My favorite hoe was a gift from a friend. Its blade is just the right size for scooping up the dirt to support a growing plant or for upending the roots of pesky weeds. While it’s making a difference in the lay of the land and the weed-to-wanted-plant-ratio in my garden, its familiar feel in my hand makes a difference in my attitude toward the task at hand.
In a world where change is inevitable, I want to pay attention to the manner of change that’s at work:
A field becomes a garden.
A jumble of weeds yields to the hoe and a straight row of corn seedlings becomes visible.
Reading Jeremiah’s prophetic words, however, I find a different sort of change:
In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem, and besieged it. In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the city was penetrated. (Jeremiah 39:1, 2)
These are the “setting” verses that we hurry through on our way to the action, but there’s a good reason to slow down and notice them, because it is in this manner that a garden returns to being a field and the straight, seeded row succumbs to weeds and is no more.
One day it’s the siege ramps.
Two years later, Jerusalem has a Babylonian zip code.
The people of Israel had stopped using their hoes.
By this same alchemy of slow transformation, I will not be the same person when I harvest my cucumbers as I am today in this season of weeding.
And neither will you.
Let us use our hoes with care.
When school takes a vacation and the gardening season begins and the lawn mowing business flourishes, the wheels come off my reading, writing, and studying routines. Things may be a bit erratic over the summer, so I’m hoping to stay in touch via the blog’s Facebook Page. If you pop over and gave it a like or a follow, you’ll be able to stay on top of content here — along with other thoughts that don’t necessarily make it all the way into a blog post.
June has been a delightful month for reading and writing, and I shared four reviews with readers:
A Leopard Tamed by Eleanor Vandevort is a missionary story in the very best way, because the author was a woman ahead of her time, asking questions few in the golden age of U.S. missions were asking and even fewer wanted to entertain. In my review, I spent some time reflecting on the challenging history of missions here in the United States and the startling truth that even heroes of the faith struggle in their understanding of the ways of God:
“Try, if you can, to fathom Him, to draw His picture with clear, solid lines, to pin Him down. Just when you think you have God in focus, He moves, and the picture blurs.”
A more modern-day missionary story finds Rachel Marie Stone serving in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. As she leaned into the risks of motherhood in a third world country, she also supported women at the beginning of their mothering journeys in her role as doula. Birth is the metaphor that runs throughout Birthing Hope: Giving Fear to the Light as it binds memoir to meditation and bears witness to the journey that has left its mark on the author.
Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene Peterson is an older book, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s a classic work on the importance of spiritual reading in the life of a believer. A full-bodied entering into a text, essentially chewing on it, is the kind of reading that takes time and a lot more thought and focused attention than most of us are currently investing in our spiritual reading, and yet it is the words of Scripture, the sentences and paragraphs and trains of thought through which God has chosen to communicate His holiness, His wisdom, and His love to mankind. I invite you to read more here about God’s intention to speak with clarity to His people through a written Word.
I don’t read many parenting books anymore. Often they come across as “answer books,” and it’s hard not to detect a smug, formulaic success story behind their perky narrative, but I was happy to read and review Kristen Welch’s second parenting book in which she has woven her experience of establishing and operating Mercy House,”a ministry that exists to engage, empower, and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name.” with her realization that the grace of God has placed us in a country with clean running water and a solid infrastructure so that we can share our bounty with others. In Raising World Changers in a Changing World: How One Family Discovered the Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving, she shares the impact that being a World Changer can make upon an entire family.
The journey through G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy continues with this month’s post focusing on the challenge of living a balanced Christian life when Christianity itself is characterized by wild paradox and “furious opposites.” Chesterton’s thoughts leave so much room for pondering and challenge:
“We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
And finally, if you want to have your prayer life turned upside down (in a good way), join me in reading through A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. I haven’t finished it yet, but took a stab here at sharing the best book I’ve ever found on prayer.
It’s always a joy to write about grace I’m receiving in this middle-aged following life. When God pours it out as a beacon that helps annoyance finds its grumpy way back to gratitude, I’m grateful. When He uses His Word in the jumbled synapses of my brain, at rest in summer afternoon weeding, to shed light on my path or to put His finger on an attitude or action that needs fixing, it’s a gift, and occasionally the lesson finds its way into a blog post here.
My account of Following the Trail Back to Hope was, by far, the post in June that stimulated the most conversation here, and it left me with the thought that I want to do a better job of balancing this kind of writing and thinking with the book reviews that show up at least weekly in these parts.
