Psithurism

I do not have now nor have I ever had an exceptionally green thumb. Green is my favorite color and I love to be outside. The appreciation of the smell of grass, trees, and dark dirt runs deep in my veins. I come from a long line of bare feet preferred to shoes.

legs-1149846_1280My Mama’s mama, my Mam-Maw was green before it was even a thing. She composted before it had a name in hoity-toity magazines as a way of enriching one’s soil. She never discarded a non-biodegradable milk jug in the trash. She repurposed them into bird feeders, kitchen scrap collectors, toilet brush holders, and ice water containers. She would fill them with water from her kitchen tap and place them in her ancient non-frost free refrigerator. I can still remember my sister and I scraping the “little ice” from her freezer and eating it – we ate shaved ice before it was even a thing! That milk jug ice water was the coldest and best tasting water. I’ve had all manner of bottled waters since and they all pale in comparison.

She’d take a brown paper grocery sack and reuse it until it was soft and leathery-like and no longer good for hauling stuff to and fro and then she’d cut it up for us “youngins” to play with. I’ve purchased many a pretend item from an imaginary store with tender made from paper bag scraps. She made clothes from old Jim Dandy feed sacks, and she could and did make an entire quilt out of scraps of fabric. I doubt she ever called it “repurposing” or “reusing” or “reducing” she seemed to believe everything, even bits of rubbish deserved a second chance at life, and she aimed to accommodate.

robin-3474979_1280She loved trees, she loved to watch them and smell them. She would go outside, sit, and then she’d grow quiet. She would speak only to point out a squirrel nest or a particular kind of bird home. She used to tell me that each of her grandkids was represented by a particular kind of bird. I wish I’d had the foresight then to remember everyone’s. I only remember mine. A Robin red breast, she’d say “because they are unique and Mamie you are a unique youngin.” She saw something in me I reckon that I didn’t and evidently the Robin red breast had the same qualities.

The trees and outside seemed to give her life and as I’ve gotten older I’ve witnessed my mama head out-of-doors for some life giving and soul filling. As I have gotten older, I to do the same. I have a particular place in the backyard that serves to recharge me when I am depleted mind, body, and soul. I talk to the King there and listen to the breeze whisper through the leaves. It never ceases to amaze me that wind through trees sounds so much like rushing water in a stream. All of my senses are fed as I sit in the quiet of that place. Often I will leave my phone inside so as not to be distracted by the things of this world, half an hour there can fill me up for ten fold that time of pouring out.

birch-bright-countryside-618608.jpgI was spending an afternoon doing the aforementioned, when I thought about life-giving trees. As I exhaled deeply, the thought that my carbon dioxide would be turned into oxygen confirmed that life-giving hypothesis. I pondered on and chatted with the King and I recollected another kind of life-giving tree. The one my precious King was nailed to. The tree that ran red with blood spilled so that I could enter the Holy of Holies and talk freely with the God of the universe. A tree that lent itself to an unimaginable death so that I, we, could be part of a new covenant established and be in relationship with God.

I recently learned that Psithurism is the name given by science to the sound of the wind through the trees. I also learned that spirit in the Greek is pneuma, or breath. Perhaps the Creator purposely designed it so that when that pneuma, or spirit, was breathed into us, a holy CPR of sorts took place. The catalyst for that Life resuscitation began on that tree with the death of Jesus. Death defeated and the King resurrected.

My Mam-maw wasn’t super theological. Her eighth grade education carried her as far as possible given her difficult life and hard economic times. She knew the Bible. She couldn’t really quote the Word verbatim, she would have buckled if she would have had to preach a sermon, but preach she did. A different kind of preaching I suppose, the kind where words are few and actions speak loudly. She loved the Creator and she valued His creation, I strongly suspect that is why she honored it the way she did.

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Treading Water

She calls it the Lord’s Pool, God’s Pool on occasion. I have no idea why, but if I had to guess I would say that I told her it was His pool because He provided the way to go there.
As long as she’s been alive it has been a staple in the Martin Summer. My niece Ellie Grace, gets to spend a large majority of the summer as a Martin and because we frequent the pool so does she. That particular pool became a part of our everyday many years ago.

It all started one summer some years back, to date one of the most difficult summers for Scott Martin and myself. We were ill-equipped house parents at the local children’s home. We had 3 unique Martins of our own, a home full of diverse and unique children, and some marital trials that we just were not equipped to sort through. The pool became beach-children-enjoyment-870170.jpga welcome and frequent diversion. I remember spending those first of many pool-going times counting. Counting people to make sure all were afloat, no one had drowned on my watch. I also spent a lot of time treading water. Hours in the deep end turned to days it seemed. Teaching children the art of something that is second nature to me, something I could do long before I could walk. Reaching for little hands extended in my direction constantly encouraging and cheering on, “just a little farther, you can do it.” Reassuring time and again that the water was nothing to be really afraid of but to be watchful and on the alert at all times, a healthy fear, is what my Mama calls it.

I spent time squeezing those same wet extremities into puddle jumpers and arm floaties. Applying layer after layer of sunscreen. I applied sunscreen like layers of sealant covering sun exposed bodies. Countless cans, bottles, tubes in all manner of SPF but none less than 30, have sacrificed themselves in the name of UV protection within its enclosure. I’ve secretly often wondered if all that sunscreen has left a hole in the ozone just above this tiny oasis. And I would tread water, sometimes for hours. Trying with everything that is in me to stay afloat. I would cheer from the water as wobbly terrified knees made their way to the end of the diving board, the dull thud typical accompaniment for the inexperienced jumper in contrast to the high-pitched clang of the experienced diver.

