 24 years combined (if that’s an exaggeration, it’s only slight, LOL), I also smiled a lot too, as I saw the outporing of love. Thank you all. You’re the best! There’s nothing better than the family of God, is there?

A post from the archives this week. Post originally published 7/16/2016.

A few weeks ago, I heard an analogy about the kind of life we should live; that we should be an oak tree, solid and tall, a pillar of the community, the kind of person people respect and will miss when we’re gone, etc. That we shouldn’t be a tumbleweed, aimless and despised and dismissed by everyone.

I got the point of the story. And I certainly love oak trees as much as the next person. But this analogy also bothered me. Maybe that’s a fine image for the world, but for a Christian? I’m not so sure. Not that there’s nothing to learn from an oak, but that we should dismiss tumbleweeds so quickly. I think . . .

I think that we need to be tumbleweeds when it comes to our faith.

In our homeschool science, we read about these plants, and they’re pretty amazing. The tumbleweed bush can grow with very little water. The seeds can lie dormant until moisture comes, then bang! Up the plant sprouts. Quick, but also firmly rooted. The wind doesn’t rip it from the ground. Oh, no. When it’s time to reproduce, the tumbleweed, its seeds ripe and ready, breaks off from its roots. It’s so light that the wind can take it anywhere. Everywhere. And it rolls around–but not aimlessly. It’s spreading its seeds. Seeds which can lie dormant until that little bit of moisture touches it. Then bam. A new bush springs up.

How perfect an illustration is that of what Christians should be? Yes, we need to be firmly rooted in God–but not in one particular place. Our faith isn’t tied to our geographical location, like a tree. Our goal shouldn’t be just to reach ourselves toward heaven, right? Our purpose here isn’t to stand strong and tall and thick, to drop our seeds right by our feet, where maybe one or two eventually grow a bit . . . if they’re not gobbled up by the world or denied water and light by our shadows and thirsty roots.

Our purpose is to spread the Word. Spread those seeds of faith. Far and wide. Our goal is to go and make disciples. Our faith should be fast to spring up in Him, should be able to survive even the driest spells. And oh, if those seeds we planted could spring up so readily!

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t lessons to be learned from an oak tree. Their nuts feed the forest creatures–that’s important. And the cycle of acorn crops is pretty amazing too, the way they go through lean cycles to actually decrease the animal population that feeds on it, then produces a bumper crop that’s way more than the animals can eat, so that some acorns have the chance to grow.

But oak saplings are easily choked out by other species.
May our faith not be like that.

Oak trees can’t move.
May our faith not be like that.

It takes an oak 20 years to mature enough to produce acorns.
May our faith not be like that.

I say, let’s give those things called weeds their due. Why are they called a weed?

Because they grow everywhere.
May our faith be like that.

Mankind can never get rid of them, because the seeds are so numerous and spring up so readily.
May our faith be like that.

Tumbleweeds break off from their roots to spread their seeds.
May our faith be like that.

They roll far and wide, spreading those seeds.
May our faith be like that.

They can flourish with the smallest bit of nourishment.
May our faith be like that.

It takes a single season for a tumbleweed plant to grow, reach maturity, and produce.
May our faith be like that.

Animals feed on tumbleweeds where no other plant can grow.
May our faith be like that.

When a tumbleweed breaks off, the dying of the original plant is the fuel for new life.
Our faith is founded on that.

I really pray that Christianity be what the world terms a weed–that we spring up everywhere. Quickly, incessantly. That we constantly get in the way of the ideals the world is trying to sew. That we are so numerous we cannot be counted. That we spread our seeds of faith far and wide, caring not about our selves, but about the message we’re spreading. That we care little for where we are, so long as we’re where He planted us.

There’s beauty, yes, in that grand oak tree planted and fed by the water. There’s beauty in the strong and sure, in the fact that such a huge tree can grow from a little seed. There’s beauty in the scads of animals that eat of it and rest in its shade.

But don’t dismiss the weed. The weed is vital to nature–it’s just to man and his desire to control his environment that it’s a nuisance. Exactly what Christianity should be. Make me a dandelion, Lord. Make me milkweed. Made me a tumbleweed. I don’t need man’s praise and glory–I need only to spread Your word.

Throwback Thursday – When History Was Tragedy

Throwback Thursday – When History Was Tragedy

This week…I am taking a MUCH needed vacation. So I pulled something from the archives to share today. Typically, when I pull an archived post, I pull a Thoughtful post…but this one struck me today. Post first published 8/10/2014.

 

Much of my last week has been consumed by Veiled at Midnight, the next book WhiteFire will put out–and the last one this year, other than my A Soft Breath of Wind. I know I already touched briefly on this in my Word of the Week post, but it bears talking about more. Because oh my goodness. This book…
 
In the first book of Christine Lindsay’s Twilight of the British Raj series, I was introduced to India, with all its vastness, its crowds, its spices and colors and dizzying politics. I got a taste of the British Raj (rule) and what it meant to the Indians, and I met a villain who kept the characters on their toes. In the second book, I learned more about the struggle between the Sikhs, the Muslims, the Hindus, and the minority of Christians. About the sweeping epidemics and the lingering effects of World War I.
 
