a personal hiatus



Sometimes it's just as my mind is fully engaged in conjuring up more business (perhaps better busy-ness) for myself, figuring out more ways to do and create and supplement, something almost ironic happens: either by His Spirit or one of His servants (often both), God says, "Slow down. Focus on Me." 

My last post was the beginning of this. Since then, God has reiterated His message to me, His work of pruning for this season. And I am in the midst of simplifying, decluttering. Not stuff so much this time, but activities. Not because these things are bad, but because I am sensing very clearly by His Spirit (and having it confirmed by my "multitude of counselors") that right now this is what God wants for me. This is what is good for this time. 

I've just had a baby. We have three growing boys. And my husband is working on his dissertation for a PhD in New Testament Interpretation. Pause. Wouldn't those three sentences giving most thinking women pause? Maybe, if they're not type A over-goalers. 

Now, for some of you, the season is to create--to write, to paint, to compose. This is not a do-as-I-do. This is not something I think everyone must do to be spiritual, even if your life circumstances were to mirror mine stated above. This is a personal decision between me and God and my family. 

I do still plan to write. But it's going to take the voice and hand of God to speak and move for those things to be published. For now, my writing will be in journals and the margins of books. And I do still plan to tutor/substitute for those that I'm currently contracted with, for as long as the Lord allows. 

I do not know how long this hiatus will last. Tentatively, until Alan finishes his dissertation. That seems like a reasonable expectation. But I don't know what God will do during this time, and yet I am sincerely looking forward to this time of investing in my relationship with Him and with my family in a more intentional and focused way. 

All that to say, I don't plan to be blogging during this personal hiatus. 

At the same time, I still love those of you who read and care about what I write. And I want you to know that I am still available to you on a personal level. You can reach me by email. (Not everything can be eliminated. I am not going monk on you.) 

So feel free to drop a line or send a question to me at this address: michelle AT vineandshoots.com.

Until we meet again, keep growing and know that I wish you 
grace and peace,
with so much love, 

michelle

pruning to increase fruitfulness

I was gripped by the thought from John 15 in Sunday school this morning that God's pruning to expand fruitfulness is often not merely a cutting off of dead branches, wicked deeds, sinful stuff in our lives; 

but it also includes a pruning of good branches that are just too many or growing in a way that would inhibit more growth other places or overall

And the take-away question for me: 

What has God pruned from my life or does He want to prune to increase fruitfulness for His kingdom? What (even good) thing is getting in the way of greater growth? 

Hm. 

Just what I'm meditating on today. 

Feel free to join the conversation with comments below. 

Grace and peace, 
michelle

kassia and a farewell kiss to summer

It's hard to believe nearly a month of summer has evaporated since last I wrote. 

That tall glass of sweet tea we call summer is nearly empty; just a few more swallows and the only thing remaining will be the condensation on the outside of the proverbial glass. 

This summer was like none before it. We name our summers around here. And we've had the summer of the grasshoppers, the summer of the okra, etc. This summer was the summer of the baby.

We got in a few swims, but as the temps rose and my belly stretched, I just didn't have that confidence that I could really rescue one of the boys if the need arose. And though I swam up into the seventh month of pregnancy, the laps decreased from my regular mile swim down to a handful of laps and a few stretches in the shallow end. Then finally, I sipped flavor infused ice water in the shade while the three boys played slip and slide in the backyard. 

The boys biked while Alan ran along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. They're growing up, going farther, giving Alan a pretty good workout. And they worked alongside him--even Mark--as Alan became my backyard hero, conquered the honeysuckle and pokeweed and who-knows-what-else vines in the backyard, then transformed his 99 Dodge caravan into the pick-up it should've been, loaded up more-than-he-cared-to-count trips of mulch from the Schneider tree people's free-to-the-community pile, and let me dream up the rest of what we'll plant come fall (or next spring, or the following fall). And then he took on the paint project--a shed and the cinder block building that's trying desperately to turn into a study space. For me, it was the summer of the baby; for the guys, they may well have dubbed it the summer of sweat.

Then late July we welcomed that sweet fragrance of a newborn--this time a girl. Kassia Jane (beautiful fragrance, beloved). And we do love her ... so much!

Praise the Lord for a safe delivery, albeit three weeks early by planned C-section, thanks to the uterine rupture of my last delivery. But all is well. The boys adore their little sister. I can't say I mind hearing, "Mommy, I washed my hands; can I hold her?" umpteen times a day. And my recovery has gone very smoothly, much helped by the generous labors of my mom and other family and friends who have chipped in with meals ... and even laundry. 

Yep, even laundry. The bearings on our washing machine went out just as we were arriving home with baby. That was just one of the many "series of unfortunate events" that took place over the first three weeks of being home. Very thankful we had decided (for the first time ever) for him to take some paternity leave. But so much for snuggling with baby while I slept and he wrote his dissertation. (A pregnant woman obviously dreamed that crazy utopia up.) Still he was a good sport. We all learned a few handy things. And I love my new Whirlpool washer and dryer.

In the midst of all this, I have seen God's providential faithfulness and great kindness. During this same time period, I have wept with those who have had much more consequential loss than household amenities--friends who have lost family members in a tragic bus crash; I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, opening up the reality of life in war-torn Afghanistan over the last three decades, the life of many women trapped in the cultural/religious bondage of Islam. And I think, my problems are not really problems, not in the grand scheme of things. And I meditate on how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just for times of peace and prosperity, how it meets the need in every culture, in every time of tribulation, for every single one of us ... if we will but yield to His truth and love. 

His truth/faithfulness and love/mercy have kissed one another. And it's a good marriage. In every season. 

And then it was the last weekend before school started. That last sip of sweet tea before the ice cubes clank in the bottom of the glass. And I'll write about that later--this last weekend. For now, I need to go enjoy it ... and that baby girl. :) 

Hope you enjoy your last sip of summer too.

Grace and peace, 
with love,

michelle