I’ve judged multiple cannonball, back buster, belly buster, toothpick, can opener, and amateur diving contests, all the while I would tread water. Unable to take hold of anything but the water itself. I’ve witnessed countless Mamas utter words I’ve uttered myself and seen record numbers of cardboard crust pizza place pizzas make their way there, their boxes discarded in the familiar garbage cans that dot the perimeter. Things have changed, yet somehow they seem to stay the same, and I would tread water. I would return home exhausted and energized all at the same time. My own stringy wet hair, sun-kissed shoulders, and “noodle legs” proof of the day’s adventure. The deep never alarming or scary to me, but exhausting just the same.

I’ve packed thousands of pool snacks in all manner to feed the hungry masses declaring their starvation. Their behavior and famished declarations would lead you to think they’d never seen food. Needless to say, a mere 30 minutes before they had devoured a Popsicle from the snack room freezer purchased with quarters from a ziplock bag that is itself a staple in the pool bag. The plastic ziplock bag of coinage shares space with books that have worn and tattered covers, dog-eared pages made that way from constant trips home and back alongside soggy towels and pool toys. I carry them just in case, not because they’ve actually been read, because they haven’t. To date, I can not think of one book I’ve actually started and finished there.

benches-clouds-daytime-832975.jpgThese trees that surround that place have witnessed much. In the Martin home alone it witnessed, Ellie Grace’s first steps, the emotional caution that always follows a period of uncertainty, countless refereed arguments amongst those named Martin, milestone birthdays, a visiting raccoon that had a hankering for sweets, his craving quickly satisfied by said arguing Martins. Each upcoming school year lesson plans laid out and navigated on the umbrella covered wrought iron table, none exceptionally level, but very functional all the same.

The Martins have always had an uncanny knack for ushering in thunder, requiring a 20 minute hiatus. I don’t mind the hiatus so much yet the snack bag is given a workout.

The items of the lost and found have never stayed lost for very long, the Martins have a way of finding something lost or broken and giving it purpose. Recently a game of “whack-a-mole” was played in the 4 ft by Charlotte and Shelton with an abandoned and faded pink noodle. Imagination, necessity, and discarded rubbish are the makings of invention for the Martins.

As time has passed and much has changed and much has stayed the same, I find that I don’t tread water as much. I’m finding that the investment early on is paying off. I suppose that pool, the summers are an allegory of parenting itself. Invest early, do your dead level best not to drown or let someone else drown, and when they are older they’ll take to the water with a healthy fear, never fully aware of the sacrifice that was made on their behalf. As second nature to them as anything, and they will pass that art on to their very own.

The King’s Word says something to that effect:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The days of being waterlogged and weary have turned into life lessons and memories that they will carry with them forever. Ellie Grace named it the Lord’s Pool and it is indeed, both metaphorically and literally. I am beginning to understand that all those days of treading water, I was never alone, laughter was never in short supply, and watchful eyes from above were always present.

Featured photo (edited):
Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 
01.29.2015,
CLEMSON, SC, UNITED STATES
108th Training Command- Initial Entry Training

Good Days, Bad Days

Some days are harder than others, some are chocked full of joy and pleasure, days when a vacation is far from one’s mind. Then there are some days that are down right difficult, from one hard thing to another, the stuff weariness and depletion are made of. Most days are a mixture. Glimpses of both joy and hardship, the mundane and exciting all rolled together, the determination at the end of it all a good or bad day contingent on which of those was the majority.

Recently I had one of those days when at the end of it all I could not determine which of those it was. It began later than it should’ve as I had a restless and sleepless night before, sleep that was tainted with weird dreams not nightmarish but not exactly fun. The kinds of dreams when one awakens one finds herself groping for reality and a sense of “did that really happen?” As I stumbled to the breakfast table, waking Martins along my way, we congregated at the breakfast table.

A weekend of BLAST fun, lack of sleep and routine was catching up. The youngest Martin fresh off a “bad weekend” where at one point she reminded me of someone who had been on a bender still reflected in her dark brown eyes. We were a sight to behold, a group of weary souls seated around our hand-me-down kitchen table.

“Find a verse or scripture and tell me about it.”

I knew, I know that soul refreshment and strength for the weary could be found in the King’s word. We all needed to hear it as much as I needed them to say it. Ragged Bibles spread open amongst cereals and milk, bananas, frozen and rewarmed egg rolls, quick warmed biscuits with homemade jam, leftover pizza and a cup of coffee in a chipped Jesus mug.

The verses chosen were as diverse as the breakfasts.

A verse in the beginning and how it was good, light brought forth from darkness and how we are light, reminders that The King is a strong tower and shelters His own, a comfort and very present help in times of trouble. A memo to the Martin 5 who don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you, a reminder that the battle isn’t ours but His. We adjourned our impromptu meeting and headed to quickly get dressed and brush new braces and orthodontia appliances, put on deodorants and be ready in 10 minutes as now we were late.

We kissed Daddy goodbye, headed to the car and began our trip to doctors, errands, and art. We played “The compliment game” at the youngest’s insistence. She was finally beginning to come around and I gave in to her characteristic pleas; they were a welcome return. We traversed roads and I was glad to see a recliner sitting in the median of 280 because I honestly thought I’d lost my mind last week when I was the only one who had seen it when we’d whizzed by it.

