Joy Sprinkle 98 ~ Gifts for the Homeless

Has this happened to you?  You are sitting at a stoplight, mind racing, thinking of all you need to get done, or perhaps distracted by managing the fussing children sitting behind you.  Out of the corner of your eye you see movement.  You look up to behold a raggedy man with a cardboard sign smiling toothlessly at you.

What do you do?  Do you look away?  Do you feel guilty?  Do you give him money?

Homeless men at stoplights are a common sight in Austin, TX, the city we call "ours" when we need a city fix.  For about a month I have been planning a sprinkle for those shaggy men, and we finally made it happen.

A few weeks back, Little Warrior and I picked out socks, hats, gloves and t-shirts at the store.  The Princess wrapped them each up individually.

We had about 36 items all together.  I found some small Gospels of John at church, and with permission brought them along to give out as well.

Because we live an hour out of the city, we do not go very often.  We had a rare opportunity to attend an art museum program, and I knew it would be a great day to try for a city sprinkle.

After we left the museum, we drove around Austin for 30 minutes before we found someone to whom we could give a gift.  I was surprised that it took us that long.  As we drove I started paying more attention to each intersection, and began to realize that there were only a handful that were really "begging-friendly".  These were intersections where there was a safe walking area to the left of the road, the best place to be since the only guaranteed occupant of a vehicle is its driver.  On a two lane road, unless there was a large divider, there was no safe place for someone to stand.  We found most of the homeless people at lights along the access road to the interstate.  I wondered if they fought over prime locations.

The Princess was sitting right behind me, so she was handing out the gifts.  Little Warrior really wanted to have a turn, and after a while we stopped so they could switch seats.

Farmer Boy, tall, quiet and 13, sat in the very back of the van watching and listening.  I asked him if he wanted to move up and take a turn at handing out presents, but he declined.

What an array of responses.  The Princess was so moved by the experience that on the way home she recorded her narrative of it into my phone.  The recording was 18 minutes long.

A few moments frozen in my mind...

The man who clutched the gifts to his chest with a big smile, like they were treasures.

The old man with wandering blue eyes huddled under a blanket next to a shopping cart.  He was right next to a parking lot, so we stopped and walked over to him.  He barely noticed the wrapped gifts but his eyes lit up when he read the words "Gospel of John" and spent the next few minutes talking about how much he liked John and thumbing through the pages.

The soft spoken, gentle-eyed, one-legged man on crutches.  His stunned reaction was so genuine.  He stood there and took the packages, and quietly said thank you, then just kept standing there.  He thanked us a few more times then said, "I just don't know what to say."  He gave us driving advice, trying hard to offer something in return.

The toothless man who told my kids "Your boyfriend and girlfriend, they ain't your best friends, this right here is" and pointed to me.  Then he told me how his parents had died and he missed them.

The flamboyant man who tried to quote the Hail Mary to me and couldn't quite remember it (was it the headcovering that recalled childhood Catholic nuns?), and broke down in a fit of laughing and coughing.  He told The Princess to grow up to be just like me because I was perfect, which I alarmedly denied.  His disabled companion sitting nearby solemnly said, "Only one is perfect." and pointed to the sky.  "Amen!" I said loudly.

The drunken man laughing and waving his sign that read "Why lie? What I need is a beer!  Help me finish poisoning my liver."  I waved him over and pointed behind me saying, "She has something for you."  He took the gifts quietly.  It was moving to see the change in his demeanor as a sweet little girl handed him an unexpected gift.  Grace, that.

The man who told me his name and asked me to please tell everyone he was a handyman looking for work.  Then he told us all to "Have a quality day!"  I smile every time I think of that funny greeting.

The young man on his way home to New Orleans with his dog Dixie Belle.

The man who, after taking his gifts back to his grocery cart, hollered at me and held up a brand new shiny leather stiletto-heeled boot.  It was fresh from the box, and its match sat nestled against clean white.  He gestured it toward me, offering.  I laughed, "Oh thank you, but I would just fall right over!"  "They're really nice!" he encouraged.  And they were.  Yes, I wondered where he had gotten them.  But no matter.  He wanted to offer something in return.  It was what he had, and the motive behind the offering was sweet.

The person who will probably stay with us longest is a young woman.  We had to pass her the first time we saw her, because of the way the traffic was moving.  We circled around the highway and came back up to her intersection.  As I was sitting in traffic, far back from the stoplight, I saw a man walk up and start yelling at her.  She shook her head "No" in response. He threw his backpack down on the sidwalk, took out his sign and started walking up the line of cars.

I didn't know what to do.  Obviously he thought it was "his" intersection and she had stolen it.  I was upset by the way he had treated her, but was worried that if we gave her anything, he would beat her up and take it from her.  I drove past again, this time praying fervently.  I had no idea what I was going to do, but wanted to help this girl.  We all were worried.

I circled through the intersection a third time.  She was gone.  Then we spotted her on the diagonal corner, across the bridge that crossed the highway.  So we turned that direction.  As I made a u-turn, aiming towards where she was, we saw that she was fighting with the man on the other corner too.  She angrily took her things and stormed off.  Once again, we passed her and circled around.  This was now the fifth time we had passed her.

When we got back to the intersection the sixth time, she was gone.  But we saw one of her bags on the ground.  It was on a corner that was not a good begging corner, she was on the right hand side of the road.  But she was not there.  Once again, we circled.  And this time she was there.  We stopped, thankfully with no one behind us, and called her over.  Even though this was the right hand side of the car, we had just switched the kids' seats, so once again The Princess was handing out the gifts.  The young woman took them, smiling.

I leaned over to the passenger window and asked her, "What do you need most right now?"  She was stunned into silence.  Perhaps no one had asked her that before.  "Um, well, shelter, and clothes.  And maybe propane."  I asked her if she had a place to get food regularly and she said no.

It was time for me to move so we said goodbye.  We dropped off a few more gifts to other people then went to the store.  I realized I did not know what size propane she would need; I figured it was probably for a cookstove, but couldn't be sure.  So the kids picked out an outfit for her.  The Princess thought it would be good for us to give her something colorful since all her clothes were dark and drab.  Then we bought her some warm food.

We drove back to her intersection.  She was gone.  It was dusk by this point, so I started heading home.  We were five minutes away when I asked Farmer Boy if he would like the food.  He said,  "No."  Silence.  "I want to go back and try again."  His voice wobbled with intensity.   He had been mostly silent the whole afternoon, so I had no idea how he was processing the experience. 

"Alright," I said, turning left immediately.  "You lead the way."  We headed back to "her" intersection and for the next thirty minutes I drove up and down that interstate looking for the young woman.  We never found her.

We still have her new clothes in the van.  We will keep them there "just in case".

Joy Sprinkles 94 to 97

Sprinkle #94 ~ new Compassion brother
We surprised the kids by sponsoring a new child from Compassion International.  We have been sponsoring Kamila from Ethiopia since she was 4 years old.  She is 19 now.  Today the children learned about Arnol from Honduras, who is 16 years old.  I knew I wanted us to sponsor a boy this time, from Latin America.  Of course requesting a younger child appealed to me, as we would have a longer relationship with him (15 years with Kamila so far!).  But as I thought about it, I realized that those older boys have so little chance left to be sponsored.  In fact, Arnol was our second assignment for this new sponsorship - our first boy turned 19 about a week after he was assigned to us, and that was the age limit in Honduras for him to be in the program.  I feel so sad about that.  But now we start a new relationship with Arnol.

Sprinkle #95~ Saying YES
Simple, but surprisingly difficult.  I resolved this day to say "Yes" to all requests from Little Warrior that I play with him.  This particular day I had an especially long to do list (oh goodness, what day is not like that?) so it was really hard sometimes.  But every time he asked I found a way to say yes.  It bothers me that this was as hard as it was (the struggle was all in my brain).  But we danced together, we made a lego race car, I was a lady on the way to a bakery who got directions from a knight (? I know, but he asked me to and I said yes!), I was on a pirate ship...  and all this took maybe a total of 10 minutes throughout the day.  Isn't that convicting?  "Yes" is very good.  I need to say it more often.

