How to See a Miracle

My car sputtered dead on the way to my first day at a new job—the kind you wear a suit to. A few years out of college, I hadn’t yet graduated from all my bad habits. I had run out of gas. Again.

My faith-walk was still in the fruit snacks stage, somewhere between craving spiritual milk and meat; I prayed hard. Being late on the first day would make an awful impression. Dear Father, please help.

The car died as I turned onto the access road, but I was able to coast down the hill, directly into the pumping station. A credit card swipe, a fast pour into the tank, the three-click-twist of the gas cap, and I was back on my way. A desperate prayer had been answered. It was a miracle.

olga-filonenko-29178-unsplashThere at that workplace I first heard it, a coworker’s flippant, “God has more important things to do than help me find my keys.”

The sentiment surprised me. Since when was the Lord too big to care about small concerns?  At what point did Holy hinder personal?

David was my biblical inspiration. From shepherd boy to mighty king, through exile, foolish rage, base sin, and rebellion, he poured out his everything to God in the Psalms. It was raw and messy. It worked.

David grew in faith and the Lord moved in miracles.

But sparing God our everyday troubles? When did we fill out the ballot to determine acceptable versus unacceptable prayers? When did the Lord ask us to? Why do we so desire to seem to have it all together? The man after God’s own heart danced undignified before the world.

I still hear it these days, even from people devoted to him, “The Lord doesn’t do miracles like that anymore.”

Perhaps the issue isn’t what God is doing, but rather the filters of our perspective: when we invite him in to move as he chooses, versus when we hedge him into the box of what we can understand. If Pharaoh hardened his heart against the miraculous hopping, flying, and crawling through his palace, I’m sure we can miss the boat, too. It’s a sobering thought.

The trouble comes when we decide anything is too small or too big for God.

Miracles are not the point, though. Refining me to become more like him is. How do we focus our vision to see the reality of God’s work in our lives, so that we can know him better? So that he can use us more?

“And [Jesus] said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Spoiler alert: The kingdom of heaven is where all the good stuff happens.

quino-al-111952-unsplashAs Mark Batterson* of The Circle Maker explains: Everyone wants to see a miracle, but no one wants to be in the childlike-faith place of needing one. Yet the latter has to precede the former.  You can’t have one without the other.

The miraculous, then, is just the Lord moving supernaturally in the lives of the ones he loves. The ones who approach him like a child.

Jesus was not bothered by the children coming to him. He encouraged it. So here’s the way I see it: Don’t be ashamed to take your childishness, your prayers to find your keys, your neediness, your unschooled heart to Jesus. He takes you into his arms and blesses you. That is kingdom living. That’s where miracles begin.

My job has changed in the years since that fuel stop.  I’ve grown in wisdom, if not stature; I never let my tank go empty anymore.  But I am still my Abba-Father’s girl. I have seen the Lord move mountains–Real ones, big and small. The links below tell some of the stories. He did it because I admitted how very much I needed him, how out-of-gas-desperate I was for his help.  I know I will always need his power working in my life.

This weekend I lost my wedding ring somewhere on the 8-acre campus of the children’s home, hauling branches and wheelbarrows full of overripe mangoes. Work gloves going on and off took more than sweat off my hands. I had zero hope of finding it. The loss was physically painful: we celebrate 20 years of marriage this fall. Even worse was the time we would spend searching when already exhausted. Praying, surrendering, and crying like a little girl, I put my hands in my pockets on the way out to the car.

It was there.

Right there in my pocket, then in my hand, and astonishingly back on my finger, as if nothing miraculous had happened.

But it had.

sweet-ice-cream-photography-408541-unsplashHaving lost at least a hundred tubes of lip balm over the course of my life, I know nothing is safe in pockets, at least in my pockets. I use them with extreme caution. There are all of 3 places on this earth I trust to hold my wedding ring. Not one of them is a pocket.

This was not forgetfulness. This was a sweet fatherly kiss from a miraculous God.

I’m never going to have it all together. How much fun would that be anyway? I’d rather open my heart and my eyes, my need and my prayers, to see miracles.

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Share your miracle stories below and check out some of mine:

On We Drive

The Backpack Story

Angel Knees

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*You can read more about Mark Batterson’s thoughts on God’s miracles today <here>. 