We stopped by a favorite library for “just a minute” and checked out an anticipated movie sequel. We made it to art just in time and by the time I put my tired ol’ mini van in park I was so glad to not be in motion and for an hour to not have to think.

I relinquished the Martins to a favorite art class and for a moment I was still. Within an hour we were back at it again, headed to the pharmacy and back home before dark. flatfoot-76564_1280.jpgWhen the tire blew out I simply stated the obvious and the drive to a safe spot was a difficult one.

I delegated tasks, thrust the van manual in the direction of the panicked one and said, “Sit. Read this and tell me what to do.” The panicked one had no way of knowing this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew what to do. The outnumbered male went to work, as if it were a second nature to jacking and loosening and changing.

“I’ve got this mom.” I marveled at how literal moments before he’d “Bob Rossed” his artwork and now he was changing a tire. I knelt and helped and reminded and encouraged. When the spare was put on we were pleased with our work, but once was the van was down we were as deflated as it was. A flat spare. I almost cried. It was getting darker; the day nearly caught up with me.

About the time I almost lost it, Fred, who works at Valspar, who wore a yellow shirt, offered to help inflate the flat spare tire. I wanted to say to Fred, the obvious, that the youngest had been struggling for days and so had her Mama and Daddy, the middle was on the Autism spectrum and that wasn’t all black grease in his hands, some of it was paint. I wanted to shout that the oldest beautiful soul may be quiet but I could tell by the look on her face she was churning inside. I wanted to scream that the doctor’s office doesn’t call you anymore when your lab results are sketchy, they send you a text and tell you to follow-up in a few months instead of a year and end their text with their perceived rhetoric of healthy living, diet and exercise, use of sunscreen and cheery call if you have questions closing.

I looked at Fred, and all I could say was, “Thank you.” Soon he returned with a good as new spare, his yellow shirt smudged and stained with black. I thanked him again and he told us to be careful. Daddy was now on his way and as the night sky began to show itself we continued on our way. When we arrived home I discovered the frozen dinner I had planned to cook was still frozen and cold; Scott Martin had hesitated to break the bad news to me. As I cooked an alternate dinner and we congregated back at the kitchen table. We thanked the King for supper, protection and healing. We asked for provision and continued as aforementioned. Everyone complimented the chef on her preparation of fish-sticks and potatoes from a box. Her instant pudding dessert was “so good can we eat it for breakfast tomorrow?!”

Some days are hard, others are harder, but there is One who is true, who sends glimpses of Grace and confirmation in the midst of the chaos, reminders that He who begins a good work will bring it to completion and that He is at work even if I don’t think He is.

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Sweet Speech

My traveling companions were weary, I was weary. The plane was packed with weary travelers. There were 30 rows, 6 across. I am not a mathematical genius but last I checked that meant there were at least 180 passengers on that jam-packed airliner from the cozy airport in Colorado to the big Dallas one we had been diverted to. I was in the middle seat closest to the lavatory and the airplane kitchenette. I could clearly hear the airline attendants conversation as we were in flight and then later as preparations were made for landing.

They had been cheerful, willingly handing out sodas, pretzels and such. In my mind I was already mapping out the next step, we had been delayed at the Cozy airport, a canceled flight to be exact. The experienced Traveler in our caravan had declared that an outright canceled flight was not an experience she could recall. Yet there we were, essentially stranded but knowing that the King had His hand on us. We had dedicated our trip to Him, in fact it was His business that had taken the four of us Gardendale area girls across the country to the Shadow of Pikes Peak. For several days we had trained together, cried together, eaten together, taken pictures, and most importantly prayed together. In the final moments of that unplanned flight into Dallas though, those memories and thoughts were in the far corners of my mind. Getting to the gate labeled Birmingham, was my priority. As I listened to the sounds in the kitchenette, I had already determined who was in charge that night, which of those ladies who had served us pretzels and demonstrated how to buckle seat belts and place oxygen masks on “in the event of an emergency.” Each had been tasked with a job and I could discern who was who among that flight crew.

aircraft-2104594_1280I had likened this crew of ladies to teams I had worked with in the past, the experienced and usually in charge one, the funny one, the chatty one, the one who missed her baby and was more than ready to be home, the just-there-because-she-had-to-be one. They were a familiar lot, although I had never actually met them until just a few hours before.

The Baby-misser had spent much of the short flight in the kitchenette talking about child care options. I sympathized. I had been there, I recollected a time when I worked the night shift, dropped my littles off at Mother’s Day Out, and while other mamas were grocery shopping and doing the things out for which Mother’s Day Out was intended, I made my way to my minivan parked beneath a shade tree, where I proceeded to crawl into the back and sleep for a few hours until the appointed pickup time. Those days were hard, a different kind of hard than the current days. Those days when my littles were little were physically exhausting. Days when a trip to the Big Box Store never meant leaving without diapers and wipes. Now the trips to Big Box store yield no more diapers but more in the way of copious amounts of foodstuffs and costly plug-in things. I find in comparison the days of late are emotionally exhausting more than physically. My teenage children sleep and sleep, something my Littles rarely did.

