Being Aware: Finding God’s Plan in the Details

Recently my treadmill broke, so I have been exercising outside in the glorious autumn weather.  Years ago, my husband and I purchased acreage from a small country church, and now a county road runs between our properties.  I had never considered the church cemetery’s gravel pathway to be a walking track until my treadmill broke.  I began walking laps around the cemetery, enjoying the peaceful country setting.

Soon I became curious about the names on the headstones, and I took a break from walking for closer inspection.  On a fresh grave marked with a hanging flower basket, I bent over to read the small nameplate.  Tears filled my eyes as I recognized the name of a dear lady.  She was the mother of a friend I’ve known since kindergarten.

This godly woman, full of a zest for life, died from a long battle with cancer earlier this year.  I remembered joyful sleepovers at her house, and I recalled her quirky stories when she subbed for our elementary school teachers.  She was the “fun mom” in our class—always laughing and telling jokes, keeping our spirits high.  I have kept in touch with my friend in recent years, and I know how devastating this loss has been to her close-knit family.

I realized that by passing this gravesite on my walks, I have a visual prompt to pray for my friend and her family as they continue to grieve.  Like so many Christians, I start with good intentions to pray regularly for people in need, and then I easily forget to keep praying.  God’s plan is for me to pray over and over for this family during my walks.  If my treadmill had not broken, if I had walked the county road instead of the cemetery path, and if I had not stopped to inspect the new grave, I likely would have forgotten to keep praying for my friend.  I am thankful God strings those small, seemingly insignificant details together to direct me into service for His kingdom.

When I pay attention to the details right where I am, God often surprises me with new ways I can serve others.  What detail is God calling you to notice in your daily life, so you can join Jesus in serving others?

Ode to September

The cicada’s sizzle-hum sings
all September, rising high
in rippling waves.
Ironweed’s melancholy plum
brightens alongside showy goldenrod.
Monarchs and swallowtails
flit between asters and milkweed
leaving a legacy of yellow-orange eggs.
Jerusalem artichokes reach heavenward
winking their bright black eyes
in afternoon slanted sunlight.
All the world’s gone to seed.
Sumac plumes darken to sienna
while pointed leaves wait
for the brilliant crimson burst
before frost arrives.
Blue sage bids farewell to summer
with azure glow at dusk.

I was the carrot

I’ve had to adjust to three of my parents’ remarriages, so when I heard Ron Deal speak on Family Life Today, I was intrigued with his idea of a slow cooker as a metaphor for blended families.
Deal says when a blended family begins they need to adjust slowly, on a low simmer in a slow cooker. But many parents make the mistake of trying to create instant happiness, using high speed and friction in a blender. He asserts that children need more time to adjust to the remarriage than they needed to grieve the loss of the previous family, an average of five to seven years. Often the children are the family members who suffer most because they don’t get adequate time to adjust.
If you try to hurry a recipe for pot roast, you will fail. The meat gets tough and dry, the carrots and potatoes are still hard, and the onions and celery turn to mush. You must use low, slow heat to achieve a harmony of tender meat and flavorful vegetables. That’s what a slow cooker provides.
Deal says there’s a carrot in every family. While everyone else is softening up nicely, the carrot remains hard. Sometimes it’s the teenager. Sometimes it’s the part-time child who doesn’t see the stepparent often enough, so the relationship can’t gel. The carrot needs extra time to soften at a low simmer, at a low level of stress and expectation.
I was the carrot in my family. My mom remarried the week after I turned 13. I had lived in a household of three females for eight years, and I felt threatened by the inevitable changes. An introvert at such a precarious age, I preferred to sit in my room and sort out my thoughts in my journal or through prayer. As a people pleaser, I often went along with Mom’s sincere attempts to create happy family time, but I buried my resentment. My younger sister didn’t seem to resist the change, but I continued to stand at a distance for a long time. At least five years passed before I felt comfortable in our new family. St. Louis Cardinals baseball became the neutral bridge and allowed us to build pleasant memories.
Ron Deal says parents must validate their children’s struggles and their fears during the blending process. I wish someone would have recognized the pressure I faced, from within and without, and told me, “I know this is hard for you.” Perhaps my transition might have been less painful.
How does this teaching affect you as a child of divorce or as a parent in a blended family?