You’d think that with all the weeding and tending of the garden and the walking that goes with our summer mowing business, I’d be fit and trim, but the reality is that my muscles need strengthening and my metabolism needs a kick start, so I’ve started exercising almost every day. A friend shared the link to Faithful Workouts, and so I’m going to be that kind of friend to you. The videos are free on You Tube, and the tone is encouraging and spiritually uplifting. I actually look forward to working out!
When our third son turned 19 in June, the crew landed here for pulled pork sandwiches and Frito pie. My husband and I both declare that these gatherings are our new favorite thing as we transition into parenting adults who have busy lives elsewhere.
A virtual gathering in June was initiated by an online friend, Jody Lee Collins. After her April visit to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College (Grand Rapids MI), she came home resolved to champion the voices of women faith writers over the age of 50. She compiled a resource post listing ten of us and sharing our bios and links to our online presence, and it was a great surprise and gift to be included. I’ll share the link in case you are looking for more inspiration here on the web.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books listed in this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The books mentioned in this post have been provided by the publishers to facilitate my reviews, which were, of course, offered freely and with complete honesty.
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I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.
48 thoughts on “Musings: June 2018”
Enjoy your summer gardening. I have been thinking I need to do more muscle strengthening as well. I sit behind the computer far too much.
That’s the culprit here as well, and it’s what got me moving!
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Love the phrase” Let us use our hoes with care”. Your posts always give me something to think about. You are exactly right about the quote from Jeremiah. It’s something that I would read hurriedly and not really think about. It’s a good idea to slow down and examine our study, our lives, and our gardens so that we can “use our hoes with care”!
I am also loving socializing with my adult sons and their families. What a blessing!
So often my garden yields metaphors as well as veggies. And I see the same thing coming out of your running practice.
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I look forward to your monthly musings. Happy summer!
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And to you also, Debbie!
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Oh Michele, I love these lines….”By this same alchemy of slow transformation, I will not be the same person when I harvest my cucumbers as I am today in this season of weeding.
And neither will you. Let us use our hoes with care.”
I enjoyed this wrap up and am impressed with your reading stacks–wow. Anyone who can plow through Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a hero in my book.
Thanks for including a link to my Sage Ones post–you definitely qualify!
“Plowing” is a strong word for a girl who took almost half of 2018 to stumble through the book, but I made it, and now, to fulfill my “commitment” (Is this only stubbornness masquerading as resolve??), I”ll continue to write something about one chapter each month till I’m really through the book. In fact, I’m working on a post right now . . .
Interesting thought to ponder…the fact that just as the cucumbers will be different in the harvest season, so will we. We never know what a day will bring forth or how life will have changed by then, do we? So thankful to know our God never changes, and regardless, He will still be the same.
Yes, He never changes, but we certainly do (from minute to minute!). I want to steward the changes, particularly in these days past the midpoint.
Thanks, Cheryl, for reading!
I love gatherings with our adult children, too. One nice plus, especially with having a daughter-in-law, is that the work is shared. Sometimes I miss the little guys I once knew, but I love them as adults, too.
Thanks for the exercise videos. I will check them out. I’ve fallen out of exercise and need to get back to it, but I just hate the extra time it takes to go to and from the gym. I have some walking DVDs, and they’re better than nothing, but they don’t do as much for me as the gym does. So maybe these videos will be a happy medium.
I’ll also check out the link to the over-50 women of faith writers. Sounds like a good spot!
Let me know how you like those videos, Barbara. I find that on the days I miss exercising, I really DO miss it. The woman who leads the charge is very sweet and positive, and there are several levels of torture. 🙂
The hoes caught my attention!
Lovely to read here as usual
God bless, Michele
Loved capturing a shot of my favorite hoe.
And it’s always so great to hear from you, Ifeoma.
Blessings to you!
Have a wonderful summer. And thanks for the recommended summer reading. #thatfridaylinky
You are entirely welcome!
How fun to catch up on your life, Michele! I’ve designated gardening to my husband for this season of life with little ones at my heels most of the time, but I do love going to the field to stand and admire his neat rows of tomato plants and who-knows-what-else that’s sprouting green from muddy earth! I love the way you tied this to God’s people!
Thanks, Stacey. It’s so satisfying to watch a garden progress through the season.
I always enjoy your musings, Michele. Thanks for sharing the exercise video link too…I need to add some weight-bearing exercises, and I appreciate your recommendation!
Yes, the weight-bearing exercises–that was a new idea to me, but it’s definitely part of the program. More muscle=more calorie burning!
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Happy almost-July Michele! A joy as always to catch up and catch hold of the wisdom you share. Let us use our hoes with care!
Also— the graphics in this post are lovely!!
Wow, thanks for noticing and commenting on the graphics! Have I told you before that this is the most CHALLENGING aspect of blogging for me? So much to learn. . .