I was pulled back into reality as the Leader echoed words of sympathy and exhorted the Baby-Misser to press on. She offered a few words of sage advice and was interrupted by the Funny one hanging up the special phone and giving a hearty “Hmmph.” I listened between closing compartments and announcements of time and temperature awaiting us in Dallas and then the leader made the statement of the day.

“Sugar Up Girls. That plane is not getting in. It’s been delayed.”

Groans of frustration from the kitchenette. I surmised her years of experience had taught her that the cliché that “more flies can be caught with honey versus vinegar” must have proven to be true. As the leader of the pack she was telling her girls, that they were about to meet a lot of grumpy flies and it just might prove beneficial to be sweet rather than sour.

I giggled as she said that and My companion to my left looked at me with her large dark, expressive eyes (sometimes she reminds me of a Margaret Keane painting) and smiled. Clearly my jovial manner was puzzling. I wondered what the King’s word had to say about the matter. As my friend and I buckled and prepared for landing I made a note about the Sugared Up Flight Attendants and carried on with the awaiting journey ahead.

Sometime later as I was recalling that night, I searched the King’s Word and found in Proverbs the following:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 

The Experienced and In Charge One had been right all along. I wonder how many times my speech had been like sour vinegar, my words more hurtful than helpful. Multiple I reckon. How many times should I or could I have “sugared up” before I spoke? Too many to count. May I be challenged to “Sugar Up” more often and my speech be like sweetness and healing to the body.

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Good Medicine

A joyful heart is good medicine,But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

 

Sometimes I go through life so distracted that I hardly notice the world around me. Sometimes my mind is so far from my body, it’s a wonder I stay in one piece. I am not consistently that way though. Sometimes I notice such small details that they serve to bog me down and overwhelm me. I find myself perseverating about those details and become so distracted and weary I feel like I am moving through molasses in December.

This recently happened on a trip to the doctor. It was pouring down rain outside, I had been running late, the parking was terrible, the waiting room filled. I appeared to be the youngest patient that afternoon. I was weary to my bones and found myself sluggish and overwhelmed.

maxresdefaultA bright pink scrub clad young lady was steadily opening the door that led to the back, calling names and waiting patiently for her elderly patients to rise and make their way toward her. I noticed that many of them had names popular for infants. Names like Eleanor, Everett, Henry, Sylvia. It tickled me as I recalled the King’s Word that says there is nothing new under the sun.

As the waiting room emptied I found myself alone. Seated amongst tattered magazines, a clearly outdated one boasted a new Baby Princess, per my recollection that Princess is now somewhere around 3 years old. There was a tool magazine “where good tools come first.” “Versus what?” I wondered, “where Bad tools come first? Or maybe last?”

As I reached for the outdated Princess magazine my hand felt something wobble beneath it. I hadn’t even noticed. I took a second glance to see what I had touched, and noticed an ant farm. I shook my head. Was this my overactive imagination again? Had I just imagined next to the tattered magazines, pages softened by mindless flipping in an effort to pass the time… had I just imagined an Ant farm? Surely not. What would an Ant farm be doing in a doctor’s office?

I looked again, ant farm presence confirmed. I had a mental image and thought predictively, “This is not going to end well.”

ant.farm.14Taped to the top of the Ant farm was a small piece of paper, it read , “Press the lid down firmly all the way to avoid ants escaping.”

Suspicion confirmed. That sign was there for a reason, it hadn’t ended well. Ants had indeed escaped previously, someone or someones needed a written reminder to keep said ants contained.

I started to laugh. The kind of laugh that used to occur whilst I was in church, the kind of laugh that one absolutely can not control and will result in a pinch on the right shoulder from one’s disapproving Mama. The kind of laughter that occurs when one’s 14-year-old cousin has just stuffed the nostrils of Mrs. So-and-So’s “for real fox stole” with paper balls. Every week that foxes nostrils would be cleared of the white occlusions, just so said 14 year old cousin could send one into hysterics yet again. It was a vicious cycle that yielded unrelenting laughter. The kind of laughter where a whole body shakes and tears come to one’s eyes, the kind of laughter that can not be stopped no matter how much one desires to do so. That kind of laughter simply has to run its course and will often give way to side pains and a stomach ache.

Proverbs 17:22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

I can say honestly as I went to the doctor that day I went in search of feeling better, good medicine as it were, but in His goodness the King allowed me to see the very thing that would lead me to the medicine to my soul. Laughter. After that hearty giggle I felt better already and I hadn’t even actually seen the doctor yet, but the Great Physician had seen me and brought joy to my heart and laughter to my weary soul.

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Hold Fast to the Work for Which You Have Been Created

PHOTO: By Bob Key – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=757094

 

“Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin’?”

Scott Martin and I often speak in a language of movie one liners. This here is one of our frequent and favorites. It was the first thing I thought of when I was looking at the television at 3:00am for the 6th day in a row.

I am not unaccustomed to seeing the middle of the night. My older and less flexible body these days doesn’t choose to see 3:00 am if it can help it. Back in the olden days I was likely to hit the wall at 4am way back when the night shift was the work requirement. Work that would yield naps in the back of a minivan while kids were at a mom’s day out, naps in a bedroom sleeping in front of a door so no one escaped. Hours of sleep in increments more than a few hours were more valuable than the gold backed dollars that said sleep deprivation was yielding.

Anxiety Sickness and a persistent cough had gifted me with my old 3am foe. As I sat wide-eyed and hacking on the sofa I was clearly perturbed. I thought about the last time I had been this sick, when Shelton and I were marooned on a sofa island amidst quilts and pillows. In between his feverish episodes he would declare frequently how much he loved me. As difficult as they were, those days were some of my most treasured.

