My Pic

My Pic

Welcome to my little Corner

I am Barbara.

An introvert masquerading as an extrovert, a backyard gardener with a farmer's heart, a nurse by day and a dreamer by night. I am passionate about Jesus, spicy food, puppy dogs, words, compost and the aroma of desert rain. Music is chocolate to my soul but solitude feeds the deepest part of me.

And you need to know:

I have been rescued.

Several times actually. Right out of the mud and mire. My writing began as whispers between me and my God and it will always be rooted in that soil. So the plan is simple: I write. Out of the overflow of my heart, the place He has so generously chosen to dwell.

Though I am all grown up, I feel as if the handsome Prince has finally found me and the glass slipper fits. And a living breathing fairy tale has ensued.

So pull up a chair and "sit a spell", as we would say from my West Virginia roots. I hope you find His Footprints here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


A new grandson is born over a recent weekend and we display his picture on Facebook with joy overflowing.  "Likes" and warm congratulations adorn this cherished event.  People whom we barely know rejoice with us.  

On another Facebook page, a different child’s picture is displayed.  Husband and wife celebrate alone. They stroke the picture of their offspring with bittersweet, caressing her with their eyes.  Eight years is an eternity to not touch your daughter, much less get a glimpse of her or look into her eyes. 
Mental illness ripped her from them as a teenager.  Months bled into years as she denied them contact.  She is older now – a grown woman - yet she is carried in that mama and daddy place inside them just the same. 

And in this recent picture, the estranged one smiles.  Eyes seem to dance, arms around the few she has allowed into her fragmented mind and world.  And in a flash, just for a moment, she seems to smile at the grieving parents. 

They yearn to break her free from the chains that bind her but not unlike our new grandson, she must be birthed in God’s perfect timing.  So they wait and view her from afar, on screens and through other's chance encounters. Though their pain has taken a settled place within them, there is no bitterness or resentment.   They serve joyfully, pray faithfully and celebrate other's life events. 

Often we think that “having it together” is a score for the home team as Christians.   But I think far more is spoken through lives of faithfulness in the grit and grind of imperfection and brokenness.  Because honestly, it shouldn't be about us anyway.   It's about how our lives point to God.  When we yield the canvas of our hopes and dreams, the Great Artist creates.   He may paint with a different stroke, but it is perfect in His way and timing.
The true beauty of our lives is not in being free of life's problems but in the yielding.  And this is the life that we see in them. 

In the meantime they, whom we love so dearly, whose pain we tenderly but awkwardly hold, wait.  On tiptoe. And as the storm rages on and they are pelleted by downpours, we pray and watch with them for rainbows. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Writing on the Wall (or Table)

The show room lights rained down upon the outdoor furniture display.  Like Goldilocks, I tried out the chair for a fit and it did not disappoint. Even the table was "just right".  I could already envision it nestled outside our bedroom window, a perch for a good read, birdwatching and relaxation.  Yes, it would fit the empty space perfectly.
The table and chair set found its home in the spot that I imagined; it filled the space but it didn’t fill me.  Not like I thought it would.  I can't even remember the last time that I sat there.  The desert dust collects on the table top as the chair's fabric sears under the blaze of the southwestern sun, a daily reminder of the appetite I have for stuff and how little value it holds in the end. 

There is something about a vacant place that seeks fulfillment.  This time I would fill with a table and chairs that in the end, didn’t meet any real need.  More often, the vacant place is within me.  Wants blur into needs and I forget the countless items in my life that just occupy space, time and upkeep without any real reward.   

Truth be told, there is a cost.

Deut 32:15 says “Jeshurun (a poetic word for Israel) grew fat and kicked; filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.  They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior”

The fatter we become, the less our awareness of what really satisfies.  We want Egypt's bread instead of early morning tidbits of manna that we cannot store up.  These earthly counterfeits take up residence in our lives while heaven's accumulated treasure plummets into negative numbers.  Like the Israelites, our hearts revert to idolatry even when we have tasted so much more.

We can run and fill haphazardly or we can quiet our hearts and listen to the real need.  These days I am running way too much, filling with the temporal, all the while hungering for nuggets in the hillside that must be mined.   I shake my head when I read the foolishness of the Israelites but I fare no better.

In His grand design, when God fills, it is as a spring rather than an inlet.    While it may nourish us, it's extended purpose is always for something beyond us.  Our flesh says "fill me" but the Spirit says "fill and then empty".  In God's upside down Kingdom, we find the fullest expression of who we are created to be.

And it's a perfect fit every time.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Polishing Plaques

“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”
Phil 1:21

I displayed this desk top verse proudly during my college years.  It became a fixture and so settled in upon my desk that eventually the only time I saw it was when I dusted it.  And really, I had no concept of the meaning behind it.  What 18 yr old girl , looking brightly into the future, can embrace a concept of her own death?  And how little I knew of a life so lived for Christ that it could swallow me up.

