4th Caroline Project: Planting seeds in hearts and fields

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Environmental Stewardship…Creation Care…Sustainable Agriculture…These words highlight the topic of the fourth Caroline Project and are something our family values very much.  Since I (Joel) have a connection to the individual we’re supporting, I’m excited to share this post with you.

Most of my professional training centers on “Creation Care”; simply defined as taking care of God’s creation because He made it. This was the topic of my master’s thesis, which later got published as a book entitled A Field Guide to Christian Environmental Education.  To me there is a connection between our relationship with God and our relationship with the land. Our family is committed to exploring both of these on a deeper level. We take very seriously the command given in Genesis 2:15 which says: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it.” I think it is helpful to look at the Hebrew words for “till” and “keep”. The word for “till” is abad, which means: to care for something in a careful way. It means to take care of something. So we are called to take care of God’s garden. The second word “keep” is shamar i. This means:  to safe keep. It is used elsewhere in the Bible in a popular benediction in Numbers 6:24-26. In this passage it describes how God safe keeps and protects us.  So- we are called to safe keep and protect the garden.

In the classes I teach, I am able to focus on these things. I try to open my students’ eyes to truly see the creation in a way that they maybe haven’t considered before. I try to inspire love for God’s creation; not to replace the focus of God but because they are things He created.

I believe strongly that people cannot separate themselves from the land. If you are curious how intimately we are connected to the land, you can start your search in Romans 8:19-22. Our sin made devastating changes to the natural world. The creation waits in eager expectation for humankind to be transformed so that it can be freed from its bondage. This transformation comes through Christ- His death, resurrection, and second coming.  People, I don’t know how much more of a connection there could be than that. I believe that someday I am going to have to give an account for how well I have managed what God has lovingly provided through his works.

I propose that it is a mistake for organizations whose mission is to care for people who are forgotten, marginalized, and living in poverty but are not including taking care of the land in which these people live as part of their mission.  There are multiple reasons why these people are in the position they are in; many of which are related to the environmental context in which they live. Many are hurting due to the mismanagement of the natural resources that are there to provide for their needs. Unfortunately this tends to funnel into a downward spiral of God’s creation not being able to support the people that it was designed to care for. Again these ideas and concepts are something I work hard at getting my students to think about.

So I have to say, it was neat when a former student of mine emailed me asking if she could sit down with our family and discuss her ministry with World Venture; an organization that teaches sustainable agricultural to people living in poverty in order to teach them about Christ. I remember having Hannia in my Environmental Science class; a science course that is designed for “non-sciency” people. I remember that the principles from the course really connected with her; specifically how much people are connected to and dependent on the land. She took the interest that started in class and pursued learning how to teach people to be better stewards of the land in regards to farming so that the Creation could do what it was designed to do. Through other formative experiences Hannia discovered that God was calling her to do this work fulltime in the Philippines. She is currently raising support to start as a full time missionary by this spring.

When our family met with Hannia, she explained that farming is a pivotal to someone living on the island of Mindanao.  It is central to their way of life.  She will be teaching people how to farm sustainably and effectively in hopes that relationships will be made and she can share the Gospel of Christ. Hannia is focusing on the physical needs first then working on the spiritual needs, knowing that the creation is one of the stronger witnesses of God in any language (Romans 1:20). I love the title line for her ministry: planting seeds in hearts and fields.

Hannia is currently building her support and is especially looking for people to be committed to pray for her and to partner with her financially in this ministry.  For more information about Hannia and how to get involved, please go here.  worldventure.com/hfreeman

Ezekiel 34: 18-19 “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?”

It is time to stop trampling. It is time to stop muddying. It is time for those who are on the outside, who are unseen and unheard, to be given good pasture and clean water. It is time to allow the creation to do what it was designed to do: provide and sustain.

 

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Hope in my closets

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I am a positive person by nature.  I always have been.  On my best days, I am resilient.  But sometimes I am only naively optimistic.  I annoy myself with my optimism.  Sometimes I just want to be sad…for an extended period of time.  And though I am learning the fine art of leaning into your pain and providing space for grief, it is fairly easy for me to quickly land on the positive.  Then, if you add a deep seeded foundation of faith…my trust goes quickly to the Lord.  The point is, when I write a blog post, it is done so retrospectively, when the pain caused by our circumstances is in proper perspective, viewed through the lens of Jesus.  After the Holy Spirit has walked me through processing my feelings about whatever it is I am experiencing.  However, in trying to provide a clear picture of our journey, I think it is necessary to write in the pain, as well as after the pain. 

