The In Between

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After a three month hiatus from blog posts and a much-needed brain break, I’m back!

This month and a half of unemployment has reminded me of summers in middle school (other than the hormones, drama, and curfew).  For the first time in a long time, I’ve had no schedule, no deadlines, no alarm clock.  As a planner, having no routine isn’t exactly my favorite…but I’ve learned a lot during this in between time.

I’ve learned that I am just not skilled with desserts that require saucepans.

Exhibit A: The raspberry cream pie I attempted to make for my sister’s first day of class.

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This isn’t the first saucepan dessert that I’ve butchered.  I’ll spare you the details, but know the last time it ended in flames, a new saucepan, and a scar-shaped reminder on my finger.  That must mean that the raspberry pie was an improvement, right? It was at least edible…

I’ve also learned that I actually enjoy a lot of activities that seemed like tasks on a checklist while in school.  I forgot that I enjoy reading for pleasure, long talks with friends, sipping hot tea, and walking my dog.  I forgot that a trip can actually be relaxing and morning interruptions from family are beautiful.

I was also reminded of how gracious God is to provide…again.  

This month I first saw His provision with jobs.  I saw interviews and job offers come.  I saw odd jobs arise during this in between time.  I saw gifts come in unexpectedly.  I saw friends and family reach out.

I also saw this provision in my to-do list.  I had the unique opportunity to accomplish those low-priority projects that never actually get done during the busyness of life.  I saw His provision as I organized my pictures from the last season, reflecting on how He provided friends, funds, and an education the past two years.

The next project where I saw His provision was preparing bags for the homeless.  I’m ashamed to say that this is a project that I’ve meant to do for over five years.  This month I actually did it.  The project started by using some brown paper bags and string I had.  Next, I went to the store to buy some items to give out when I see someone in need.  Here’s where the learning got tough.  I had an idea of what I wanted to purchase at the store, knowing some items that might be helpful and affordable.  When I got there, I was overwhelmed by the items that someone in need might be lacking.  I was brought to tears thinking about not having a toothbrush or medicine or breakfast.  I thought about how abundantly the Lord has provided for my needs.  After an emotional trip down every aisle in the store, I decided on beef jerky, peanutbutter crackers, bottled water, tube socks, and a few Bible verses.  Though my bags are grossly inadequate, I was grateful for the Lord’s provision to allow me to make them.  After packing forty or so neatly into my car, I found the learning would only continue.  Instead of avoiding each person on the corner, excusing myself because I had no cash or didn’t want to enable them, I now look at each person wondering if they’re someone the Lord wants me to hand a bag.  Whether I end up giving them a bag or not, the bags prompt me to pray and care about each person I see on the corner.  I see them as people.  Though I may have said that previously, I’m ashamed to say that just wasn’t the case until this month.

So, again, God reminds me of His provision.  His provision of opportunity, His provision of needs, His provision of grace.

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Manna from Heaven

Has something ever tasted heavenly when you’re famished and mediocre when you’re only mildly hungry? I have a feeling most of the things I cook in my dorm will have this same disappointing effect if I attempt to make them five years from now (when I hopefully have an actual kitchen).  Regardless, I’m convinced that the bread I made a few weeks ago was truly manna from Heaven.  Not because I made it (believe me, that’s never to any food’s benefit), but because the Lord provided it.  The week before I made this bread, I’d been praying the Lord would provide food until my next paycheck.  At the time, I had approximately 3 cans of black beans, 1 protein bar, 3 cans of tuna, 1 individual bag of pasta, peanutbutter, bags of frozen fruit, oatmeal, carrots, jelly, and baking items (like flour, spices, etc).  Oatmeal and smoothies would cover two meals a day for at least a week, but I was still missing another meal (and a lot of calories).  As much as I love black beans, tuna, and peanutbutter, it’s hard for me to eat those plain for very long.  I really needed some sort of bread.  That day I learned the importance of the prayer “give us this day our daily bread.”  So I got on my knees, prayed, and here’s what happened…

I was at work the next morning worrying about the next couple weeks (I’m excellent at worrying in case anyone ever needs a lesson) and the Lord reminded me to pray.  The Lord promises that His unfathomable peace will come if we pray.  As always, He was faithful to keep that promise and peace quickly covered my anxiety.  Being more peaceful, I was able to start thinking through some more logical responses to the food issue (other than mixing black beans, peanutbutter, and tuna).  I started praying for creativity.  Throughout the day the Lord flooded my mind with new thoughts.  It took hours of dead ends for me to finally find something that worked.

Without yeast, baking powder, eggs, or milk, my options were limited.  I also had no vegetables to do something like zoodles, cauliflower tortillas, etc.  I finally discovered a recipe for bread that required no yeast, eggs, or milk.  The only catch was it did require baking powder.  At first, that discouraged me.  Then the Lord helped me find an alternative to baking powder that was actually in my dorm: lemon juice and baking soda.  The instructions I found online were pretty complicated (math also isn’t my strong point), but I just prayed (and laughed) as I was making the dough that the Lord would help it turn out okay.  If anyone else tasted this bread, they might turn their nose up, but I thought it tasted wonderful.

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I ate it plain, with honey, and made it into a PB&J.  I probably could’ve eaten the entire loaf in one sitting.  I kept thinking about Exodus 16:30 where manna “tasked like wafers made with honey” (HSCB).  How much sweeter is the Lord’s provision? If I had relied on my own resources, I would have paid a bill late or borrowed money to buy bread that would not have tasted as good.  Or I might have just eaten scoops of peanutbutter by itself.  Yet, the Lord truly provided food that I could rejoice over eating.  I just had to wait on Him and trust His plans.  I too often take matters into my own hands, unwilling to wait and trust.  I worry that He does not have things under control, forgetting to remember the work He’s done.

(And to all the moms out there, I promise I didn’t just eat bread, honey, and oatmeal all week.  The Lord provided some other recipe ideas that helped make my other pantry items come to life.  He also provided some other food unexpectedly.)

The Nest

There is a bird’s nest directly above my window.  (In fact, there may be a bird neighborhood…) Each morning as the sun peeks through my slightly-too-narrow curtain, I begin hearing birds chirping and wings flapping.  Throughout the day, I continue to hear the activity of my winged friends as they busily go about their day.  Occasionally, one even hits my window.  (Thankfully, we’ve yet to have a fatality—rest assured, my window will never be clean enough that they’ll run into it head-on.)

Of the sounds I hear form these upstairs neighbors, the one I hear most often is chirping.  Although I am not well-versed in ornithology or even bird watching, I imagine this chirping is from baby birds.  Whether this chirping is or isn’t from my predicted source, these cries cause me to meditate on God’s provision.

These little birds chirp and chirp and chirp all day long.  I cannot see the nest(s) from my room, but I can see adult birds flying to a nearby tree gathering sticks, etc.  While the babies are left helpless, the mommy and daddy birds are off gathering means to provide for their young.  The tasks of the adult birds don’t seem deterred by the chirping, yet they are always working for the benefit of the babies.  Though the babies may feel hungry, abandoned, and fearful as they are literally left in the gutter of an old dorm building, their parents always return at the right time with what the babies need.

God never leaves us, but His timing and will may feel like abandonment in times where we helplessly chirp from the nests He’s provided.  God specifically addresses this very feeling in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (NIV2011).  I am so grateful for a loving Father, who cares for us to a degree we cannot even imagine.  May we always look around our nests seeing His provision with each stick, worm…or even annoying, chirping, selfish neighbor.