This time I found myself alone on the couch, the lone sick one. The other Martins had yet to succumb to the infirmary that I’d met first. As I sat on the couch I’d made my way to a random PBS channel. In the middle of the night a woodworking show was on featured a blacksmith. I was vaguely familiar with the show as I have caught Scott Martin watching – not because he’s skilled or fond of woodworking but because he likes the music featured on the show, a throwback to old-time sound likely played by misfit bands. Instruments made of strings and harmonies carried over from home countries. It is highly probable the music accompanied a coming together of neighbors for a barn raising or work day, women scurrying about with food preparation, a variety of kitchen delicacies meant to be shared. A buffet of foods all homemade, for the Publix deli was years from invention, kids playing with sticks and dirt, cellphones and electronic entertainment centuries away… Perhaps not. Perhaps my overactive imagination combined with sleep deprivation and a longing for simplicity and fellowship yield such assumptions. I digress…again…

hf7-1356The smithy was crafting a “hold fast,” an L shaped tool meant to hold a wood working project in place, a tool of old when smiths and metallurgic arts were part of the everyday. My mind wandered to a verse with a keyword of the same name,

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 English Standard Version (ESV)

Hold fast, to hold firm. I watched as intently as my sleep deprived eyes would allow. I noticed the difference in the shape and size of the French and English hold fasts. The English hold fast not as curvy and weighty as the French inspired holdfast.

The host would occasionally comment to the Smithy as he would “strike while the iron is hot.” I had heard that phrase many times, maybe even said it. I googled the origin of the phrase and was informed via the internet,

“This old proverb clearly alludes to the imagery of the blacksmith or farrier at his forge. If he delays in shaping the iron when it is hot and pliable, the metal soon cools and hardens and the opportunity is lost.

The expression is recorded in Richard Edwards’, “The excellent comedie of two the moste faithfullest freendes, Damon and Pithias, circa 1566.” (Phrases.org.UK)

The expression becoming appreciated more and more as the metal piece was more malleable, able to be shaped into the desired shape, while it was the once straight pieces of steel taking shape into L shaped pieces of useable metal that were designed for a specific purpose.

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If those fired pieces could speak and feel I reckoned they would say the shaping was painful, but once fired and made, the soft metal could be shaped so much more easily than the cold metal would have been. In essence that suffering led to shaping those pieces into an object that could be used for its intended purpose.

When used, the holdfast was so strong the entire workbench could be lifted, the holdfast acting as a handle. The holdfast was essential in the art of woodworking, planing, and all other manner of terms used to which I am not even vaguely familiar.

I wondered if in the Kingdom, I and those I know, weren’t holdfasts of sorts. Those who have endured sufferings that shaped who they were, those who feel that they aren’t all that important in the Kingdom, they aren’t famous, or clergy, missionaries or those on the front lines of ministry. Those have had moments of thinking they aren’t all that important in the kingdom, those thoughts followed up with “I’m not all that important, I just (insert seemingly unimportant title here).” In the case of the holdfast, “I just hold down a piece of wood.” Maybe in the Kingdom you (and admittedly I) feel just like that.

The reality is that a holdfast is crucial in shaping those pieces of wood into grooves and curves, beautiful trims and flooring, the things homes are made of. The pieces of architecture we take classes in college to appreciate. The “craftsmanship” the Antique Roadshow folks get giddy over. The items that cause experts to do their dead level best to remain composed, but when pointing out such “details” and “workmanship” their voices go an octave higher and they interject adjectives like “phenomenal” or “amazing” statements like “simply incredible” or “I have never seen another one like it.”

I’ve watched that show a time or two and they have never said, “This woodworking master must have had an incredible holdfast, for without it this beautiful piece would not have been possible for the craftsman to create. Your prized piece is worth a gazillion dollars because the holdfast was in fine working order.” Nope they NEVER say that. They, to my knowledge have not acknowledged that crucial tool. That L shaped piece of steel whose job it was to hold-fast. Yet so seemingly unimportant but when confronted with the bigger picture, the value of hindsight one can see clearly how important that seemingly unimportant item was.

The smitty in the show had a replica of a third type of holdfast, an American model. He made a statement that it was thought to have been from the 18th century, discarded in the early days of our country. It had been unearthed somewhere in what was one of original 13 colonies. The American model looked different from the English and French models but the overall shape was the same, purpose the same.

Some of us, some of you are the holdfasts of the Kingdom. The Master Craftsman, the Creator having used our sufferings to shape us into useable pieces, those who do the unseen jobs that without, the frontliners, those fine seemingly more important pieces or workmanship, would not be possible.

The Kingdom needs holdfasts, those willing to do the unseen, the not so glorious, those created for just that purpose. On the days when I am tempted to believe what I am doing doesn’t matter, that if I weren’t doing that (insert seemingly unimportant or menial task here) it really wouldn’t matter, I am going to think of those holdfasts and remember that I am the King’s workmanship and that as long as I am doing what He has called me to do, created me to do, there is no unimportant or meaningless task in Kingdom work.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

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Lesson from the Lunch Bunch

Every Wednesday during the school year I find myself hanging out with some women and children who hunger for the King and His word. It’s a unique kind of Bible Study and it has stretched me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. My friends and I dive in deep, firmly plant ourselves and invest into eternity for the majority of the Day. I have several roles there but one of my favorites it to be the facilitator for the Sheep Lunch Bunch Opening Ceremony.