Many years have passed since that little plaque and I have learned a few things.

I’ve learned that sometimes living for Christ might be harder than dying for Christ.  Good intentions remain just that - good intentions.  One passion usurps another.  And as time passes without action, the specificity of convictions are lost.  Similar to panning out from a location on a Google map, the details fade against the backdrop of “more”.  My intentions must lock in with gears of motion.  I must continually remind myself that the servant in the parable of the talents is judged not for doing wrong things but for doing nothing.

I’ve learned that life is brief and accelerates as one gets older.  The Scriptures tell us that life is but a mere breath in time. On a recent Sunday our pastor directed us to take a “congregational breath”and then he said, “Congratulations, that was your life.”  The rest of the sermon came alive at that point.  There is an urgency in time that I seldom feel.  But gray hair and wrinkles are reminders of how quickly "todays" bleed into "yesterdays".  

I’ve learned that obvious sin may be managed but living with the depravity of my own heart is exhausting.  A prayer phrase from the book, The Valley of Vision, reads “sin’s deformity is stamped upon me”.  It's true.  Each day I start with a clean slate but before I have even left the house I’ve fallen multiple times.  I am the freshly bathed child who immediately slips out to play in puddles of mud.  Without the grace and mercy of Christ, I lean toward destruction.

I’ve learned that dying is not a one time event.  I will have to die many times before that final hour.  Many of these deaths are within my control, choices that I make in response to the rhythm of life.  I will have to die to perfect families, flawless marriages, and satisfying jobs.  To having my own way, to keeping peace, to having order.  To earthly security, to always being liked and respected.  Because my ultimate death will be consummated someday in One who gave everything up for me. My tiny sacrifices are paltry against the backdrop of His love.  

As I brush off the mental dust from Phil 1:21,  I want this verse to hold me instead of me holding it.   I want to be so wrapped up in Jesus, so living His grace that I need no plaque to announce how I embrace living and dying.   

And that's a long walk home.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pot of Gold

In my reverie, I am back in that kitchen again with its black and white checkerboard wall paper and spotless counter-tops.  Mom, clad in her signature faded apron, stands at the stove fussing over the pot - the "magical pot", as we fondly label it.  It is old, dimpled and scarred, crusted with flecks of previous delicacies. Even so, it seems that everything cooked in it is bound for success.  Simmering pot roasts, steaming pork and kraut, and ham spiked navy beans find home in its beloved arms.  But the "piece de resistance" is the homemade vegetable beef soup.

The story goes that once when the pot cradled this divine soup, my Mom felt an urge to share it.  Now you must know that as a child of the Depression, this was not characteristic of her. Often she gave, but only when there were “leftovers”.  This new thought was first fruits giving - giving without assurance that there would be enough for us.  And for one who had known uncertainties as a child, this was new territory. Winter chill frosted the windows as she prepared the nourishment within our insulated fortress.  But give it away, she did.  Amazingly, when we sat down to enjoy the remaining soup, it appeared as if nothing had been taken out of it.  We felt like the widow at Zeraphath whose jar of flour and jug of oil did not run out.

Shauna Niequist, in her book Bread and Wine, says that “Food connects us to good memories, tells us we’re safe and brings us back to sweeter times on hard days."  This pot and its various contents are rooted in all that and more..

My Mom is gone now.  She and I share no more culinary delights.  Today, I press the pot’s cold metal to my pursed lips and close my eyes.  I can feel her, smell her.  And the aroma of vegetable beef soup invades my awareness.  Isn't it crazy how the things you think matter hold little sway when the loss has a chance to burrow in and mature?  This old pot, worth little in material value, is locked in my memories.  And now it is locked in my daughter’s memories as she too anticipates it in her home someday.

A little piece of her Nana and me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

For the Love of Camels

The rich young man had asked the question.  And Jesus had answered.  “Sell it all. Give to the poor”.  And as if that wasn’t enough to fill the ear, the chilling prognosis came later when his disciples questioned him further:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” 

These words of Jesus trip me up every time.  Because I’m rich.  And so are you.  We are First world people. 

I want to rationalize these words. Really, what camel ever wanted to go through the eye of a needle anyway?  But maybe that‘s the point. Desire is the crack in the doorway to knowing God.  Maybe the glitz and glitter of wealth can eclipse that desire. 

So while these words of Jesus appear hard to us, they are actually about hope.  Because as He spoke, Mark says Jesus loved this rich young man, knowing that this unburdening was vital to the righteousness he craved.  So rather than shame, I see incredible love. Apparently selling possessions and giving to the poor is not only about the poor.  And these words, though specific to the rich young man, actually hold promise for us as well.

Prosperity comes with not only enjoyment, but also upkeep and distraction from our underlying thirst.  It deceives us, seeding independence and self sufficiency.  No wonder the Third World is exploding in Gospel receptivity and growth, while we in the First World, like that famous frog, are dying in the slowly boiling water of prosperity.