Sprinkle #96 ~ meal for an expecting family
I have a friend who is expecting a baby soon.  She doesn't live close by but we are going to be visiting them this weekend.  So I made a meal that can be frozen for when the baby comes. 

Sprinkle #97 ~ date night!!
I have been trying to make this sprinkle happen for two months!  I kidnapped my husband for a date!  He was very surprised (we rarely get out just the two of us).  Two hours together, sitting in a grown up restaurant, with no distractions.  We were able to connect in a way that was long overdue.   So precious to have the time to focus on each other.  I would like to make this happen much more often!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 93 ~ A Tidy Bed

For Christmas Day I made no sprinkle plans.  Not really knowing how the day would proceed, as our family celebration was not held in my own home, I hoped something would just come to me.

After we had had breakfast and enjoyed some family time, I went upstairs in the grandparents' house, and saw the tussled beds from which my eager children had earlier leapt.  A tug here, a tuck there, and all was tidy.

Shortly thereafter, The Princess came bounding into the room, stopped short and gasped a little.  "You made my bed for me!  Oh Mama it looks so pretty!  Thank you!"  It was a sweet response, for such a little sprinkle. 

It didn't surprise me that the boys didn't even notice.  :-)

One Tiny Baby

I wonder how silent it really was...

I close my eyes and hear the soft breaths of a young mother as muscles tighten, tides swell inside.

I smell hay, some clean and fresh, some dirtied by the animals chewing nearby.

I feel a chill as the winter breeze blows, and a young man leans in to warm his bride, murmuring reassurance.

I hear laughter, soft sweet delighted, as small eyes meet large for the first time.

I see darkness above poked through by sparkles of light, many small, one big and bright.

I feel joy wrapped around that night, that small family, that one tiny baby who changed everything...

Merry Christmas!
Oh, you want the recipe?

guest post by The Princess (age 9) 

Merry Christmas
Makes: everyone's servings

What you need:
1 cup of joy
1 1/2 cups of dancing
1 Tb of jubilee
5 cups of Jesus

What you do:
Mix the joy with the Jesus in a large mixing bowl
Next pour the jubilee into the dancing
Then take a spoon and stir for thirty seconds
Dump your jubilee and dancing mix into the Jesus/joy mix

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 92 ~ Just the Two of Us

I invited Little Warrior to go for a walk with me on our property today.  I wanted to collect some pine cones for a project, and thought it would be nice to spend some time "just the two of us."  Little Warrior loves special time.

We meandered past the pigs, throwing them his banana peel.  Hand in hand we made our way up and over the hill to the pines, gathering bags of pine cones, with frequent stops to explore mysterious treasures. 

On the way back we went by the pond and looked for turtles and snakes.  Little Warrior hopped from rock to rock on the little spit of land that has formed between the two sides of our pond due to the drought.  Before bringing the pine cones into the house, we stopped at the chicken yard and counted the hens.

It was a sweet, peaceful time with my little boy.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 91 ~ Meal for a Tired Mom

Extreme wiggly happiness here, to be able to journal this sprinkle.  One of my friends is a sweet mother who longed to have another baby.  I felt led to commit to join in praying for this mama's desire, and for months my prayer partner and I prayed, as did my friend and her husband, for a new little one for this family.  And guess what?  :-)

She has been very low in energy in the first trimester... she has two active boys whom she homeschools, which is exhausting even when you're not pregnant!  A mutual friend had the idea to sprinkle her with meals so I hopped right on that bandwagon.

Lasagna and salad... possibly even two meals-worth... and more importantly, I hope, some rest!

Mary's "Yes!"

Originally written in December 2005

At this time of year I often find myself marveling at the young girl Mary... just a child herself in so many ways, and yet when told she would bear the son of God, her answer was  "Let it be to me as the Lord has said." (Luke 1:38)

Mary's "Yes!" resounds down the ages... her acceptance and obedience is the response toward which I strain.

I am 36 years old, not a teenager, as Mary was, and I too am pregnant.  This is my fourth pregnancy.  I have done this before... I know what it's like to carry a child in my womb, feel the changes in my body, the first movements, the increasingly strong kicks and punches, the sheer physical weight of the experience bending my back.  I know what it's like to give birth, to nurse a sweet smelling babe, to wake up in the night over and over and over.  I have watched tiny babies turn into toddlers, then children.  I've known the joys and fears.

I've also known the pain.  Our second baby died in utero.  So now, carrying our fourth baby, I wonder.  Will this baby live to be held in my arms? How will I manage all that God has called me to... being a wife, mothering, homemaking, homeschooling, tending a farm?  Will I live my life as a reflection of the great gift which I have received from Him, or will I just be a mess?

In my moments of sitting at His feet pouring out my heart to Him, I never receive an assurance that anything will be easy.  He never tells me He will take away what scares me.  But He does tell me not to be scared.  And He holds me.

God is calling me to radical trust in Him.  He is asking me to let go of the fear, without the cause for fear being removed. 

Mary's childlike faith caused her to respond "Yes!"  She totally trusted God, as a little girl trusts that her earthly father won't drop her as he carries her.

Each day of my life, each moment of each day, I have a choice.  Will I say "Yes!" to God with childlike trust, or will I warily ask, "How do I know you're telling me truth?"  Because some of those promises sure are hard to believe.

Is God calling you forth to a new place?  Is He asking you to accept a calling that appears to be impossible?  Some days mothering seems to be impossible, doesn't it?

How will you answer His call?  Will you say, "How do I know you can really do this?"  Or will you say "Yes!"?  Will you walk in faith and accept that Gabriel wasn't kidding when he said "with God nothing is impossible?" (Luke 1:37)

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45)

May your coming days, as you celebrate the birth of the tiny baby who changed the world, be filled with the joy of trusting that with God nothing is impossible.

Joy Sprinkles 86 to 90

Sprinkle #86
The Princess and I shopped for a seven year old girl who we sponsored through our local Children's Advocacy Center for Christmas.  A cute outfit, a baby doll, and loads of baby doll accessories made for a very pink pile of presents.  Thinking her mom might enjoy wrapping them herself (I would), I also bought a roll of wrapping paper, some tape, scissors and some labels.  We piled it all into a big black plastic bag, labeled it and dropped it off at the center.

Sprinkle #87
One of my childhood friends and I share a love for tea, but we are very rarely able to share a cup together.  We live 2000 miles apart, and see each other for only a few hours each year when I visit family back in Rhode Island.  Back in the years before motherhood consumed us we also shared a love for writing long newsy letters (by hand of course!).  When I moved to Germany, then Texas, we often wrote pages and pages back and forth.  Not long ago, while shopping at a store I rarely visit, I saw a brand of specialty tea I thought she'd enjoy, so I picked up a festively decorated tin.  I sat down and wrote (yes, with a pen!) a letter, not as long as newsy perhaps as those letters of bygone years.  But a letter nonetheless.  Off they flew in the mail, winging their way to Rhode Island, wrapped in love and memories for an old friend.

Sprinkle #88
I have a friend who lives in Arizona who just loves the color pink.  How could I resist sprinkling her with itty bitty snowmen ornaments with pink scarves that I found quite by accident?  I think her four year old daughter might like them too.  :-)

Sprinkle #89 
We have friends whose family has been sick for two weeks.  I kept hearing that little whisper... make dinner... make dinner.  I cooked up a pot of healing chicken soup with rice from one of our farm chickens.  Delivered it along with a salad.

Sprinkle #90 
I had been thinking of doing something special for the children in our church for Christmas.  A party.  But our vacation and the ensuing madness of trying to get back into school and prepare for Christmas in a few weeks (plus all of the special extra activities that we so enjoy in December) seemed to preclude it.  Then one of the other moms in church approached me to tell me she had bags of already-prepared craft supplies left over from another Christmas activity.  And The Princess kept talking about the nativity she was practicing with a few of the children.  I knew it was going to happen after all.  A few emails later we had ourselves a birthday party for Jesus in the works.