The open ceremony is when the Sheep friends (Preschoolers to Kindergartners) open their lunches. I instituted the Opening Ceremony some years ago when the chaos of 18 preschoolers all opening their packed-at-home lunches at the same time was too much for me to handle. In those early days there was much confusion over whose Lunchable that was or whose Mama didn’t pack a surprise snack, there are always cheers for the Mama who did. The kid whose Mama packs him raisins every single week, who has yet to tell her he doesn’t like raisins, I sometimes wonder if he does like them every other day of the week. The opening of lunchables has repeatedly proven to be a challenge for pudgy preschool digits with limited dexterity. If one is not careful one can in a single motion sling every item from its individual compartment thus resulting in airborn cookies, cheese, all manner of meats and preschool sized snacks across the room. This never ends well. Tears are inevitable, confusion unavoidable and the day ruined. I had to find a way to bring order to the opening of the lunch boxes so I developed and instituted the Opening Ceremony. Now the eager Sheep have a method and organization to their lunch consumption. A laid out plan to adhere to.

First: Bottoms must be in chairs and Hands in the air.

Second: Everyone gets a dollop of hand sanitizer we “Rub, Rub, Rub tops and sides and Let it dry” The let it dry portion is usually accompanied by jazzy hands.

Third: We give a shout out to Jesus and give our prayer requests.

Prayer-Activities-for-Kids-504328300-585419773df78ce2c3b05c3cI never grow tired of this part. We’ve prayed for the Daddies, all the Daddies represented in the room, for dogs and cats, and Mommies. Hurt fingers and toes and loved ones whom I’ve never met. We have prayed for jobs and work and cars and all manner of things that make up the world we live in. We have celebrated birthdays and accomplishments, new baby brothers or sisters (there has been a repeated request that we pray for Mama because she says she’s gonna have a girl but it’s really gonna be a boy so a baby brudder can have a brudder too). We have thanked God for lunches and Bible study days, and most of all for Jesus Himself who loves us all dearly and without whom none of it would be possible or worth it.

Then there is the countdown, then carefully each one opens his or her lunch at the same time. Some of my adult friends and myself methodically work our way around the room opening packages and food bearing parcels. It is a fabulous good time, one that whets my own appetite for my own packed at home lunch not packed by my Mama but my own hand.

Typically by the time I eat my lunch I am ravenous, having spent the morning zooming too and fro, loving on kids and talking with ladies. Counting and sorting and crafting. Listening and talking, laughing and walking. Praying and studying. It is the makings of an exhausting but good day.

Recently during Opening Ceremony I had made my way to the lunch box of a Sheep friend when after I had opened the prepackaged food items I straightened and headed toward his neighbor to begin the opening process all over again. I felt a tug on my dinosaur tee shirt. My Sweet friend C. loves a dinosaur and has often been extremely impressed that I, a grown up, have worn a dino-tee-shirt “just for him.” I felt another pull on my shirt and looked down, inches from my face was an Uncrustable sandwich.
“Here.” he held the sandwich firm insisting I had forgotten something.

“I opened it Buddy”

“No-o-o You didn’t take off da crust!”

“It’s an UN-CRUST-able.”

“Yeah but you didn’t take off the crust!” Clearly frustrated with my lack of understanding he pointed to the crimped edge of the sandwich.

hqdefaultAs I stood there and tore the non-existing crust off of the sandwich, I mused that this must be how I am with the King. He has a plan, an excellent plan He moves about making sure I have all that I need. He had outlined repeatedly what I am supposed to do, yet somehow I find myself thrusting my proverbial sandwich his way, the one named for not having crust requesting He “Do something like take off the crust.”

I wonder if He looks at me quizzically, liked I looked at my 4 year old friend C. and thinks the obvious, “I’ve got this. I’ve got you. I am doing something. More than you know” yet at my insistence He takes the that Uncrustable of a situation and pulls that crimped edge off because he loves me, because He knows I am anxious about it and because He is kind.

My friend C. recently gave me a prized dino toy. It is a blue squishy T-rex. His Mama told me he sorted through eighteen other dinos to find the one he knew I would love. He was right, I do love it. I keep it in a bag and can readily access it. C. suggested I “squeeze it lots ‘cause it’s squishy.” I do as he suggested and I am reminded that the One who loves the Whole Wide World also loves me and that He was willing to go to extraordinary lengths because of that love. He did not shrink away from death, He intercedes on my behalf, and regularly peels the crust off my Uncrustable Sandwich.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Cease striving and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

Stand Firm

I have said before that we have a little wiener dog in our house. She is a mini-dachshund but I rarely spell dachshund correctly. Her name is Pepperoni Sausage Dog. We call her Pepper for short. She may weigh 5 pounds on a heavy day. She is a dog food snob, she only likes the cheap stuff from the General Dollar Store, she is playful and we have taught her to say “I Love You” and “Mama”. She is rotten to the core and loved like crazy by the Martin 3. I am her favorite for reasons I have yet to figure out. Maybe it is because I am the Alpha of this pack or the fact that I am the provider of that cheap dog food, or maybe it is that when I take a nap she likes to cuddle up close to me. She has taught me much since she became a Martin. I once wrote an entire blog about a lesson she taught me pertaining to the daddy in our house.

girl-2518950_1920She is stubborn and in some ways predictable. Often she seeks refuge with me, she climbs onto my chest and will back her hind end close to my face. I push her down, correct her. I would like to say she immediately obeys never to return to that behavior again; if I did say that it would be a complete lie. She gets down, turns her long reddish-brown sausage body back and proceeds to climb back atop my person.