I have been following 4 bloggers who traveled to Africa with World Help.  In a strange way, I envy the exceeding joy of the African believers who have nothing in terms of worldly health and wealth.  The treasure I hear them proclaim is Christ.  As Scripture says, hearts and treasures are undeniably linked.

My pregnant daughter and family will soon be moving into a home with additional bedrooms to accommodate baby #3.  Our grandson, upon his first visit to the home, raced the square footage at a full run and played hide and seek with his toddler sister, in a display of unreserved enthusiasm.  There was so much more to explore.  Like my grandson in the larger house, prosperity enlarges the spaces in which we can run and hide.

There is nothing glorious about poverty nor am I implying that we should strive for a state of martyrdom.   But I believe that we, the church in North America, need to stop plugging our ears to the possibility that Jesus is speaking to us.  And on a more personal level, to you and me.  

Not in condemnation, but out of His great love


Monday, January 20, 2014

Relentless Love

She had taken that fatal step, free falling into the putrid waters below.  It had looked so inviting, so beautiful.  But upon entry, the stark reality hit and the death grip took hold.  Soon she began to smell the sulfur and sense the darkness.   

Her fall from grace left her naked and exposed.  Shame’s scum clings tightly.  Time has passed, unlike the consequences of her sin.   The Gospel rings hollow.  She used to know it well but now it seems like a distant echo of another time.   She has been excluded, if only in her own mind.  A blackball, so to speak. Loneliness and isolation tether her to hopelessness.

And still she replays the details and attempts to answer her own questions. Where was God?  How did this happen?  Is she not known by Him?  Is there no safety in the palace of the King? 

And no matter how many times she tries, she cannot pick herself back up.  Because receiving forgiveness and forgiving oneself are not equal.  Self flagellation is a kind of bloodletting, an attempt to alleviate the pain.  Yet it is also an attempt to retain the pain.  Because if she ever lets go, she fears she may truly have to accept that stain upon her soul.

I don’t know this woman.   Her gut wrenching struggle was shared by another.  And yet I know her well. 

I know …
  • ·         That there is no darkness as black as the gutter alongside the narrow road when the foot becomes entangled with sin.
  • ·         That like the Israelites, she will have to move toward the waters before they will part.
  • ·         That when her running ceases, she will see that the miles away from her Savior were only an illusion as He was there all along.   And He is hosting a banquet in her honor.
  • ·         And that upon her return, the word grace will be so fresh she will be able to almost taste it.  And she will want to shout and sing and dance.

I know because she could have been me.   And as she aches, I ache.  I ache to draw her back to a Father who forgives and still has a plan for her life.  I know the heartache of brokenness but I also know a Savior who woos fallen ragamuffins .  At first we flail and resist but He persists in His lifesaving rescue and draws us again and again into His arms.

God loves us with a love that never tires of pursuit.  May she catch a glimpse of this..


Monday, January 6, 2014

Tending the Soil

It‘s gardening prep time here in the southeast valley of Arizona.  While much of North America slumbers beneath mountains of snow and shivers in frigid temperatures, I will be on my knees in short sleeves, scooping up dry weathered leaves and loading a truck with bags of compost from a nearby organic farm.  For me, there’s no better feeling.

And from what I see, I am not alone.  Gardening is the fastest growing hobby in the U.S.  Could it be that our humanity hungers for reminders of the Creator around us?   

Even in urban living, city parks beckon.  Community gardens are erected and roof tops of apartment buildings are adorned with vegetation and flowers. Plant and floral arrangements are added to the interior of stark office buildings.  It would seem that when we are deprived of garden, we create it.  Might there be a part of gardening that returns us to the original garden -Eden ­­- where we lost our way?

Every day we are enslaved by routines that keep us attached to “devices” rather than living organisms.  Certainly automation and technology make our world richer, but we cannot deny our longing for something more personal - an opportunity to participate in the miracle and beauty of creation.   It's part of us because we are part of Him and made in His image. 

Gardening also offers a healing effect upon our earthly vessels.  Studies have shown that it can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity and produce feelings of well being.  As we take in the invigorating outside air and scoop the life giving soil into our hands, something happens.  Life erupts not only from the tended garden plot but also from within us.

Rudyard Kipling said, “Adam was a gardener and God, who made him, sees that half of all good gardening is done upon our knees.”   This posture of humility cultivates more than plants and flowers.  It’s a picture of our dependency upon a Savior who gave us eternal life, a life that we, alone, are incapable of producing despite our efforts.

We are all products of seed sowing.  At some point, through God's providence, someone or something spoke truth into our lives.  It fell upon good soil and eventually bore fruit.

I hold this picture in my mind when I see the miracle of a seedling pushing through the garden dirt, bringing forth new life.