hands wide open



In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, God commands His people to share generously, opening their hands wide to others in need. We see the excellent wife in Proverbs 31 keeping this law by stretching out her hands to those who are poor and in need. Beyond that, we see God leading the way by His own example, opening His hand to us. Filling. And satisfying. (See Psalm 104:27-28 and 145:16.) 


But "hands wide open" isn't a one-sided concept. If when God opens His hand, I am filled (Psalm 104), then I had to hold open my hand to receive. Think of the beggars in the gospel, sitting with open hand just waiting for someone to put something good into their hand so that they can survive another day. Am I not a beggar? In need of God's kind gift.

Giving isn't all that "hands wide open" means. "Hands wide open" also means not grasping onto... 


Possessions. A house. Earth stuff. It means holding lightly all things. 


But it goes beyond stuff. To people.

Friends and family. It may mean saying goodbye to go live in a new place, another country even. I've said many goodbyes. And though you hope to keep in touch, near proximity almost always trumps and the divide is not fully bridged by email or Facebook or even Skype or FaceTime. We can each really only pour ourselves into a limited number of people. It doesn't mean we don't love the people God has knit our hearts to in previous places. We look forward to picking up where we left off, some day.

But it may go still deeper. To our own children






And soul-searchingly deeper. In death. 

The death of a loved one. A child. A child yet unborn. "It's okay, Michelle, I have her." I remember the Spirit's whisper. I remember the strong wind leaving the doctor's office after finding out my little girl was gone. It is painful. But there is grace enough, somehow.

Can I open my hand? Will I?

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away," Job proclaims. And then chooses praise: "Blessed be the name of the LORD." Can I choose to take what God gives and give thanks? And I'm reminded again of one thousand gifts


JOB knew "hands wide open" could be painful. Lonely. Gut-wrenching and completely confusing. 


BUT GOD.

God knows what "hands wide open" means. God Who opened His hand to give us His Son. Jesus Who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Philippians 2:6, ESV). Jesus, God the Son, Who stretched His hands wide open for nails to hammered through them, to bear the weight of sin for us, literally to become sin for us and bear the wrath of the Father. He knows. 


He knows that anything given up is for greater gain. He died for the hope of relationship with each of us. 


And He rewards. Job's end was better than his beginning (Job 42). See Chris Koelle's vimeo trailer of the new release JOB the film


"Hands wide open" means that God can open His hand and fill my empty, open hands. In His time ("in due season"). In His way. 






"Hands wide open" means one thing more. It means praise. And I am learning the humility and grace of "hands wide open" in worship. My grandmother, who began her married life as a missionary in Kentucky, puts it this way: "If the Spirit tells me to raise my hands, I'd be sinning not to." 


And so I ask, are my "hands wide open" today? 


If not, what is it--or who is it--that I am grasping on to? Unclenching my fist, prying open my fingers is the first necessary step.


Am I stretching out my hands, ready for God to fill and satisfy how He sees fit?


Am I raising my hands to worship the God Who opened His hands wide open for me?


And am I then reaching out my hands to those around me who are poor and needy, sharing the good gifts God pours into my open hands?




on being a writer (revised)



It is an indescribable (odd?) existence to find such pleasure and meaning by pecking out letters and seeing words string together like cranberries or popcorn on thread. Sometimes you eat those popcorn-words faster than you can string them together. But to see them come together in paragraphs and then--finally--a book: it's Christmas and the best present, though perhaps not the largest, has your name on it. You hold it and look at it and love it and don't even open it for a long while--you already know what's inside.


Richard Wilbur wrote a wonderful poem entitled "The Writer" about his daughter's early pursuit to write. He, a poet himself, expressed well the struggle to write. Here, he reads "The Writer" at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival (a few years back). 


I love the ending to another of his poems, "Blackberries for Amelia" :
"and I shall need/Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,/And a grandchild to talk with while we pick." 
The "Blackberries" poem isn't actually my favorite, but I do love those final lines. And I'm learning to take what's good... Wilbur brings common experiences to life by vividly describing from his unique vantage point and then including people he loves dearly. I will do well to remember this.


On being a writer? What should I say? I could share a critique on "The Writer." Or a poetry exercise. (I actually did on an earlier version of this post, but (revising) deleted both. Who really cares? I am not a poet. You should do your own critique. It's not a horribly difficult poem to analyze.) Anyway, critiques and college exercises are not so much the point. It is true that you learn from looking deeply at others' style. And imitative writing is (ironically) often the best way to find your own voice. In the end, I am glad I took Poetry Writing with Mrs. Turner, for even though I do not aspire to be a poet, I do believe truly enjoyable prose has a poetic cadence.