In this book, I saw a nation destroyed by its cry for independence. I saw neighbor turn on neighbor because of their religion, places of peace become fields of battle. The author, in her historical note, says that low estimates of the number of civilians killed in the riots surrounding the Partition that separated India and Pakistan was 20,000. High estimates are close to 1,000,000.
 
This is not a happy backdrop. It’s tragic, it’s suffocating, and it’s…true.
 
So why do I love the book? For the same reason I usually love a book. Because somehow there’s hope amidst the tragedy. Somehow there’s the power of love–our love for each other and Christ’s love for us–overcoming, here and there, the power of hate. Somehow the characters find their true identities, their true worth, their true strength, when the streets are flowing red with blood.
 
That’s one of the themes of the book, actually. Red. Dassah, our Indian heroine, wanted a red sari for her wedding, because red is the color of Joy. But as violence took over her land, red became associated with blood instead. The color of violence, of death, of tragedy. But then, eventually, another thought occurs. Red is also the color of Another’s blood that was shed, and shed to save us.
 
I didn’t know much about the Partition before I read Veiled at Midnight, but wow, did I learn a lot–in that organic way that has always been why I love historical fiction. I got to meet some historical figures, and I got to view the riots through many sets of eyes, all with different views but a shared love for India, a shared pain at her suffering.
 
Best-selling author MaryLu Tyndall had the right of it when she said, “Rarely do I find a book that touches my soul in such a deep place.” This one’s going to stick with me for a long, long time.
Throwback Thursdays – The Joy

Throwback Thursdays – The Joy


I’ve blogged several times over the years about JOY. What it is, how it’s action and choice and not emotion, how it compares to happiness. In some ways, this post from six years ago started it all, so I thought we’d do a revisit. =)
Last week the small Bible study group I belong to began a study focused around James. I’ve always loved this little book of the Bible, so I was pretty happy to learn that’s what we would be studying. My hubby’s leading us this time, and I know he has always loved James too. We had a great discussion centering around this:
“”Consider it Joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
I memorized this verse as a teenager. I’ve known it for years. I think about it fairly often. But I’d never examined it like we did on Friday. Consider it comes from a verb that carries a lot of weight. It doesn’t just mean “name it.” It doesn’t just mean “say it is, whether you think it or not.” It means to dwell on it, to journey through it, to arrive at it, to bring it to Joy. It’s a process, one that involves our minds.
Another key word there is when. Not if. When we fall into trials. We’re going to, that’s not a question. In this world, trouble and sorrow find us no matter whether we’re wicked or righteous. (On a side note, I’ve also been reading the book of Job, and the commentators have been stressing how Job’s assertion that a good man could suffer like he is flew in the face of the Wisdom doctrine of the day.)
Which led to another good point in our discussion, when one of our friends related how someone had just that day asked, basically, “But why? Why do bad things happen to good people?”
It’s an age-old question. Such an age-old question that I’d pretty much stopped considering it and figured everyone else in the world had too, LOL. But obviously it still bothers people. It was pretty silly of me to think otherwise. Because yes, we always ask why. We always ask what we did to deserve a bad turn. We always get angry when someone we love is hurt or dies, or when we do everything right and still seem to be punished. When we lose our jobs. When we suffer injury or illness. When, when, when…
But something hit me while we were talking about that. Not a new thought, I’m sure, but a striking one.
How are we defined, if not by how we react to those trials? What makes us who we are if not whether we stand or fail in the face of adversity?
It isn’t about bad things happening to good people. Bad things happen to everyone. It’s how we respond to them that makes us good or bad.
(“Good” and “Bad” probably aren’t the right words there, actually…)
See, life isn’t about being happy. That’s part of it, and obviously a part we love. But Joy is something more. Joy isn’t about circumstances. If it was, then how could James have possibly told us to consider trouble and trials a Joy? It would be insensible.
But Joy is that something-deeper we can arrive it. It’s that knowing that, even when we don’t feel it, God is good. That even when we’re in the valley, the mountain top is waiting. That even through the pain, there’s Someone holding us and loving us.
Joy is finding the beauty in the clouds of the approaching storm (inspired by that photo above I took at the beach last summer). Joy is knowing that when something is yanked out from under you, it’s because God has a different plan. Joy is in the journey of trusting Him, that long road where you learn so much. Joy is in looking back and realizing that if that terrible thing hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t be who you are today.
Joy is in trusting that day will come even when you’re still in the terrible thing.
Joy isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be. But the things worth fighting for are just that–worth fighting for. We need to fight for our Joy. We need to stop focusing on the things this instant-gratification world tells us will make us happy and start focusing on what will make us better. On what will make us stronger. On what will make us raise our hands and praise Him through the storm.
You know that phrase we sing to that hand-clapping, upbeat melody? We bring the sacrifice of praise…
It’s a sacrifice. That means it’s hard. It’s rough. It’s supposed to hurt. That’s what praise is. Praise is giving Him that shout when we don’t feel it. When we can’t understand it. When the questions are bigger than the answers.