Recently Shelton was playing with her, he was pretending to “get Mama” she tends to be very possessive of me and gave him a short bark to warn him I was not his, but instead I was hers. Shelton laughed (so did I) he outweighs her by forty times yet she barked as if they were the same size. She backed herself up and her 5 pound self honestly felt heavier to me. I noticed that she had so firmly planted her scrawny paws into my chest that she was giving the impression that she was heavier, bigger, she had anchored herself and had no intention of giving up her ground despite her gigantic opponent. In her little wiener dog brain she must’ve reasoned that I was hers and she wasn’t about to back down because she had the backing of the Alpha Mama. Her little paws were so firmly planted that they dug into me and I recoiled, as the moments progressed and her opponent teased attack, she got heavier. I commanded her perceived threat to “leave her alone” and he yielded. She became lighter but I was thinking back to the pressure she had exerted just moments before that.

The pressure that her 5 pound max body was exerting was becoming painful. Yet the more threatened she felt the firmer she stood. I soon put her down to begin my to-do list for the day, but that mini-wiener put me to pondering.

She looked at me as if to say, “I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Why’d you put me down?” She was standing her ground. She knows if push comes to shove I’ve got her back, well in her world anyway. If the kids won’t give her a tasty scrap, I likely will, even if by accident on my part, by way of kitchen messiness and clumsiness. She knows that I will make sure she is snug in a bed when it is cold and that she has lots of time in the backyard to chase lizards, chipmunks and other wiener foe. She knows and is secure in that. She knew if she firmly planted her feet that as long as she was in my lap, that annoying teenage boy would not be able to get her.

dachshund-2794944_1920Her physical demeanor and presence changed as she firmly planted those little paws, she stood firm, her bark insisted she meant business. She behaved as if knowing I would intercede on her behalf, shoo that boy away, and give her the reprieve she sought.

In that moment the King spoke. He reminded me that my Sausage Dog was more obedient than I tend to be when in a battle against an insurmountable foe. When he commands us regarding our adversary the devil, the one that desires to steal, kill, and destroy, He commands us to “Stand Firm,” to hold our ground and trust that HE will fight the battle and intercede on our behalf.

2 Chronicles 20:17 says “ You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” Too many times I spend so much time barking loudly and looking around at the circumstances that I do not Stand Firm and I do not keep my eyes on my King.

My little wiener knew and stood firm in the truth that, she is mine and that I would move on her behalf. She did not have to fight the battle as long as she stood her ground, those little paws digging into my skin. She stood firm knowing her Master was behind her and ready to take action. My Master, my King too, stands behind me, ready to move and take action on my behalf.

Our little Pepper is as much obedient as she is ferocious, not very, but she is most definitely thought-provoking. May I stand as firmly against the enemy as that mini-wiener did against hers.

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Wash, Dry, Pray

About 3 months ago I was doing laundry. I had pulled out a load of whites, bleached and ready to be dried. As I pulled those chlorine laden clothes, towels, and sheets out of my washer, I inhaled deeply. Bleach always reminds me of my Grandmother, I called her Mam-maw. She lived in a time when in her words,

“We might didn’ta had nothin’ but we were clean. Bein’ poor ain’t no excuse for bein’ filthy.”

I had heard her say those words countless times as I grew up.

When I was a little girl she would “warsh my hands and face” with the hottest bleach and dish soap water. Just thinking about it now makes me wince. My four-year-old digits would involuntarily recoil as she wiped away any residue my lunch may have left behind. “Hold still Mamie!” I can see myself sitting on that homemade bench next to her kitchen table, my feet dangling, face and hands tingling more from the heat than the bleach. Her hands always smelled like bleach. Even long after her mind went away and her body was still strong, her hands smelled of bleach.

laundry-2000256_640.jpgShe was a hang out to dry king of gal. She shared a clothesline with her sister-in-law and also neighbor. Facing the road My Mam-maw’s side was the one on the left. There was something magical and intoxicating about fresh sheets whipping in the wind. My sister and I would run and play through those linens with a delight and carefree nature I have not known in my adult life. Inevitably Mam-maw would yell out from the kitchen window,

“You youngins better get back from my warshin’!”

She had to have known that we were there, that we had been weaving in and out of those linen walls made of clean cotton for a while. In hindsight I see now that she likely didn’t start fussing until we had wandered to the right side of the line and risked inadvertently pulling down her brother, Big John’s overalls.

As I pulled my own laundry out I spent a moment in my childhood, meandering down Memory Lane. It was the he rust colored spots that yanked me back to reality. My bare feet weren’t on a grassy hill in the clothesline of the past, they were standing on the concrete floor of my basement. As I pulled my recently re-spun load of whites from the washer I noted that my rickety old washing machine had deteriorated even more than the last time, spraying rust colored stains all over my fresh laundry. I sighed, I’d already reckoned that two spin cycles were necessary to drain the clothes. I had long ago noted how the “spin” hadn’t been as effective as it once had and how I had to manually switch the knob to request the spin cycle several times. I had reduced the size of the load all in an effort to reduce the workload of the already taxed and band-aid covered dryer. They were a pitiful pair those two, my washer and dryer.