The sprinkle part was related to our daughter, The Princess.  She is nine, and has a heart for drama.  Not only does she act on stage locally, she also writes plays frequently, and performs anywhere she can find an audience.  Last year she and a friend wrote an elaborate nativity play, a musical in fact, that took countless hours of practice and preparation (and lots of Mama involvement).  We didn't really have time for that this year because of our trip.  But she and a few of the younger children, on their own, started acting out the nativity story after church.  It was going well until she invited everyone to participate.  That is when chaos started creeping in.

I'll be honest, I really wanted to just take over.  It was becoming difficult and she was getting frustrated.  But instead of giving in to the feeling that it would be so much easier and faster if I took charge, I sat down with her and we talked through the whole thing.  With her direction I typed up all that they were doing so that they would have a reference.  I asked questions to prompt her to remember props and costumes.  And then I let her run with it.  I guess you could say this was a sprinkle that was half way between doing something helpful and holding back from doing something unhelpful.  Oh my that can be haaaaarrrrrd for me sometimes!

The children did a wonderful job.  Even despite the fight between a 4 year old innkeeper and a 3 year old shepherd.  :-)

The gift of a child's unconditional love ~ Joy Sprinkle 85

I have mentioned before that I am trying to grow in relationship with a woman in our community.  It is hard for her to communicate with adults comfortably; she rarely makes eye contact, speaks in a monotone, and uses as few words as possible.  But she lights right up when she talks with children.  I always bring Little Warrior with me when I visit because he is not daunted by her different-ness, and she adores him.

Early last week I stopped by her house, at her request.  The fact that she even asked was a huge breakthrough and blessing.  In the course of our conversation I learned that her birthday was coming up.  I had my mission!

A few days later the children made cards, while I made cookies and wrapped a gift.  It happened that I was taking care of some young friends that day, so I asked their mom if they could come along too.  They received permission, made a card as well, and we all strapped into the van for some serenading.  She was on the porch beaming by the time all five children had tumbled from their seats.  We marched up the stairs and sang happy birthday, then gave her her cards and gifts.  She practically sparkled.

After church yesterday I was chattering away, and noticed my new friend standing nearby.   I tried to draw her into the conversation by talking about the children singing to her.  To my amazement, she smiled again. This was the very first time I had seen her smile with only adults present.  I can't express how moved I was by that smile.  I believe she was seeing the children again, as if they were there with her.  Their presence in her memory, the pure and unconditional love that they showed her, were real for her, and lasting.

And for me, when I think of her, I no longer see a downcast woman sitting in a chair at church, not speaking to anyone, and barely responding when people talk to her.  I see her as I believe she truly is deep down under the thick walls that pain has built.  I see her with twinkling eyes, a big smile, a sparkly gold tooth... standing on that broken porch looking at five children who know Jesus, singing their sweet hearts out just for her.  I see her receiving a gift that I cannot offer, but that He gave her through them.  I see joy.

Oh these sprinkles, how they are pouring back on me!

Joy Sprinkles 76 to 84

Life in its merry way has turned December on its head for me.  I fully expected to be blogging in a new site by now, but here I still am.  All throughout the joy sprinkling challenge I've had days when circumstances prevented me from being able to sprinkle as planned, but that seems especially so right now.  And I have not been writing as much, so I have a big backlog of sprinkles to tell you about.

I have decided that for the rest of the challenge, instead of posting by day number, I am going to post by sprinkle number.  More often than not it coincides to a day, but it just feels wrong to "back date" a sprinkle when it has had to be postponed.

Sprinkle #76
Last month I focused on expressing love to some of my children's special teachers, and this month I decided to think about people in my community for whom I am thankful.  I made a special treat and delivered it to our local Children's Advocacy Center, thanking them in person for the hard work they do serving abused children in our community.

Sprinkle #77
I host a monthly bible study for mamas at my house and I was very tempted to ask someone else to host this month, as I was just returning from our family's vacation.  But December tends to be a busy month for everyone, so I decided instead to simplify it and still have it here.  We had a lovely evening enjoying one another and discussing having a servant's heart.

Sprinkle #78
I surprised the younger children with a new nativity that is durable and ready for lots of play.  It has always been important to me that my little ones have their own nativity set to play with during December, and we have had several.  I like to avoid plastic, opting for durable wood or cloth, but even our wooden and cloth nativities have been broken, ripped and lost over the years.  Playmobil seemed just the thing.  They were so excited, and spent hours assembling all the little accessories and acting out the story over and over.  In the evening, I asked the Princess to set it up on a side table they could reach in the morning.  She went all out and even made the angel float in the air!  :-)

Sprinkle #79
Busy.  That is what I am.  Busy busy busy.  There are vastly more items on my to-do list than are hours in the day to accomplish them.  But when Little Warrior invited me to have a picnic with him on the playscape, I took a deep breath and said "Yes!"  We gathered our supplies... a sheet, apple slices, popcorn and crackers, and we sat together enjoying the fall crispness.  It was one of those moments that he and I will both remember, and it took at most 30 minutes from my day.  Startling how little we mothers need to offer for such great reward.  God is the great multiplier.

Sprinkle #80 
This is going to sound silly, but it was another moment when I decided "I don't want to do this, but it will bring joy to my children, so I am going to."  We have lots of Eastern Red Cedars on our property, and every year we cut one down for a Christmas tree.  This year, right around the time he brought in a newly cut tree, The Bard started sneezing and having a sore throat.  And the house smelled terrible.  Needless to say we suspected the tree.  So he removed the tree for a few days to see if he felt better and the smell diminished, then brought it back in again.  This whole process began on a Wednesday, and by sprinkle day #80 it was Sunday and we still had an undecorated tree.  Sunday was filled, and finally at 7:00 we were done with our day's activities.  The children asked if we could decorate the tree.  I mostly wanted to go to bed, but I agreed, we pulled out the boxes of decorations and they set to work.  They were so happy!  It was delightful the next chilly morning to sit by the fire and look at the twinkly little lights. 

Sprinkle #81
An unplanned sprinkle... my favorite!  I made a little treat for the folks who run our local Pregnancy Center as part of my "thinking about community" theme for December.   I was on my way to a stop before dropping off the cookies, when I drove past a man with a big backpack, heading down the access road of the highway.  I just knew the cookies were for him.  I stopped the car in a parking lot and ran out.  It took a bit of effort to get his attention, but he was cheerful and friendly when he heard me.  It was a very different interaction from the one that happened on my country road.  He was on his way south, having started in upstate New York.  He introduced himself and we chatted briefly.  Then off he trekked, cookies in his pocket.

Sprinkle #82
Continuing the community theme... I sprinkled our local yarn shop lady with a treat and a note thanking her for being a blessing to our community and helping me get back into knitting.

Sprinkle # 83
A young friend has just not been feeling up to snuff, and I knew she had a special favorite that I make.  So I whipped it up and dropped by her house, leaving a surprise on the door.

Sprinkle #84
Another community gratitude sprinkle.  This time I got some cookies all the way to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  And thanked them for their labor of love for the unborn.

St. Nicholas gave in secret...

I have been quiet here because I have been thinking.  Thinking about secrets.

Little Warrior has been seeing Santas everywhere, so we have been talking about Saint Nicholas a lot recently.  Several of my new blogging friends have written about him as well.  He is on my mind.

Nicholas, an amazing and godly man, was a 4th century priest in the area that is now Turkey.  A new-to-me and interesting historical tidbit is that he attended the Council of Nicea, forever remembered by it's oft recited creed, the Nicene Creed.  But this generous man with a servant's heart is better known as the real person behind the idea of Santa.  You have likely heard one version or another of his secret giving to the poor in his community.

We have not really "done Santa" in our family.  We talk more about Jesus' birthday, although Santa comes up; we do live in America.  When I have a little one who wants to know about all the Santas he sees in the store, we talk about St. Nicholas.  We celebrate St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) most years, with an emphasis on serving the poor.  Some day I'll write about what we do, but today I am thinking about something else.