Praise is considering the Joy. Considering it–that trial, that trouble–a Joy.
Nope, it’s not easy. But that’s what makes it beautiful.
Throwback Thursday – Writing and Passion

Throwback Thursday – Writing and Passion



Original post published 4/30/2015

Passion: though its current definition involves “any strong feeling,” it has its roots in pain. Passion comes straight from the Latin passio, which means, quite simply, “suffering.”

So our English idea of being passionate about something…it means not just something we feel strongly about, but something we’re willing to suffer for.
Susan Meissner pointed this out in a great class at ACFW one year, along with the question of “Are we really willing to suffer for our writing? Are we passionate about it?” And went on to say that for many writers, herself included, the answer was no. She was willing to work really hard at it, but it was a career. She loved it, but it didn’t deserve the word passion.
Another writer, very well respected and often ground-breaking, just said something similar. That when it came down to it, there’s not much she’d give up for writing. 
It made me realize anew that I’m not in that camp. Susan Meissner began that aforementioned class by breaking down writers into 3 groups–those who write as a hobby, those who write as a job, and those who write as a ministry. She was speaking to the middle group.
I belong to the ministry group. Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different. But I’ve recently heard a lot of voices talking very wisely and thoroughly about the Career group, and I wanted to take some time to examine the Ministry aspect.
I have said many times that I write for the same reason that I breathe: because I must. I have written before about “Being a Writer and Zombies” LOL and how even if the world as I knew it was obliterated and I was on the run for years at a time, I would write (albeit just in my head, telling stories around the campfire). If writing fiction became illegal, I would write. It isn’t a choice to me, it isn’t a job, it isn’t something I do–it’s who I am. It’s how I process. It’s how I think.
More, it’s how I fulfill the Great Commission.
I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at a MOPS group two weeks ago, which is something I’ve done before and always love. I’m about the same age as most of the women there, my kids are just recently out of that “pre-schoolers” age, and I can relate to them on a lot of different levels. I love talking to them about juggling their home life with other passions, which is what I was talking about this time too, and about my publishing story.
Afterward, one of the ladies said something to me that I’ve heard before, LOL. “It’s so fun hearing you talk about this–you’re so passionate about it!” (When I’m speaking to older crowds, that often gets paired with “It’s so adorable how excited you are!”)
But that’s me. I get excited about writing, about books, about the stories I get to tell. I get excited about how God has worked in my life to bring me to this point, and the ways He has used my books in the lives of His children. I get excited about what’s to come.
And yes–I’m willing to suffer for it. Because the written word is my mission field. Telling stories is how I spread the Gospel and share God’s truths. Yes, I had to learn the career side–how to follow the rules of writing, how to appeal to readers and editors, how to get my books out into those readers’ hands (otherwise it’s not much of a mission field!), and I work hard at it. But if that were taken away from me, if I could no longer get books out there, I’d still write stories–and I’d still get them to as many people as I could.

There are so many reasons to write. So many ways to treat it. So many things it can be even to someone like me who considers it a ministry, a calling. Yes, I want it to entertain. Yes, I want to write the best I possibly can. Yes, I want to keep learning how to make my books successful. No, I certainly don’t want my stories to ever come across as an agenda.

But that’s the beauty, to me. If I pursue this thing I’m called to wholeheartedly, I know that God will give me those truths to write into my stories. I know I’ll continue to understand God’s love better and better by exploring relationships and family through writing. I know my stories will get better and better as stories, and that the better they get, the more they’ll be able to fulfill their purpose on a spiritual level too.
For those of us whose writing is a ministry, the question of “Why do we do it?” always comes back to “Because that’s how we serve Him.” And because that’s my reason, it makes me view things like low sales and setbacks in a whole different light. Obviously, I want my books to be successful–as in, reach lots of people–but more, I want them to be used by Him. Ideally, the two will go hand in hand. But if not, if my sales are awful but I’m still getting notes from people telling me how my books opened their eyes or touched their hearts or made them redefine their faith…well then, I’m doing my job.
It’s not always easy. It doesn’t always seem worthwhile. It certainly isn’t always logical. It can’t always be quantified. But that’s true of most ministries, isn’t it? We serve, we give, we fight for the right to do so. We falter, we weep, we wonder if it will ever make a difference. Then we get up again and keep serving. Because it’s part of who we are.
It’s a little odd that writing is something you can do for so many different reasons–after all, not many people choose “missionary” as a career simply because they think they have a way with people and words and it seems like a good career choice. That’s one that most people will do only as a calling, a ministry. But writing can be a talent, a gift much like good math skills or engineering acumen. It can be a job that goes hand-in-hand with ministry. It can be so many different things.
But if you’re pursuing it, it’s a good idea to identify why you are. What it means to you. What you’re willing to give up for it, and what you’re not. For many fabulous writers, they’re not willing to give up much to pursue writing. For others, there’s not much they won’t give up to pursue writing. How awesome that God can use us all. =)