I've always been told, the real key to being a writer is simple: Write. Read, yes. Learn the craft. Critique, sure. Copy/imitate, by all means. But don't get too caught up in the study of the thing. Hone your craft by writing. Get feedback from friends, willing guinea pigs. Accept their critiques. Tweak, tone, untie your tongue. Write. Rewrite. Write some more. This is the advice I've been given, and it's good.


But I will add two more comments. 


One, as a Christian, I have found that my writing is best when my relationship with God is right, when I am in His word, when I am talking to Him, listening, asking what He wants me to write. There is no point in writing just to add words. "Of making many books, there is no end."


Two, you don't have to publish everything you write. Writing is a great way to learn. But not all writing is meant to be shared. When I say "publish" I mean not only formal publication but also on blogs, fb, etc. Test your words before you press "post." "In the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin." A personal journal is not for the public, or even posterity (necessarily). Reserve publication for the message God has given to you to communicate to others. A woman of few words is often most worth listening to.


I will no doubt continue to write. And I won't share everything, but I will try to share the really salient things. If I can use my voice in my generation to point others to faith (or greater faith) in our great God, I will count it a gift from God and happily gift it back to Him in The End. 




Grace and peace,
with love,  
michelle


What poems do you love? What lessons have you learned about being a writer? How does your personal relationship with God affect your writing? 

Women for Missions, June 2012

Each month at our WFM meeting, we jot short notes about our daily lives and God's new mercies to us. And then the notes are compiled by one of ladies and sent as one document to all of our ladies serving in various capacities around the globe. We often here that these little tidbits are that refreshing news from a distant land, grace to the readers. 


As Charity shared about her family's experiences over the past twelve years, my pen wrote and God started putting things together in my brain. And it seemed fitting to sum up this spring here by sharing that letter with you, too.


Dear Ladies, 
Tonight we enjoyed a fabulous Chinese meal at WFM. Charity shared her testimony of God's recent reorchestration of their family's plans that brought them home for this summer. God has "continued His faithfulness" to them. 
I could share the same theme--God's continued faithfulness--for our own family this spring. Through replacing a window in one vehicle followed by the transmission then the battery in the other; replacing the washing machine and the HVAC unit in our home; taking a necessary trip to DC/NY for my brother's wedding; and finishing paying for the boys' tuition to Christian school...we watched God provide again and again. When I sat down at the kitchen table this week, as my six-year-old put the last couple of items in the fridge, I marveled and said out loud, "Look at that! Look how God has provided AGAIN!" 
I trust you're able to say the same thing--that God is inhabiting our collective praises--that we are all (you, me and Charity) rejoicing in the faithfulness of our great God....
Until next time, grace and peace to you.
With love, michelle grover




The verse Charity shared regarding God's continuing His faithfulness to us is Jeremiah 31:3.


Jeremiah 31:3 (ESV)
the LORD appeared to him [me, Septuagint] from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
How have you seen God continue His faithfulness to you recently? Please leave your comment below. I look forward to rejoicing with you in His everlasting love to you!


With love, 
michelle




recipe: fresh, unfiltered ginger ale


I love repurposing favorite drink bottles into flower vases. Hydrangeas are in full bloom right now, and this one has been quite happy to stand tall in its new home by my kitchen window sill. 


A closer look at the bottle reminds of our recent road trip stop in NYC. Fresh ginger ale was the perfect accompaniment for that fabulous curry chicken and rice dish I told you about. 


But as I slowly sipped and savored the contents, I also examined the bottle. And it seemed this special treat only contained a handful of ingredients, and several of those were for the special pomegranate hibiscus flavor. But the core were these: 
carbonated water, fresh ginger, and cane sugar. 


I had to try. The ingredient label on this sparkling Seltzer water is plainly "triple filtered carbonated water." Pure enough. Fresh ginger is readily available at the Tomato Vine or any Asian supermarket, and for a good price. I happened to have some on hand. And sugar, a staple in any sweet-tea-lovin' Southern home. 


Peel the ginger root and grate over a bowl. The first time I made this I used my Pampered Chef Deluxe Cheese Grater (the kind they use at Olive Garden). I think it squeezed a bit more juice out, but this worked just fine as well. I would recommend using the finer grate side.


Just squeeze the pulp to draw out some of those juices.


See, there's plenty of juice! Save everything in the bowl. We're going for that "unfiltered" label. And the tiny chunks of fresh ginger add a fabulously fun texture to the final product.


If you want to be really resourceful, that last little bit of ginger root pulp can be steeped in hot water and sweetened with honey. Good for what ails you. 


Stir sugar into the grated ginger and juices, dissolving. I used between 2/3 and 3/4 cup for 1 full liter.
  

If you're planning to drink your homemade ginger ale right away, you can add ice at this point. I think it helps in the stirring process. But we're not looking for a diluted taste, so if you're planning to drink it later, just skip the ice and refrigerate your final product.