What I keep thinking about this year is not that Nicholas gave, but that he gave in secret.  Because, and you'll see now how navel gazing I can be, it continues to bother me that I am doing this joy challenge publicly.  This is not how we usually give, when financial it has usually been in secret, and being public makes me feel uncomfortable. 

There's a battle in my mind between this scripture...
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:1-4
...and this one...
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" Hebrews 10:24
The Matthew scripture sits more comfortably with me.    I feel much better when our giving is in secret.  In fact, in many ways, I feel more comfortable just being quiet and hidden in general.  Yet the Hebrews scripture keeps coming to mind unbidden.
"...consider how we may spur one another on..."
When I first started writing this blog, I tried to just write whatever God laid on my heart that day.  I knew I had to write, knew it was just part of how He made me, and I wanted a way to grow myself in self-discipline by trying to write daily.  I knew that He wanted me to write about how one little girl could be radically changed by her big God.  I understood that all I had to offer was my story.  His story, really. 

I kind of fell into the joy challenge; it came to mind, I thought "Hmm, that would be good for me, that would grow me!" I started, and then I committed.  It has been such a blessing.

Blogging about it was fun at first.  But I started to feel like the Pharisee on the corner, "Look at what I did, yay me!"  It's not how I felt (I feel woefully inadequate - so much need, and I keep giving everyone chocolate).  But it seemed like that was how it came across.

At the beginning, I thought it would be fun to see if other people wanted to do it too.  But I felt shy about it, and never really asked seriously, or challenged.   So here I am, months into it, and I wonder, "Lord, have I sinned against you?"  I have been an awkward mix of shy and bold and it is just uncomfortable.

I wonder if God likes it that I am uncomfortable?  Likes to stretch me to do things I feel shy about, likes it when my discomfort about talking about those things makes me ponder His word more deeply.  Yes.  Probably.

I don't know that I will sort this all out, really, ever.  I do know that I have been blessed by doing this challenge.  And I hope ever so much that you will find the blessing hidden in giving and giving.  I do want to spur you on; I am greatly encouraged by those who spur me on.

My sweet daughter and I spent a long time talking about my dilemma a few days ago.  It was a blessing to turn over the scriptures with her and look at the joy sprinkling challenge and the blogging and ponder it all.  In the end her pure heart helped me to see through my own fog.  She reminded me that God looks at our hearts.  And she told me that my sprinkling her has made her think about sprinkling others.  She encouraged me, my little girl, earnestly and after careful thought.

So I have to lay it at the cross.  I have to give Him my sprinkles, my service, my very self, as a broken and flawed offering, yet what I have to give.  And I thank you, my friends, for loving this broken girl.

Not one thing I can do, not even a sprinkle a day for the rest of my life, or memorizing the entire bible, or being able to say exactly the right words at exactly the right time to exactly the right person... none of it, nothing, redeems me... but Jesus.

Nothing I can do will make Him love me any more, or make me a better person than anyone else.  I am a sinner, redeemed by a loving and gracious God.

And so on I will blog.  I will write about these last days of sprinkling, days that I am finding all the more challenging because of the busy-ness of homeschooling life just after a vacation and during Advent.  I have not felt on top of my sprinkles, I even, laughably, have argued with myself over what "counts".  Does it count if I do it every year?   What am I going to do now that I am off schedule?  <sigh>  Yes indeed, we humans are prone to legalism.

So I am trying my best.  Which of course is never enough.  But praise God, that thanks be to Jesus, it doesn't have to be.

Because He is enough. 

And that is no secret.

Being intentional has made me more bold... and more blessed...

Day 75.

Three quarters done.

Ten weeks, five days.

Two and a half months of thinking thinking... how can I bless someone today?

It's funny, I feel nervous as the end approaches.  A sense of but there's so. much. more I want to do.

And there is so much more to be done.

Our is a mad mad world filled with suffering, yet all throughout the pain there twists this ribbon of hope.  Love kindled by beauty in the ashes, beauty in turn kindled by love... ours is to see the hurt and reach out with our hands of love to offer balm.

Fleeting balm, yes.  We can never end the suffering.  But He can.  He has.

All around me, I see beautiful precious children, His own beloved.  All He asks is for me to love them.  When I stop, when I rest quiet and try to hear, His whisper grows louder. 

A whisper of call her.  A tickle in my heart write a letter.  A nudge make a meal.

It just takes saying yes.  And the more I say yes, the more whispers I hear.  And the more whispers I hear, the bolder I become.  Helping strangers, taking risks.

Deeper and wider.

Reaching out further, into places I fear, but must go.  Reaching in deeper, into places so tender, which must grow.

And the question needs asking... who is blessed most by this giving?  Is it not me?

Grateful... Hawaii... home...

So very much to be grateful for this week.  The basket is filled to overflowing and I can't even remember it all.

21 ~ the impossible blues of the Pacific...

22 ~ macadamia nuts growing on trees and eaten fresh from the shell...

23 ~ coffee... small red balls holding fresh green beans...

24 ~ an absolutely, incredibly, fabulously, ridiculously delicious frozen coffee drink made with Hawaiian coffee...

25 ~ Moloka'i lawnmowers... 

26 ~ the airplane door latch breaking on takeoff, not while we were in the air...

27 ~ my reunion with an old family friend who I hadn’t seen for 25 years

28 ~ brave first-time windsurfers...

29 ~ just enough time to squeeze in 30 one-on-one minutes with The Princess at her destination of choice - The Waikiki Aquarium...

30 ~ our decision to go to the Honolulu airport three hours early... a blessing thanks to incomprehensible traffic and losing our way, as well as in-airport delays

31 ~ soft socks in the airport that double for sandals left on a beach far away

32 ~ a forgiving husband who doesn't complain when my foolish oversight makes us miss our connection

33 ~ warmth in a Denver airport in December, despite being dressed for Hawaii

34 ~ a joyful Christmas song, sung by the four year old at the top of his lungs, all the way through the Houston airport

35 ~ food just in time to keep me from getting weepy

36 ~ a toasty cup of coffee when I have only had a few hours of sleep on the airplane

37 ~ overjoyed dog jumping and barking his love on our return

38 ~ friends who take care of our farm while we are gone

39 ~ a sparkling clean hearth, and a kind chimney sweep

40 ~ the first roaring fire of the season, warming my fireplace, and my heart

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 75 ~ Lunch with an Old Friend

It was a moving sprinkle today for me.  The children and I picked up our friend whose sweetheart died a few weeks ago.  We brought her out to lunch. 

It was so wonderful to spend time with her, to get to know her history a little better, to talk about the old days.  She is 80 years young and can no longer drive, but she is still the same dear woman I remember.

It is hard to think about her feeling stuck at home, and not wanting to impose on people for rides.  It makes me wish I lived closer.  But I don't (we live an hour away), so the next best thing I can do is to see her as regularly as possible.

We have plans to meet again next month.  Again God blesses.  Out of loss comes a rekindled friendship.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 74 ~ Helping a Family Who Lost Their Home

A week ago, a Texas homeschooling family with 10 children lost everything they owned in a house fire.  Thankfully the family was safe.  But they are starting from scratch.  I learned of the family from other homeschoolers.  I do not know them personally, but felt moved to send them a small offering.

If you feel led, please help out this family.  You can mail donations to:

Ken and Lu Cummins
220 Shady Oaks Drive
Burleson, TX 76028

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 73 ~ Dinner Out for a Single Mom

Because of being on vacation far from home, I knew there would be days consumed by traveling.  I wasn't really sure what to do for this last traveling day, then I had the idea to do something ahead.  So this sprinkle was actually sent on a different day, but was intended to "count" (can you really use that word here?) for today.

One of the homeschooling moms in our area recently went through a divorce.  She is trying really hard to continue homeschooling but this is super challenging due to finances.  She is doing a great job of budgeting and living simply.