As I sorted and divided the load into portions to accommodate the dryer, I calculated what a new washer and dryer might cost, coming to the realization that there was no way our budget would accommodate such a purchase. I said a quick prayer. Something along the lines of

“Lord, you know how sketchy this washer and dryer are, you reckon you could provide me with some new ones.”

As I continued on with the laundry task, I pulled from the dryer a fully assembled and intact Lego dude with a cape. I smiled and put him aside. Someone would be looking for him soon enough. I smiled thinking how for years my dryer has chinked with the sound of stray Lego parts, all manner of bricks, and such. The stuff great structures of imagination are made of. I transferred the wets into the dryer, threw in a dryer sheet, and turned to head back upstairs. I had not even made it the ten feet to the steps when I received a text from my husband.

wahser dryerIt said, “Hey do you want a new washer and dryer?”

My stunned response. “Are you kidding me?’

“Nope. They’re used but they’ll be new to us.”

Some friends were upgrading and were getting rid of their old ones; we were the recipients of their good fortune. I marveled at how, not even moments before I had asked, well sort of asked for a new washer and dryer and here in the form of a text message was an answer to that very prayer. The new, used washer and dryer have blessed us tremendously. The dryer still chinks with Lego pieces, and when the washer spins I still look around for a helicopter landing. The new ones are sort of high-tech-like with literal buttons and bells on them, but I am becoming accustomed to them. The old pair made a trip to the recycle plant, which in itself is an adventuresome outing for the Martins.

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast your anxieties on Him (God) because he care for you.” That day the King demonstrated the very essence of that to me. He alone knew I had prayed that. I hadn’t told anyone. I was too busy meandering down Memory Lane. He knew I needed a faith builder, and he chose to use a second-hand washer and dryer to do it. 2 Timothy 2:13 says that even when we are faithless, he remains faithful. That day as I said that quick prayer I was lacking the faith that the King would move on my behalf. I will admit that even as said it I did not quite believe that I would be the recipient of a new washer and dryer. Despite that though, His goodness was not, it is not, contingent on my belief. He is faithful, even when I am not. Since then, I have yet to do the laundry without the reminder of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and the tangible evidence that He hears our prayers and is our provider.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13

It’s Not Fair

“It’s not fair!!!”

“It’s NOT fair!”

Those three words have peppered the tantrums that have played out in our home over the years. I’ll admit I’ve even said them myself. It isn’t fair. Many things are not fair. Much of life is not fair.

The one who says those words most often is my youngest; she still bears the scars of difficult obstacles she was forced to face even before her remembrance. She struggles with the everyday and the basics on a day-to-day basis. She is the youngest of the Martins and she waves high the banner of unfairness of youngest siblings everywhere.

A few weeks ago I was studying the King’s Book, specifically that of Matthew, and I happened upon the parable in Matthew 20, the one about the laborers in the vineyard. I haven’t always liked it because it seems so not fair. It made me a tad uncomfortable and I tend to avoid things that make me uncomfortable. For this reason I hadn’t really studied it. You can find in Matthew 20: 1-16.

I’ll summarize it.

There was a Master. He had a vineyard. About 6 in the morning he found some workers and agreed to pay them a denarius for a day’s work. About 9am the Master went out again and hired some more workers. He agreed to pay them a fair pay for their day’s work. A little while later, about lunchtime, he went out and did the same thing. At 3pm He did the same and at 5pm the same. At the end of the work day he paid all the workers a denarius. In essence some of the workers worked 12 hours and some worked just an hour, but at then end of the day they made the same wage.

money-euro-coins-currency-332304When recently questioned about what I thought about the parable, I admitted I’ve been in the same camp as the all day workers. “It’s not fair!” The Master should’ve paid the one hour workers a twelfth of what he paid the all day workers. I am not a mathematical expert but the lunch time workers should have gotten half a denari and the 3pm worker a fourth. That would have been the FAIR thing to do. Wouldn’t it?

Yet when one reads on, the King Himself says in verses 15 and 16, “ ‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The first will be last? The last will be first…that is so not fair….or so it would seem, but the King’s economy is not the same as my economy and thankfully God is in charge and I am not. It took a change in perspective for me to surrender my “It’s not fair” banner. Because He is Kind and compassionate, abounding in love, He was gentle in revealing this one to me.

If I am completely honest I’ve long held on to the “it’s not fair” because I know that I am an early morning laborer. I came to know Jesus early in my life. I got the same Grace and Salvation He freely gives to someone who comes to know Him in the Eleventh hour of his or her life.

With the all day workers, what I failed to realize was, that they had enjoyed the presence of the Master longer. They had been with the Master all day. They had been able to work and serve the Master for a full day. They had been able to see that Master at work himself, managing and such, doing whatever it is Vineyard Masters do.

Perhaps the Eleventh hour workers were envious of the all day workers. They had just met the Master and had not had the benefit of gleaning from Him, watching Him lead, spending time in His presence. I am thankful that in the Kingdom I am an all day worker, that I have had the privilege of working alongside the Master for the majority of my life, that I have been under His protection and grace for many years. I am grateful that He takes the time to show me a new perspective to an old story that my heart hadn’t always been receptive to and how He reveals Himself continually in His Word. He is a good Master, one who is not fair, because He is better than fair.

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