Larkspur Photo by Olga Filonenko, Beach Sunrise Photo by Quino Al, & Ring Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

Seeds

I spent an hour in the Burpee Seed aisle at Menards today. For me, it was a little slice of heaven. For my daughter, it was just short of purgatory.

My love for this time of year started early in my life. Each March my dad set up a table and lights in the basement and planted flower seeds. Marigolds, impatiens, and zinnias are what I remember the most, and are still what he supplies to all our local extended family. Once I took markers and drew flowers on the rough wood 1x2s that edged the table. My childish script can still be seen in his workshop “Planting, Dad and Me.” This was high entertainment. The fresh smell of the dirt. The sound of it sprinkling onto newspaper laid out to catch overflow from the planters. Dirty hands crunching up last year’s marigold blossom heads into individual seeds. Time with my papa.

Early on in our marriage, Matt got me a set of two grow lights, a board, and frames to make a platform. It only holds about four flats of plants, but so much life fits in there. It also makes a convenient salad bar for our cat, so we set up the Spring Preview in a small storage closet in the basement. There’s just enough room for a folding chair in there, so sometimes I escape from the busyness around the house to go sit and look at the flowers and vegetables growing. To breathe in the quiet and the vibrant shades of green.

In some ways it’s the best part of the growing season. My heart is full of perfect dreams as I plant seeds and plan. In my head, everything grows well. No bugs, disease, hail storms, or plant cussedness disturb my contentedness. Everything blooms beautifully and produces deliciously.

In reality, this oasis of perfection cannot last long. The plants themselves long to spread their roots in the earth and stretch out their branches in space and sunshine. They will not fully flower or bear fruit on my little table in my basement. I can give them an excellent start on their lives, but I cannot fulfill what they were made to be within the confines of my closet.

So too it is with my children. I plant in them the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23a). I teach them to know the Lord and to trust Him with their lives. I water and care for them, loving (or trying to remember to sit down amidst my busyness, and love) this time of perfect dreams and the vibrant shades of their childhood. Because one day will come when our little home will be too small for the big stuff God put in their hearts.

Rain+Dirt=Mud, Mud+Kids=A Beautiful Mess!

Today after church and lunch we had a terrific downpour. The rain came down in absolute buckets for several minutes. After a while the downpour eased but the rain continued. Now, if any of you have been to Hogar de Vida before everyone will tell you shortly upon arriving that Costa Rican children melt in the rain. Whenever it rains the tias quickly bring the children inside. Well, I think we managed to break about every Costa Rican childcare custom this afternoon. We definitely proved that ninos norteamericanos (North American kids) do NOT melt in the rain. They have an absolutely fabulous time and get EXTREMELY MESSY! The kids romped in the puddles, plopped in the mud and twirled to their hearts content. Thankfully our cabins are behind all of the houses the tias and children stay in so we didn’t offend our hosts with their antics.

At one point Eliana was crying out ‘Ayudame!’ (help me!). She managed to get into mud so deep and thick that her shoe was stuck in the mud. I told her to slip off her shoe and then reach in to pull her shoe out of the mud with her hand but, she only managed to lose both shoes in the puddle. Elijah came to the rescue, reached in and pulled out both of her shoes! (At this point daddy has to insert how very proud he is of his boy!)

After the mud baths we (of course) took pictures! I then carried the kids directly to the shower. Kris hosed off the kids while I hosed off the shoes and clothes. Being hard working kids after clean up they devoured Jello and cookies!

It is the Glory of God to create such Life in small things like playing in the mud. We have our plans and our rules. They keep us on a straight path, but there are brief windows where God calls us to step off the road, take a break and savor His creation. They are a time to let go, watch and release yourself into His Joy. They are special because they are not part of the everyday. If we played in the mud everyday it would lose the joy and become routine. There are moments that Our Father gives to us just for that time. We can’t recreate them. We can’t force the pieces back the way we want them and do it over again. We can take Joy in what He has given to us and keep the memory of His Love for us as His precious Sons and Daughters. Thank you God for this memory. Thank you Father for reminding us of your Love for us. Thank you that You came to us, chose us and pursue us as Your precious children. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

(P.S. Thank you God for cameras! Please enjoy the pictures)

Testing the waters….

Getting Wetter…

Oh Just Get Wet!

Why do we have umbrellas anyway?

‘We Are Friends’ (and Really, Really Messy!)