I tried to think of something that she would not be able to do for herself.  Obviously these days she does not get to eat out.  So I sent her a card with a gift certificate to a local restaurant.  Just a little something extra.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 72 ~ Special Book for the Plane

The Princess fell in love with the Laura Ingalls Wilder series about life on the prairie in the 1800's last year.  This summer we visited the sites of several of Laura's childhood homesteads.  While we were at the Kansas site, we picked up the first book in the series about Laura's daughter Rose.  I had been skeptical about this series (did someone just want to cash in on Laura's popularity?) until I learned that it was written by Rose's adopted grandson and heir. 

The Princess loved the book, and we slowly added to her collection.  The series has eight books in it.  Knowing we would have a lot of time sitting on our way home, I secretly purchased and brought along the next book for a sprinkle.  She was so excited to find it on her bed the morning of our long flight!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 71 ~ Love Letter

Today was our last day on Molokai.  I very much wanted to sprinkle my dad on the trip, but he is a real hard one to figure out.  I thought to bring him a book I found out he wanted, but I was unable to get it sent to me in time for our departure.  And then my mom told me his love language is "words of affirmation".  Aha!

I found a pretty hand-made card that said "Mahalo", which is Hawaiian for "thank you".  And I wrote him a love letter!  :-)

We left earlier than my parents, so I left it in our room for them to find.

Thank you, my dear father.  I love you!

Relaxing Into Stillness

I am sitting in the hot water, quiet, listening. 

The sun is up, unseen birds chirping morning greetings.  The wind gently blows the tall tall coconut trees, palm leaves slapping their fingers together.  In the distance... water, speckled with white, and a faint sound of waves against rock.

Morning in Moloka’i.

When we first arrived at this spacious breezy house, children squealing, adults chattering, bags everywhere... I thought I am stiff.  But here, here I will sleep.  Here I will rest and maybe, maybe my body will stop hurting.

The possibility of a physical rest that deep brought tears of relief to my eyes.

And now, I am silent in the hot tub, listening, quiet inside.  Even after four days it is hard for me to relax and allow all my limbs to float in the heat.

In silent conversation with God I listen to the sounds of His creation.  The surface of the water perfectly reflects the coconut tree next to me. 

Movement catches my eye in the coconut tree’s reflection, and I realize that I have stirred the water underneath, and distorted the image.
"Now we see as through a mirror darkly"
It comes to my mind right away, and I wait for more, wondering.
"Then we shall see face to face."
I move my hand under the water and watch the surface.  Little eddies and ripples move the shiny stillness and the coconut tree changes again.  If I move enough, it is unrecognizable.

I stop, sit silent and still, and wait.  The coconut tree shows again.  I see now that the image is never perfect, that the breezes play their part.  But when I am still, the water’s surface is almost a mirror.

God, reflected on the surface of me. 

How much more the lack of stillness deep within me distorts His image, than the winds of circumstance.
"Be still and know that I am God."
What makes that so hard for me?  What drives me to work and strain and do more and more and only rest when I crash?

My heart is beating harder as I hold myself perfectly still.  Is it the heat of the water?  The heat of conviction?

But I can’t hold myself still.  The very effort makes me move.  I find the only way is to relax, to allow the water to hold my limbs, to just float and rest.  The palm tree shimmers.

I want to wrap this up in me forever... to rest, to float, to not try so hard... to be still.

To take home the quietness inside.

And allow His image to shine on my surface.

scriptures 1 Corinthians 13:12, Psalm 46:10
photos  © Patti Brown 2010

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 70 ~ Game of Life

Farmer Boy is getting wet!  :-)  He is on the receiving end of a lot of sprinkles this week.

I told him I would make sure to set aside time to play a game just with him while we are on vacation.  It was shocking how difficult that proved to be.  Because it was going to take a while, we wanted to play it in the morning.  That meant siblings were around.  It took the help of Papa to make a four year old not feel woefully left out.

We played the Game of Life.  Believe it or not, I never played this game as a child.  My kids were introduced to it here and really like it.

We played, he won.  The perfect combination in his eyes!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 69 ~ Oliver Twist

I brought a book on the trip that I picked up for Farmer Boy, in case he ran out of reading material.  An old classic that he has not read, and that we didn't yet own... Oliver Twist.  Left it on his pillow wrapped prettily to make it special.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 68 ~ Movie Time with Farmer Boy

Farmer Boy is almost 14 now.  He is tall and lanky and muscular; it is hard to believe that he was the roly-poly baby who introduced me to motherhood.

He is a quiet young man, his river runs deep.  He has two younger siblings who are loud and outgoing and require a huge amount of my attention as I attempt to train them up in the way they should go.  We rarely get time together alone.

This summer he, The Princess and I decided to have a mini film festival at home.  We don't watch much TV, but we enjoy an occasional movie, so we decided to watch the two older Toy Story movies then go see Toy Story 3 in the theater.  Just after we planned this, The Princess was invited to a birthday party, and as part of the festivities, they went to see Toy Story 3.  Farmer Boy and I decided we had the makings of "special time" for just the two of us.

As it turned out, by the time we were able to go see Toy Story 3, it was no longer showing in our town.  So I put it in my Netflix queue.  It recently came out on dvd, and I made sure to have it in hand before we set off on our Hawaiian adventure.  Farmer Boy didn't know.

This evening, after the "littles" were in bed, we popped in the movie, to his happy surprise.  With the breezes blowing through the house and the waves crashing in the distance, we sat next to each other on the couch, my no-longer-little guy towering over me.  We both enjoyed the movie.  But I especially enjoyed having time with my soon-to-be-a-man boy.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 67 ~ Fire Engine

Little Warrior is an absolute delight... a boy who keeps me laughing every day.  He brings light and joy into my life.

He is also unlike me in almost every way.  God uses this to grow me in ways I did not expect.

I am more of a thinker than a doer.  Little Warrior is all about action.  I am quiet, he is loud.  I'm an introvert, he's an extrovert.  I am a pacifist.  Little Warrior is, well, a warrior!

Little Warrior's main love language is gift giving.   While I enjoy gifts (probably giving more than receiving), I honestly would be perfectly content if I never received another one.  My primary love language is words of affirmation

What came as a surprise to me was that Little Warrior feels affirmed when he receives gifts.  He feels loved and cared for.  I am trying to teach my children to be satisfied with and grateful for what they have, so this aspect of his personality is an interesting challenge for me.

Little Warrior is one of the most generous little guys you'll meet.  He regularly gives his toys to his friends when he notices they like them.   He gives me rocks, sticks, flowers, cards every day. 

For months Little Warrior has been telling me about a lego set that he would like to have "for my birthday".  His birthday is in June.  So I surprised him and got the set and brought it on our vacation.  I wrapped it in tissue paper and put it on is bed.  He couldn't believe it wasn't his birthday and he was getting a present.  He actually squealed when he opened it!

His super-hero big brother helped him to put it together, so he was doubly sprinkled.

Gratitude ~ Writing it Down

Years ago, a young woman new to bible study, I read for the first time:
"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:19-20
Thanks for everything?  That began a deeper quest to understand gratitude that continues to this day.

Now, fifteen or more years later, my prayers almost always begin with "Thank you..." and not only has that changed the way I understand my world, it is reflected in my children's prayers as well.

Imagine my joy when I began to see gratitude journals popping up all over the blogosphere, a river of thanksgiving driven by a precious daughter of the King whose life has also been changed by having a thankful heart.

How can I not gleefully jump into this river of bounty and ride, bobbing and splashing, with my sisters in Christ!  Blogging my thankfulness, yes, yes!

So here I am, far from our dry Texas farm, in Hawaii, the state in which I was born, but to which I have not returned for twenty years.  Easy indeed it is for me to start my gratitude list here...

