My All-In Strawberry Patch: Risk and Relationships

Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.

I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.

I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.

If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.

I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.

What I should have told them was:

“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”

Let me explain.

I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”

Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.

But you know what…

Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.

I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.

Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.

And so I planted a strawberry patch.

I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.

It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.

Look at this bounty –

ūüėČ

Then, God called us away.

He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:

Will they like me?

Will they want me?

When will they get tired of me?

I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work and sometimes it seems that finding other people who want to be all-in are scarce.

Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.

Give your whole heart.

Plant something.

Start something.

No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.

Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

All-in, my friends. All-in.

Ask questions, ask questions, and ask more questions: Lessons learned from Cross Cultural Ministry

Cultures different from our own can be intimidating.

People from different cultural perspectives may think differently from us, act differently from us, and even value different things than we do.

But goodness God does beautiful things to each of us, and our relationships when we step outside of our own culture for a moment and enter into another.

Missionaries Christel Neuendorf and Rachel Jaseph join  me in conversation to talk about lessons learned from cross cultural ministry.

I sat down and expected a discussion of language and communication struggles, learning where to go, and what to do in a new land, instead my heart and mind were opened to the reality that

culture is across the globe, but also right outside my door.

I think the lessons in today’s podcast will serve us all well, not only for ministry and knowing our neighbors outside of the United States, but for the work we have to do with meeting our neighbors everywhere.

A few of my favorite lessons you’ll hear include:

When in doubt, ask questions.

Often we think of poverty in financial terms, but there is also the reality of poverty of community.

Relationships first. Always.

When not in doubt, ask questions.

Be present with the people God puts in front of you.

Get out, go into your community and find out more, learn more, grow more.

Ask more questions.

Written in Iron Ink: Cross Cultural Ministry –

You can find Rachel and Christel and more information about their ministry at the following links:

https://www.lcms.org/neuendorf

https://www.facebook.com/sendjamesandchristel/

New Year, New Word: Beautiful

About this time of the year I find myself in a rut.

I take down my Christmas tree. All the sparkly presents are unwrapped and put away. I sweep up the living room and sit down, mourning the loss of the twinkling lights.

It’s cold. It’s windy. And everything seems kind of boring if I’m honest.

Every year I know these grey days are going to come, so I choose a word for the coming year, giving the days an extra dose of creativity and focus. I ask myself sometime mid-summer, “What am I going to work on? What do I want to be different in my life? What could be improved? Where would I like to be more intentional, gain some clarity?”

Past year’s words have included:

Warm

Brave

Hope

Fearlessly wrong

Sometimes I cheat with two words. I don’t like rules. ūüėČ

This year, nothing came to me, so I just let it set. And set. And set.

Still nothing.

How in the world was I going to get through the January rut when I already lacked inspiration in late summer?

Then, we got on a plane and headed to Spain.

One day, we drove up a mountain in fog so thick that I thought for sure we would be run off the road by a tiny little European coupe that wanted to come down the mountain using the same lane.

We saw some stuff, headed down the mountain, watched some Star Trek, and went to bed.

The next day, the fog lifted, and we made the decision to head back up the mountain. When we reached the top, we got out of the car and my jaw dropped.

It was beautiful.

Mountains all around us, trees, dew, sunshine – all in the same place we had missed it the night before, veiled from our eyes.

I realized that this is what I wanted to focus on: Beauty.

I wrote a book about it, so you would think the journey would be over. But that day on the mountain, I understood that this was just the beginning.

I wanted to see beautiful like this in my every day. I wanted to stop and enjoy it. To breath it in, rather than pass it by.

Laughing on the top of a mountain with our friends about fog adventures, guardrails, and the cross-cultural similarities in school field trips, I remembered things I think I had forgotten just a little bit:

Life is Beautiful.

Conversation is Beautiful.

This world is Beautiful.

I want to see those truths every day – not just in my rejoicing, but in my rut as well.

I want to see it through the violence, through the mess, through lonely, and through the mundane.

This year, my word for the year is beautiful.

I want to focus intentionally on all that God has made and done and saved and just how beautiful that is:

I am beautiful.
This world, with all its heartbreak and pain…is beautiful.
Relationship, in its complications and mess…is beautiful.
This day, rain, sun, or shadow…is beautiful.

Join me on this journey of seeing beautiful, fixing our perspective together on the One who truly makes everything, everything beautiful in His time. Where do you think we often miss beauty in this life? Tell us about them:

Name one, two, three, or more things that strike you as beautiful today and share them in the comments.

Download this Beautiful Reminders page.

List three things every day that are beautiful around you. These can be things of physical beauty, or ideas, people, experiences, anything.

Study with me! Journey through Altogether Beautiful with me. Preorder from Concordia Publishing House , Amazon  or wherever you like to get your books. There are samples at the Concordia link and look for free stuff details to come.

I can just feel it…

this year is going to be beautiful.