For example: I had a total breakdown last night…there was ugly crying, there was hyper focusing on our circumstances, and to take it even further, I simply went to how crappy this whole thing is for ME…no, seriously…I was 100% self focused…and I don’t even care.

Here’s where this crazy is coming from:
I love my church.  We’ve got people there, you know…OUR people.  We’re a part of a group of people who are DOING LIFE together.  We are silly and weird, and all different than each other.  We’re committed to each other.  I cannot even tell you what it means to me to be a part of something so real…  We spend time together on a very regular basis; sometimes at the spur of the moment, sometimes at an organized get together, and every other week, doing a Bible study that usually entails watching a speaker on a dvd and talking about what’s going on in our lives.  Last year the series we did was called Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  I could go on and on about this book/series/way of life, but instead I’ll just say this one thing:  there are many different things on the list of factors contributing  to this deep desire I have noticed in my soul- a desire to actually and intentionally, love God, and love people.  The book Crazy Love is one bullet point on the list.

So when a couple of “our people” found themselves in a weary place, action simply had to be taken.  A husband and wife who are in our group have a major home repair that must take place in the next year.  Basically, they have to tear up the city road in front of their house to repair their sewer pipe.  After battling with the city over who is actually responsible to pay for the repair, they have discovered that they, as the home owners, have to be the ones to pay.  So, thousands of dollars, because of absolutely no fault of their own. 

In describing the early church, Paul, in the book of Acts says that all the believers “45 sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”  So, that’s what we’re doing.  We’re having a garage sale.  For weeks we (and many people who are our “extended people”, those not officially in our Small Group, but those who are still very much in our camp) have been going through our closets and storage rooms, our garages and kitchens…we’ve been pulling items to sell, purely with the intent that we could raise some extra money for our friends.  Because none of us can just give them thousands of dollars, but we can do something…we can take some extra time to sell our stuff.

That’s the background.  What does this have to do with me having a breakdown?    
Here’s why:   I don’t have tons of junk…I mean, I’ve got junk laying around, don’t get me wrong…but, generally speaking I try not to have too much stuff in my home at any given time.  So in trying to raise money for our friends, I just don’t have tons of miscellaneous stuff to donate to a garage sale.  But I do have one thing:  lots and lots and lots of baby items.  We’ve been hanging onto all of our baby things…for years.  Why wouldn’t we?  And we had STUFF.  When we were trying to get pregnant last year, I think having that stuff was like having  hope.  We had hope in our closets…the idea that we would certainly need all these items again someday. 

While it doesn’t seem necessary to keep these anymore… I have known that I just don’t have the emotional capacity to go through those closets…not yet.  But when Joel cleaned out the garage 2 weeks ago, with the intent to find big ticket items for the sale, a pile started forming in our driveway.  Strollers, a toddler bed, bins of little kid toys, the bike trailer we pulled Jonah around in for miles…the list goes on and on.  I looked at those items, and I thought about my dear friends.   I realized that their concrete need for money to fix something as lame as the road in front of their house, was just more urgent then my emotions tied to these items.  So I decided to let go… and we’ve been cleaning off things, pricing things, and hauling things to my friend Laura’s house for a week and a half.  It has been so good.

Last night, in that moment right before sleep, when we are at our most vulnerable, I just lost it.  I looked over at my sleeping husband and the thoughts slammed my brain. “I can’t believe this happened to him…I can’t believe we don’t know why…Why don’t we know what to do in the future? Should we adopt? Should he have surgery?  What about IVF?  What if, in a year, we adopt and we don’t have anything for the baby because we sold it all in a garage sale…what if, why, I can’t believe it…over and over and over again. 

Why do I have this tie to objects?  Why does having things in my closets make me feel more secure

Here’s what I know in the calm of the next morning: 
-Life is just messy. 
– If, in the future, the Lord places it on our hearts to adopt, then He will be faithful to provide for whatever it is that we need.  And, I can pretty much guarantee that it is likely that those needs would be met by my group of people… the very people we are hoping to help this weekend…because this is what we try to do for each other.
-Most of all, I know this: I don’t need to hold hope in my closets.  Not when I have Hope in my heart.