1 ~ my father's generosity in bringing our families to this beautiful place for a shared vacation

2 ~ papaya, pineapple and rice for breakfast

3 ~ the friendship between my husband and brother

4 ~ clear blue waters

5 ~ a growing friendship with my sister-in-law

6 ~ the smell of flowering trees wafting past my nose while worshiping in church

7 ~ newly met brothers and sisters in Christ on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific

8 ~ seeing, touching, cooking and tasting breadfruit for the first time

9 ~ seeing with my own eyes the green flash as the sun set over the Pacific

10 ~ coffee made from freshly ground beans grown right on this island

11 ~ a little boy overcoming his fear of the water

12 ~ my creative husband inspiring our little one to be brave by pretending to be knights slaying dragons

13 ~ long stretches of silence with only the wind and waves in my ears

14 ~ the exhilaration of riding a wave

15 ~ an island resident who bought a turkey for us before we arrived so we'd be sure to have one for Thanksgiving dinner

16 ~ a long shoulder and back rub from my gifted sister-in-law

17 ~ smiling long haired children covered in wet sand

18 ~ plumeria flowers scattered over the ground and tucked into my hair by my little girl

19 ~ a gas station bathroom smelling sweet and filled with fresh flowers

20 ~ a rainbow over Honolulu as we flew to Moloka'i, colorful gift from the Gift Giver

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 66 ~ And Yet Again, Chocolate!

Two bars of organic dark chocolate tied together with a red ribbon.  For two people I love, tied together with the bonds of marriage.

It has brought me much joy watching my brother and sister-in-law, with us on a family vacation, spend time with our children.  They are the beloved aunt and uncle, young, energetic, full of life.  Ready to have adventures and play.  The children adore them.  

I am being sprinkled watching them with the kids.  They will make wonderful parents.

And they will eat chocolate.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 65 ~ Chocolate Again

This time it was my mom who found chocolate with a bow on her pillow.  With almonds, becuase I know she loves them.

You may be wondering why chocolate is pervading the sprinkles this week!  We are vacationing with our extended family and not knowing what my time and resources might be, I packed small surprises to bring with me.  Since just about everyone in my family likes chocolate, it has become a theme.  Apparently a welcome one.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 64 ~ Soothing Bath

Spending holidays with extended family is a great way to get to know your in-laws!  I am blessed to be able to spend some extra time with my sister-in-law this Thanksgiving.

She works very hard helping my brother run their two new businesses, so I was looking for something relaxing for her.  I bought a calming lavender bath pouch, added a small loofah sponge and a ribbon, then snuck it onto their bed.  I hope she will enjoy a long relaxing soak during our vacation.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 63 ~ Treat for my Boy

Farmer Boy likes chocolate.  And mint.

Dark chocolate mint bar + sprinkle note + ribbon = smiling teenager.

Do you sense a theme here?  What is it about chocolate?  Almost everyone loves it, and considers it a special treat.  I know I do.

It does make sprinkling easier.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 62 ~ Memories via Sugar

I was at a specialty food shop recently, and found a kind of candy bar that The Bard and I used to enjoy when we lived in Germany.  Obviously it shouted "Sprinkle!" at me.

Left it on his pillow.  Yum!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 61 ~ Surprise in the Back Packs

We had a bit of a trip today.  A long journey to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones.  We got all ready last night, knowing that our wake-up time was o'dark early.  After the kids were asleep, I snuck a little something in each back pack.

My children enjoy crafts, and making something creative is a great way to pass the time on a trip.  So for Farmer Boy, some Wikki Stix.  For The Princess, a small wooden loom and some yarn.  And for Little Warrior a mosaic sticker set.  I found all of them at the Dollar Store, so it was not a big financial investment.

I think they enjoyed finding something unexpected in their bags, and having something to do with their hands as they sat.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 60 ~ Chocolate Surprise

Old friend... far away... loves chocolate...

You guessed it!  Wrapped in ribbon and accompanied by a note, off flew two bars of Godiva chocolate (her favorite brand) to Arizona.

Happy nibbling, Angie!  I'm thankful for you!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 59 ~ Encouraging a Creative Mama

I've mentioned before that this month I am thinking about people for whom I thankful.  I am thankful for all the men and women who spend time with our children each week at various extra classes and activities in which they participate.

Today I decided to sprinkle one of Little Warrior's Sunday School teachers.  She is boundlessly creative, most recently displayed at a remarkable Reformation Party that she co-hosted with another awesome homeschooling mom, and to which she invited the entire church.  She also decided to organize craft days to make items to sell to benefit our local Pregnancy Resource Center.

I was in Half Priced Books (one of my very favorite places) and saw the book Sweater Renewal.  This is just the type of craft Becky is working on right now.  I snatched it up.

Packaged in a bright flowery bag, with a note included, I brought it to church.  She was surprised, and excited to have new inspiration.  She is a blessing!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 58 ~ A Letter Remembering

Saturday dawned gray and cold on our Texan farm.  The color and chill mirrored my emotions as I prepared to go into the city for a funeral.

I sat at my computer, wondering if I would have time to talk with our friend's beloved after the service.  I imagined she would be surrounded by a sea of people wanting her attention, and wondered if I'd be brave enough to persist until I spoke with her.

But even if I were able to speak, I wondered if my mouth could find the words.  Forever the words tumble and bumble out of my mouth, my helpless hands wishing to snatch them out of the air and stuff them back in.  Forever I disappoint myself in expressing my heart while speaking.

I thought of all this... the people, the busy-ness, the bumbling... and I thought of my hands.  The words from my hands bumble too, but I can sit with them for longer.  They can be taken away again and moved and replaced until maybe, maybe an inkling of my heart is captured.

So my hands began to make words on the screen.  I spoke my memories with my fingers.
I remember stopping at a steak restaurant with you both and thinking “I really and truly am in Texas now” as we searched to find something a vegetarian could eat.
As I wrote, more and more memories came back.
I remember dancing with John at a Youth Night at church... I was dressed in a 1940’s outfit to match the theme.  He told me my hair reminded him of his mother’s.
 Some were hard to remember.
I remember John’s tender hug when we lost our second child, his solemn voice as he pulled back, and looked deep in my eyes while holding on to me, “Are you okay?”
I fumbled through.  I printed.  I brought it with me.

Perhaps this seems a strange thing to consider a joy sprinkle.  This was never on my idea list.  It wasn't on a hope-to-do or want-to-do list.

But our real life includes unexpected sorrows, and if it is joy, it can be found in the midst of sorrow.  Where love can be found, joy will be found waiting nearby.

Writing this letter moved onto my need-to-do and right-to-do list.

In the end, I was brave enough.  At the very end, in fact.  After most everyone had left, I went to her and stood with her.  We held hands and I walked her to her car.  I slipped her the envelope with my letter as I left.

photo credit ronnieb

I Can Sing and Make Music, But Always Give Thanks?

Originally written on November 25, 2003, edited November 25, 2010.  I continue to be awed by the abundance hidden in my sorrows...

This is the time of year when we are inundated with reminders to be thankful.  We make crafts with our children, send cards, prepare feasts, recite blessings.

It is right to be thankful for our abundance, for our obvious blessings. 

But consider this:
"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:19-20
Was Paul serious that we should be thankful for everything?  Everything? 

What would that look like?

Should I be thankful for headaches?  For my child being injured?  Thankful that my friend is suffering through a divorce?

What does it mean to always be thankful for everything?

I can not begin to imagine every possible scenario, and I know that there are those that horrify.  The trials that some go through are beyond my comprehension. 

Yet I come back to "be thankful for everything."

When I first began to consider this scripture, I tried something new in my prayer time.  I began to give thanks for the bad things that happened in my day. 

I didn't say, "And thank you for the demeaning way I was treated at work today."  Instead I would pray: "Thank you for the reminder I had today of who sets my value. I am so glad that you are my judge, and that I ultimately work for you.  Please help me to love my employer the way you love him." 

Sometimes I might have to pray, "Please show me what there is to be thankful for in this situation, or about this person."

At first this was hard, but over time it became easier.  And remarkably, the trials seemed a little less, well, trying.   It was as if a sharp edge was being been rubbed off them.  I didn't feel as angry.  A tenderness was growing in me.

Then I ran into a personal loss that was too big. 