It sounds like another busy month. I just ordered “A Praying Life” through your link and look forward to getting started with it. I’m also going to check out the exercise link. Blessings!
I predict that you are just going to love Paul Miler. I’m still reading his book, and I think it’s one of those things I’m just going to start all over again immediately. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up writing more about it, too.
This had me wanting to re-read all of Jeremiah! “One day it’s the siege ramps.
Two years later, Jerusalem has a Babylonian zip code.
The people of Israel had stopped using their hoes.”
I love that way your mind works, Michele!
Also, I’m adding BIRTHING HOPE to my summer reading list.
You’re going to love Rachel Marie Stone’s writing.
And your comment is most reassuring, because there are days when I do wonder about the way my mind works–or doesn’t work.
Oh I like this analogy. A season can be a life time. In February of 2016 my step-daughter passed away. I am not the same person I was before that. I never will be again. I am not sure if this is exactly what you were thinking of when you wrote your post but…It is what came to my mind. If (as in your analogy) hoes are what we use to cultivate our lives than we must truly use them with care…our words, our actions, our time, our hearts, our touch, our thoughts….
I agree with you. After the death of a child, I think the mum everyone knew beforehand just goes away and is swallowed up in living with the loss.
I’m thankful that you shared what came to mind as you read. And I also appreciate your expanding the many ways in which we must be mindful as we use our hoes. For me, today, it will be lettuce in the garden (although that will mostly be close weeding by hand–ugh!) and my attitude in the house.
So true….so many times of not necessarily using a hoe, but Summer flower beds to weed, and yes, as the years have passed so have many phases of me. Great advice on using our hoe wisely because sadly, there are things and people that I may have hoed out of my life as I look back that should not have been. Your post as always is good food for thought. Blessings as we head into a new month. 🙂
Peabea from Peabea Scribbles
The weeding never ends!
True in the garden and true of life!
(Today, I need to tackle the lettuce–and my attitude!)
God has been ministering to me lately through the words of Jeremiah which is not usually my go-to part of the Bible. Oh, that we would learn from Israel’s mistakes as God intended us to!
I’ve been reading so much about Babylon lately that when my husband and I hit 2 Kings in our reading together, I was reminded about Assyria’s role in God’s efforts to bring Israel back around to obedience.
He is so gracious and long suffering toward us.
I love how you used your favorite hoe to make such an excellent point. It also made my mind go back to childhood when I had a favorite hoe to help in the field.
Julie, I knew we were kindred spirits. It just took me longer to find my favorite hoe.
You shared a book by Eugene Peterson I haven’t read yet. His words always inspire me and make me think. I’ll have to check out some of the other books you mentioned, too. I just started another book by A.W Tozer today, and I need to finish that before starting another one.
Eugene Peterson is one of the authors that I keep coming back to. In fact, right now I’m using Run with the Horses as a guide through the book of Jeremiah, and did the same with A Long Obedience and the Psalms of Ascent.
It’s such an encouragement, Barbara, to talk books with a fellow reader. Moody has released a really good compilation of Tozer’s writing about the incarnation–a great Christmas read.
Great analogy you have here. Love the phrase” Let us use our hoes with care”.
What a lovely post!
Get your back stuck into that garden and have a great summer #globalblogging@_karendennis
Crazy enough, when I was teaching Bible to my 12th graders, I always loved getting into the whole history of the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. It’s such a portion of Scripture that is overlooked so much, but there’s so much emotion and unbelievable trauma to the Jews at that time. I love how you connected their life change to ours…things will be different down the road – for better or worse, right? But God is faithful through it all. Thanks for sharing, Michele! Enjoying your depth! 🙂
It is lovely to enjoy the summer in the garden X #mixitup
So true! And, to remember that Eden was a garden.
I’ll have to look into getting Rachel Marie Stone’s memoir for my sister! She is a nursing student who is currently spending her summer working with expectant students in Malawi
Maybe my problem with weeds is I need a new hoe. But more than likely it’s user neglect, not the implement choice, that’s keeping weeds in my flower beds. 🙂
It’s been awhile since I’ve read Eat This Book, but I remember getting so much out of it. As well as A Praying Life. Those are two books that I actually own as real books on my shelf!
Me, too, and especially that image of Peterson’s dog growling over his bone. I’m thankful to be finding these books at this point. The right book at the right time is always a gift.
Thanks so much for stopping by!!
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I love reading, I will have to keep an eye out for some of these titles. Enjoy your gardening #TwinklyTuesday
What a lovely selection of books! Thanks for sharing. #globalblogging
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Thank you for reading!