Pour in the carbonated water.


Stir and serve.

It's really that simple. I wish you could come pull up a chair at my kitchen table and we could sip away while we chatted about what good things God's been doing in your heart and life recently. 

Feel free to leave a comment below. (All comments go to my email inbox for approval, so if you just want to contact me without your comment being published, just write that at the end of your message, and be sure to leave an email address for me to reply back to you.) 

I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time,
grace and peace, 
with love, 

michelle

DC NY road trip 2012: random kid pix, the road home

As I read the maps and Alan navigated the streets, we handed the camera back to the boys, effectively keeping them occupied from the parking garage and all the way through the Holland Tunnel. You can imagine some of the shots, but several turned out very nice. 


Here's Micah & Jordan Elliot's debut photo gallery, a glimpse into their perspective on the city:
I {HEART} NY! Photo by JEG.

The Fire Hydrant. Photo by MAG.


Driving Directions. Photo by MAG.

Helicopter Landing. Photo by MAG.

Veterans Plaza. After having spent time at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in the National Mall in DC, this smaller memorial in NYC connected the two premier American cities and brought home even further the level of sacrifice given by our veterans and their families. The bodies of multiple poignant letters were graven on a wall here, and tears spilled down my cheeks as I read.  Photo by MAG.

1486. Photo by MAG.

One Way. Photo by JEG.

City Trees. Photo by MAG.

Vitamin H2O. Photo (obviously) by MAG.

Micah. Photo (obviously) by JEG.

Baby Bro. Photo by JEG.

Fire Breathing Dragon. Photo by MAG.

City Trekker. Photo by MAG.

Old Building with Arched Door. Photo by JEG.

Entrance to an Underwater Tunnel. Photo by MAG.
 And a little glimpse into Mark's perspective of road-tripping:





The boys ended up sleeping through the night as we made our way through state after state. We would have loved to have stopped by Gettysburg, but will have to save that for a future road trip. As it was, with our adventure in NYC, we arrived home at 7 the next morning, just in time for the boys to freshen up and go to school, so that parents could catch a few winks. They say it takes a full month for your body to catch up on one night of missed sleep. That means we should be back to normal fairly soon--whatever normal is. 


Trust you've enjoyed the journey. Blessing as you continue your journeys this week.


Grace and peace, with love, 
michelle

DC NY road trip 2012: Staten Island and the Statue

After realizing how long Long Island really is, and submitting to several other means of providential suggestion (one being me breaking my toe--not smart the day before you're planning to wear higher-than-normal heels), we all agreed take an afternoon chill to Sag Harbor instead of driving all the way back to NYC. 

But we all really wanted to see a certain little Lady--Liberty, by name--since we'd come so far & were so close. We all agreed it was worth a delayed arrival time back home and decided it would be worth it to swing through the city and grab a ferry-view of the Statue of Liberty. And the route ended up working perfectly. 

Manhattan.
Entering Brooklyn. As you can tell, I was having fun playing with angles.

 

Loving the wind.

Wrinkled nose.


  
Family photo on the Staten Island Ferry.



Between their heads, if you look closely, you can see the Statue.
Right there!


We would've needed to purchase Ellis Island tickets online a few days ahead, but Staten Island Ferry is free & sufficiently satiated our hunger for one more serving of historical landmark sightings.

She makes the island look so small.
Tears fog my view as I imagine my own Great-grandfather Gonsowski see her for the first time. Imagine being twelve, emigrating from Poland. After the forever-long boat ride, imagine being welcome by this Lady, hope crowding out mere dreams. Someday I intend to go back, take the Ellis Island Ferry, and then just sit and write his story. 



Startling blues.

Cityscape.


This one's for posterity. One of my memories of childhood vacations was Dad taking macros of creation. I remember him teaching me what that little flower button on the camera did. I remember one gorgeous shot from a vacation in Canada of tall stems of purple flowers (even if I can't remember the name of the plant). Dad and Mom both claimed it, and years later neither has ever given in, though for whatever reason I've always tended to give Dad the credit. (Sorry, Mom.) And so I just couldn't resist a vacation macro of this purple alium in full bloom right there in Brooklyn.

Having captured a glimpse of beauty with that purple alium, I was attempting to contrast it with a shot of a street sweeper, a pigeon, and a sewer manhole. Sadly, I didn't snap fast enough. The pigeon didn't hold still and the street sweeper either caught my mental drift or thought he was in the way of my photo. And, actually, to the street sweeper's credit, the street was cleaner than I would've guessed.


Alan catered to my craving for a NYC Asian entree, and I absolutely loved my curry chicken dish & fresh, unfiltered ginger ale from this OBAO street corner restaurant.

Right outside the restaurant, this rocket sculpture was our cue to blast off.


One last look...

...and they're off!