How could I thank God for the death of our second child, when I was 13 weeks pregnant?  After the first shock of grief wore off, I was confronted with this problem.  I knew that somehow, somehow, God was calling me to have a thankful heart in the midst of this tragedy.  But how?

It took a long time for the sharp edge of that pain to become dulled enough to even consider allowing God to show me how to be thankful.  But eventually He led me there, (with sobs and resistance). 

I came to see that there were things to be thankful for even in my grief:
- that our baby was born at home, and that I was able to see him
- that his death dropped me to my knees so hard that my life was turned toward God in a new way forever
- that I know in a deeply personal way what it means to be comforted in the arms of Jesus
- that I can minister to and love women who experience miscarriage in a much more personal way
I am not suggesting putting on a happy smile, and making bad things look good.  I am talking about true thankfulness in the midst of tragedy.  About real life, real pain, and really being thankful.

So, when people go around the table and count their blessings, are you going to pipe up with one of your worst experiences of the year?  Not likely!

But in your quiet time (or your noisy time, as my time with God often is), take a moment to open your heart to thankfulness.  Pick something that is heavy on you right now, a burden that you feel you can't bear, and ask God to show you what to be thankful for in that situation.

Watch and see what He will do!

Praying that you will find the abundance hidden in your sorrows....

Please, don't wait to reach out

Wednesday afternoon.  That time of day when my energy is low, and I need to be getting in the kitchen to start dinner.  Just a little down time first, I think, just a minute, and log in to facebook.

Skimming over the news feed, my eye trips on the first line of an old friend's status...

Lost a dear friend today but rejoicing that he is with our Lord.

My heart stops, then a thump of panic.  No, not... but I read on, and my worry turns to sorrow.

I read the words over and over.

was so kind
I will miss him
lost a dear friend today
with our Lord

I stare at the screen.  My throat is squeezing tighter and my heart is flopping like a fish on land.  Because it happened.  What I have feared for three years happened.

I have lost a dear friend.  Who was so kind.  And I will miss him.

But I didn't tell him.  I didn't even know he was sick.

My disconnect from this kind Texan gentleman, who took two wide-eyed young Yankees under his wing long ago, was bitter fruit of a painful parting from my beloved church home three years ago.

Shall I bore you with a theological treatise on the problems of church schism?  Shall I unload the grief of that parting here?  Like an old scar, that scab has fallen off now, the wound part of the shaping of this child more into the image of her Holy Daddy.

Behold, he makes all things new.  What the enemy intended for evil God has worked for good.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.*

I did not wish it to be as it was, but the circumstances were beyond my wishes.  I did not wish it to impact relationships, but life has a way of making one choice ripple out like water and cause even small things to bob.  And some to float away.

My dear friend whose post brought me sad news is one of those we left, but she, and many others from that time in our life, comfortably navigate social media, and we have reconnected through facebook.

Our departed friend was 78.  His was the world of face-to-face.  But we lived an hour away from each other.  I wasn't going to run into him in the grocery store.

Why didn't I call him?  I can't answer that question.  I hadn't forgotten him.  I thought of calling many times.

If I drill down deep in my heart, I find there something worrisome.  It is a fear.  I think it might be named Rejection.  I turn that idea over in my mind and wonder how that could be.  Never once did he do anything even hinting at it.  Yet time and pain have a way of wrapping things together that I don't quite understand.

And in the center of that fear are lies...

not good enough




Saturday morning.  I am driving alone in my van to the city.  As the minutes tick by, I find myself feeling a growing sense of dread.  Soon I will be at the memorial service.  Will I be able to hold myself together?  Will I be able to hold myself up?

As I turn into the parking lot I catch a glimpse of the back of a not-seen-for-three-years head and my hands begin to shake.  I draw a breath and it comes jagged, catching in a constricting throat.  Why is this happening?  Why can't I just be calm?

I park and pray and try to reason with myself.  Be sensible.  Be calm.

It doesn't work.  I pick up the phone and dial my prayer partner, my spiritual EMT.  With gentle yet strong words she settles the oxygen mask of prayer on me and I begin to breathe normally again.

I take up my bible, clutched between crossed arms like an old teddy bear, and walk to the front door.  I begin to see familiar faces.  I exchange quiet hugs.  And then I see his beloved.

I walk over to her, inexplicably nervous.  I put my hand on her arm and she turns.

Patti!  she says, a smile brightening her tired face.  And I know that I am welcome.  We exchange brief words, I lean in to hug her, and she whispers I never forgot you.

I am shaking now.  My hands trembling, my eyes overflowing.  Through a blur I race to the bathroom where my whole body shudders with sobs.  I am a muddle of emotion...

grief... joy... pain... love...

I pray, and amazingly, there is where I leave my tears.  A gift of grace allows me to walk back, with my red nose and eyes, and sit calmly through the service.  It is a time of remembering.  Remembering our friend, and remembering what God's word says about his forever life.  Singing "Amazing Grace"...

When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun.

After the service, there is a reception.  Friends and family members gathering to reminisce and to catch up.   A swirl of people.  Repeated questions:  How ARE you?  Still way out there on the farm?  How are the kids?

It is love.  So much love.

I sit with older friends and talk and listen.  I hear about frustrations, being stuck at home, not being able to drive, missing grandchildren.

And I realize they are afraid of being forgettable too.

I grab that thought with both hands.  My heart cries "I will not forget them!" I ask if we can come visit.  I make sure that the whirling blur that is my young family will not overwhelm.  I confirm phone numbers, emails, addresses.


Later, at home, I worry that the rushing current of life will distract me from doing what I feel an urgent need to do.  So I look at the calendar, pick dates, write emails, make plans.

The current never stops.  It just gets faster.

Hear my story, friends.  Let its truth sink into your heart.  Time is passing.  Your love is needed.

Please, don't wait.

Don't forget.  The days are short.

*Revelation 21:5, Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28
photo credit bjwebbiz

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 57 ~ Secret Package... Arrived!

Well, I can't tell you what this one is quite yet, but while you're waiting, go check out a few previous secretive sprinkles that can now be revealed.

There was Day 22 ~ A Surprise

And Day 23 ~ Another Surprise

You might be on to something if you noted that both of those were mailed surprises....  :-)

"Ssshhhhhhh... be vewwy vewwy quiet!"

Update!  The package arrived, and my sprinklee even blogged about it!  So you get it straight from the source...  Jennifer aka The Fairy Mum.   I am so happy she felt the love!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 56 ~ Helping Foster Children

I learned a few days ago about a young single woman who has opened her home to three children  Their mother is in jail for six months.  This young woman does not have the "child infrastructure" in place, nor the funds, to provide for these girls, but she clearly has the love.

Not knowing what stores she might have nearby, or the specific needs, I picked up a Visa gift card to send to the new for-six-months-family.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 55 ~ Thankful for a Teacher

To help inspire ideas for the joy spreading challenge, I have been thinking of people for whom I am thankful.  This prompted me to give the children's piano teacher a little something from my kitchen, along with a note expressing my appreciation.

For Day 55, The Princess' theater teacher came to mind.  This woman is utterly amazing, a calm smiling presence in the midst of the swirling energy of children of all ages, children whose class time is almost entirely spent moving, in a very small room. Children with speech delays, behavioral issues, extreme shyness, strong egos...

And then there are the mothers.  Mothers who want to help.  Which is not always... helpful.  She is usually able to manage even the mothers with grace.

I can't imagine how she does it.  Sometimes I listen to the clatter and clamor and just want to put my hands over my ears and crawl under a big down comforter and breathe.  But she smiles and sings and dances and coaches, and they adore her.

This is not something I could offer our daughter.  Nor could I provide the big creaky wooden stage in the real theater in which she is privileged to perform.  I have learned a tremendous amount from this teacher myself, about watching for children's gifts, about letting them pick their pace of risk-taking, and then sometimes, pushing them a little harder, and watching the bud bloom.

I even, {gulp} got on stage myself this spring, because the class lacked enough actors to stage the script they had chosen.  It was hard for me, and my old brain.  Hard for me to memorize lines.  In the end I loved it.  I wanted to do it again.  Some day I will.