Now- all this being said…I simply refuse to go through the baby clothes…not yet anyway…

 

 

 

Still waters.

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kindergartenWell we did it.  We sent Jonah to kindergarten.  That first day we got up earlier than usual.  Jonah dressed in his official kindergarten outfit (thanks, Aunt Deb!).  We took the first day of school photo.  We waaaalked to the car.  We droooooove into town.  I tried to play it cool, you know, to not put any of my emotions about sending Jonah to school out there so he wouldn’t pick up on what a hot mess his mother was and therefore freak out himself. We walked hand in hand to the grassy area where all the kindergarteners were joining their teachers and classmates.  Then, as if out of nowhere, and at the most perfect moment, this guitar music starts.  There was a troubadour, walking around, playing music and singing songs.  My kid was enamored with him.  I looked around and some parents were leaving, but some were staying.  I said to Joel “how long do you think we need to stay?” Joel didn’t even have time to respond because at that moment, Jonah looked up at me with those huge brown eyes and said “Adios, mom”…the most proper response from a kid who’s attending a Spanish immersion school.  Welp.  There’s my cue.  So thanks, guitar man, for making that transition extremely easy!

As I sat alone in my car a few moments later, my first instinct was to sob my eyes out.  But wait…what’s that?  What was my soul telling me in that very moment?  That there really is nothing to sob about.  Because, though our circumstances are what they are, there is so much good here.  Jonah is okay, beyond that, he’s totally ready for kindergarten.  And he’s totally into learning the Spanish language.  And his school is totally into global awareness, which totally matches this thing that is developing in our family…an increased awareness of social justice, cultural reconciliation, environmental stewardship…

I sat in my car, having it all be okay.  And it occurred to me…these are still waters.  So He DOES lead us there if we’re willing to go with Him…

On a similar but separate note, when we dropped Jonah off this morning, he was all good and well, but there was another little girl who was far from it.  I ran into her mom in the parking lot and we got to talking…as I listened to this poor, sweet momma bear, I determined one thing for sure.  This whole sending your kid to kindergarten thing:   it’s hard. No matter how you cut it.  Whether it is your only child or one of many, it’s HARD (my personal opinion is that it IS a titch harder for us mothers of onlies).  These are our babies and we’re entrusting them to the care of someone else for the first time.  Even if they’ve been in daycare for years, this is their education…kindergarten is the first thing that actually, really matters…and we’re all just trying to the best job we can for our kids.  This poor mother, who’s daughter only recently turned 5, was second guessing her choice to send her child to school this year…possibly the first of many tough choices that really matter.   Rest, tonight, momma bear…you are doing a good job.

We sent Joel back to school too this week, both as a teacher and as a student.  Fall has officially started at our house.  With it comes figuring out what our new routine is, which can be messy and clumsy at times.  But this year the return of the school year means that I get to go from working full-time to working part-time, something that I have wanted to do for a good long time.  I am totally, completely thrilled!  And so for me, it feels like less schedule, less stress, more time… more freedom.  Freedom to be and to write and to paint and to process.   It was only one year ago, last September, that we even started to try to have more babies….after the miscarriages, after Joel’s near death experience with a fungus growing in his lungs, after a break from “trying” so that he could recover…our journey has taken us so many years, and yet it is also still so very recent.  So this thing we’re doing…this staying put until God directs us to the next place, this giving away, this thinking and processing and being…THIS is what we are to do in this moment.  This is why we can be resting beside still waters.  And I am happy to be here.

 

Gilmore Girls and Ice Cream

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I had so badly wanted to write this weekend.  I had wanted to tell you all the rest of the stories from the last Caroline Project.  Or about what God has been doing in our lives.  Or about how I’ve had some moments of “Seriously, God?!?  You could have stopped this…”  I have about fifteen posts in my mind and on various scraps of paper.  But..It was a long weekend filled with hard work, new chickens (promptly followed by one lost chicken), girlfriends, garage sale prep…and now…Jonah is sleeping, to awaken to his first day of kindergarten.  And there are so many emotions that coincide with that for all mothers, especially those who don’t know if this is their only child or not…so for now, this is all I could muster to do:  Gilmore Girls and ice cream.  So thanks for reading, even when the words are far from profound…

Gilmore Girls and Ice Cream