So... to sprinkle... not much.  A fresh loaf of homemade bread.  A jar of homemade jam.  A little note, that was altogether too brief, and as I reflected on it, entirely unsatisfactory.  So perhaps I will send her to this post.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 54 ~ Donation to Pregnancy Center

Another gift card... something to give to a mother in need.  Our local Pregnancy Resource Center was the recipient, and will pass it along.

Who defines me?

Some day I will say it and it will be true...

I am no longer defining myself.

I will be far enough along on my spiritual journey.  I will be completely free.

Today, there are parts of myself that I am still hanging on to.  Wanting to be liked.  Wanting to be understood.

Despite the reality that all that I have given up of myself for His use, He has turned for greater joy in my life.

Still, I look at outward signs, and I measure myself.

This is what I long for, glimpses I've seen, but have yet to fully grasp with both hands...

To lean only on God for strength

To not worry if others misunderstand me

To be a quiet yet strong voice speaking truth

To trust every detail to Him

Less of me, Lord.  More of you.

Take my weakness Lord.  Send your holy fire to burn my pride. 

Beauty from ashes.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 53 ~ Happy Breakfast to You

Ever since the Princess turned nine in October, Little Warrior has been begging for breakfast in bed.  Part of our family birthday tradition is that the birthday girl or boy can opt to be served breakfast in bed on a tray, while leaning back into as many pillows as we can stuff behind them.  It's a fun way to start a special day.

This morning Little Warrior woke up and called me into his room, deviating from his usual morning routine of stealthily creeping around the couch then flying into my waiting arms.  He whispered "I want to have breakfast on a tray, right here," and patted the bed.

"Well, your sister is still sleeping."   Think think think... 

I wrapped him in his comforter and brought him to the couch, propping him up with pillows.  Lucky for me, I had made a quadruple batch of pancakes on Saturday and there were still a few left.  Add a tray, some colorful dishes, a glass of juice, and a little bottle of maple syrup, and we had the breakfast of a four year old's dreams. 

The Bard and I even sang "Happy breakfast to you" as I brought the tray to the couch (no candles... apple juice and maple syrup were already pushing my comfort limits).  And while this picture is not the sharpest, I can't resist posting it because it so perfectly captures his emotions of the moment...

That's not a lazy stretch and yawn.  That's a double fist pumping "YES!"

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 52 ~ Hot Chocolate

Our church anniversary party was held outside Sunday night - a fairly chilly evening - at a nearby camp.  I knew the adults would have coffee and tea to warm them up, but for the kids there was water and lemonade.  What could I do to make things cozy for the little ones?

I decided that in addition to our food contribution to the potluck meal, I would bring a hot water heater, some hot cocoa mix, and a spoon.  Hot chocolate for all comers!

And they came.  Happy kids, warm kids, and, well, messy kids.  We had chocolatey kids, chocolatey table, chocolatey floors... and they all smelled delicious!  ;-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 51 ~ Movie Night with Ice Cream

We don't watch much television.  This makes a surprise movie night very exciting to the three youngsters residing in our home. 

Especially when they get to eat ice cream at the same time.

Tonight I am the best mother in the world.  I'll let you know my status tomorrow when I am trying to get everyone to do their farm chores, eat, bathe and look presentable for church, all by 7:30am.  On second thought...

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 50 ~ Another Gift Card

Day fifty.

Half way.

I can't believe it.   I feel like I've hardly done anything.  I have many ideas for the next fifty days.  But I always have days when I am absolutely stumped.  Fifty days gone - hardly anything.  Fifty days to come - seems like a lot.  Funny how that works.

Today I had a plan.  That was superseded by another plan.   By the time the second plan was proven impossible, the opportunity to carry out the first plan had long passed.

Happily, I had a gift card to WalMart that I could donate to our local Family Crisis Shelter.  I hope a family in need will be able to use it for something they enjoy.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 49 ~ Sharing with a Sweet Mom

This past summer I started hosting dinners for moms in my home once a month, just a time to be with other women who have similar lives (most of us homeschool), and discuss things that are important to us.

One of the sweet mothers who comes regularly was not going to be able to attend this month because her husband is traveling.  She has four small children, and while she does an amazing job of cheerfully accepting this frequent challenge of solo-parenting, she seemed a little worn down this week.

There really wasn't any way I could think to include her, but then I had an idea.  What if I brought her the meal in the morning, so she could have the same thing for dinner and feel like she was somewhat a part of it? 

So that's what I did, and it blessed me, the queen of procrastination, by getting me to cook well ahead of time.  Happiness all around... are you sensing a trend here?

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 48 ~ Homeless Bicyclist

The Princess is outgoing, and very in touch with her emotions, so it was no surprise that she fell in love with the stage.  For the past few years she has been attending classes, which amount to rehearsals for plays, at our local theater.   Her theater class is the highlight of her school week.

This week, as I was just beginning preparations to leave for theater class, my phone rang.  It was the mother of some of The Princess' fellow classmates, wondering where we were.  Somehow, we had missed the change in class time, and were supposed to have arrived 45 minutes early.  The class had already started.

We raced around, throwing everything together, and rushed out the door.  As we drove down our country road, I noticed an unusual shape where the road met the highway.  Drawing closer I realized it was a bicyclist, bending over by the side of the road.  As I watched, he slowly moved out into our road, holding something in his hands.  It was garbage that had blown into the gully.  Then he got off the bike, bent over, picked something off the ground... and ate it.

He was practically in the middle of the road, but he appeared oblivious to the approach of my van.  I slowed down and drove past him; he still didn't raise his eyes.  The man was gaunt; he had packs and rolls tied onto the back of his bicycle. 

I stopped at the intersection to the highway and looked in the rear view mirror.  He was slowly pedaling toward me, ready to turn back on the highway and continue on his journey. 

I can't really tell what went through my mind at that moment.  Something like, "hungry. garbage. homeless. tired. crackers."  I put the van in park and jumped out. 

He was still riding toward me but didn't see me.  It took a few attempts before I got his attention.  I asked, "Do you need some food?  Are you hungry?"  His face went from tired to worried to suspicious to relieved as I watched.  "Oh.  Yes.  That would be great."  "Hang on, I'll get you whatever I can find."

I ran to the van and grabbed all the car snacks I had.  One granola bar, a package of peanut butter crackers, and an already opened sleeve of Ritz crackers.  I brought them to him, his hands cupped to receive them.  "It isn't much, I'm sorry.  I keep snacks in the car for my kids."  He looked at them like he was holding a treasure. "No, this is great.  Really, thanks."

"Where are you headed?" I asked.  "West," he said.  "No, east.  That way."  He waved his hand in the direction he was traveling and half-smiled almost apologetically.  "Just, well, you know, going." 

But I really didn't know.  Couldn't imagine.  "Blessings on your travels." I smiled, and jumped back in the van to speed my little actress to her class.

My mind was like a gigantic cave with words and emotions careening off the walls and into each other. 

"Blessings on your travels... that sounds so trite." 
"He didn't even notice my van driving toward him or me talking to him because he was so hungry; he can't focus, how will he be safe on the highway?" 
"I have never ever even once seen a homeless person in this community, and here he was at the end of my country road." 
"I never would have met this man if theater hadn't been early, and we had missed the change." 
"Divine appointment." 

It was one of those moments that simultaneously terrifies and uplifts.  I have some sort-of strategies for dealing with homeless people in the city who ask for help (more about that soon), but this was so totally unexpected and out of context.  And he didn't ask for help.  I saw him, I was stunned... I just acted. 

It was very moving.  I can't really say why.  If theater class had been at the regular time, I wouldn't have been there.  If I had known about the time change, I wouldn't have been there.

It touched me deeply that the opportunity for our lives to cross was a matter of seconds.  There it was.  And then it was gone.  How many times has God given me moments like these that I have missed? 
“Wake up, sleeper,  rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14
For some reason, this time, He got my attention.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...