On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. Isaiah 11:1
One of the things I love most about living in the small community of Westphalia is the endearing sense of family and heritage. Unless you’re “not from around here” you might not even realize how beautiful and unique the family ties that connect and bind this community are. The questions, “Who are your parents?” or “Who are your grandparents?” are common and ordinary around here. The family tree is a thing of beauty and it’s roots run deep in faithfulness, perseverance, loyalty and love.
America seems to be obsessed with genealogy and it has become a billion-dollar industry. Over the past few years ancestry sites have become the second most frequently visited sites on the internet. It also seems that ancestor-hunting is the country’s most popular pastime after gardening. When NBC aired a program called Who Do You Think You Are? More than 2 million households tuned in. It’s an expensive hobby however; folks regularly pay upwards of $1,800 a year to search for names to add to their family tree. Seems crazy doesn’t it!
Families are a funny combination of personalities, gifts, talents, strengths and shortcomings. Families are known for lots of different things. Some are farmers and keeper of the land. Others are business owners and decision makers. Some boast of athletic or intellectual gifts. Still others are known for their quiet, honest, prayerful trustworthiness. We are a combination of leaders, followers, thinkers and doers. We are different but yet we share one mighty connection.
When I read chapter 11 from the Prophet Isaiah I hear a story of promise and hope . I hear a story of the beauty and strength of Jesse’s family tree; from whose stump came One who brought strength, knowledge, peace, justice and faithfulness. We hear about One who was so mighty his very presence created the impossible. Who could imagine a cow and a bear together or a lion and a lamb and most unthinkable a baby and a cobra? Isaiah was telling of one to come who would lead, protect, defend and save us all. This reading is not just about Jesse’s family tree, it’s about ours too because i’t’s a story of Jesus and we are the children God sent his Son Jesus to earth for. We are the benefactors of his gifts, his genius and his mercy. We are HIS!
If you have been blessed with a strong sense of family Advent is the perfect time to thank God for that and to take time to give some thought to our true family roots. Are we a bud that is blossoming into something pleasing to the Father or could our branch on the family tree benefit from some prayerful pruning and tender care? We don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars or hours searching to discover who the most important part of our Family Tree is. Advent is a season to prepare for the newborn king and contemplate the gift of being his child.
A Seed To Plant: Make contact with someone in your family you haven’t spoken to in a while. Call, text or send a card just to let them know you thought about and prayed for them today
Blessings on your day!
As one whom his mother comforts so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13
As I was driving in the car today pondering the current state of my motherhood, the song “Dear Younger Me” came on the radio and I was immediately a puddle of tears. My baby girl turned 21 on Saturday and it’s always a special day because she shares her birthday with my grandma. Grandma died just a few days short of her 90th birthday so when Shannon arrived on what would have been her Great Grandmas 90th birthday, I felt like God had given me an extra special gift. When my beautiful Irish aunts all told me Shannon was sent to take Grandma’s place, I felt extra grace to help her become as faithful, joyful and kind as the amazing woman she shares her special day with.
Fast forward 21 years and my babies are all grown up now. I blubbered a bit as I looked at their baby pictures, choosing just the right one to post on Facebook, but they weren’t tears of sadness or grief…they were tears of joy, relief and thankfulness. Joy that we have three adult children we are very proud of and that we really enjoy. Relief that we survived drivers training, orthodontics, awkward middle school stuff and discovering the path God picked for each of them. And thankfulness for all the graces, gray hair, lessons in patience and proud mamma moments along the way.
I took all that to Mass with me and watched a sight I’ve seen many many times unfold before my eyes. Mass had just begun when I spotted her…you’ve all seen her…that mom with the little one who at moments has the strength of Hercules. You know the mom I’m talking about…the one who walks in with a load of kids and stuff and looks exhausted before we even stand for the opening hymn. My heart is always touched by the moms who desperately want to look put together but all too often they rush out of their house wearing the only outfit that will fit over their beautiful body that is still shaped a little differently after bringing forth another miracle. I look across the aisle and see the mom who tried to do her hair in the 2.5 minutes she had to get herself ready after wrangling up all her little lovelies only to have it all messed up, pulled down and chewed on by the soggy fisted wee one in her arms. I notice the mom who had an extra 30 seconds and decided to accessorize only to have her beautiful necklace become a chew toy. I see the mom who is wearing her favorite color in the hopes of brightening up her tired complexion only to have it decorated with stripes of spit up down the front and back. I see the moms who are trying every thing they know from pacifiers to board books to cheerios and goldfish to keep their little one quiet in church but they end up frazzled, stared at and sporting the tell tale sweaty lip before mass is even half over.
As I thought back to my “young me” I decided she had some things to say. After nearly a quarter century of being a mom, here’s what I’d like the mom with the sweaty lip to know. You are beautiful and the fact that you got out of sweats or yoga pants and made it to mass with your family makes Jesus smile; don’t worry about the cranky person two pews back who doesn’t know that. I want you to know that growing babies leaves evidence; on your hips, belly and thighs and it’s BEAUTIFUL! You are beautiful because you are a walking sacrifice…every day. Women often give up flat bellies, tight buns and perky anything so another human can enter the world and then feel bad because they don’t look like they did when they were 16. Each roll and lump and wiggle tells the story of your YES to life. Just so you know, there are no body size specifications for entering heaven.
I wish the younger me would have know that babies are loud, they smell bad and they are messy…usually in public! They are also cute, funny, amazing and holy in the eyes of the Father who perfectly created them and gave them specifically to you! Our world is pretty crazy and bringing our wee ones to church is the greatest security measure we can offer their soul. They belong there and you belong there! We need you there, and the Father needs you there. You may walk out the door and not be able to recall a word the priest said, but the graces will be granted because you were there with your babies, trying to worship and praise God with your church family. That's what we’re called to do and he certainly doesn’t expect us or the infant and toddler we’re toting along to be perfect but present.
I see you tired and frazzled and wondering if it was all worth it and the older me says “YES IT IS! Please don’t stop coming to church!” I see you sweat, I see the spit up, I see your patience sometimes fade but more than all that I see your faithfulness, your hopefulness and your absolutely stunning beauty. I remember it and I needed you to know some days I’d like it all back. I’d like you to know that it won’t last forever. I’ve never seen a 12 year old ask for goldfish, a sippy cup or a story book during the homily. Someday you will return to outfits that match and accessories and hair do’s that are stylish and lovely, but for now, just revel in the fact that you are doing the greatest job on earth…being a faithful mom whose trying to help her kids get to heaven. So wipe the sweat from your lip, buy a comfortable outfit and sit by people like me who will reach out to take your baby or make faces at your toddler to try and entertain them while you take a breath.
A Seed To Plant: If you aren’t a mom, share this post with someone who is and most of all, be the one who makes that young mom with the sweaty lip feel supported, loved, welcomed! Next time you see that mom in church, instead of scowling or judging, say a little prayer for her and ask the Peace of Christ to come over her and the little one she’s desperately trying to keep from distracting you.
Blessings on your day!
He has made everything beautiful in its time…Ecclesiastes 3:11
What is the most beautiful thing you can think of? I’m guessing things like sunsets, rainbows, ocean views, mountain tops and of course flowers and babies would be on the list. When we see the beautiful things God created for our enjoyment, it’s easy to recognize His presence in the world. Some of His color, design and absolute genius take our breath away and it’s easy to remember to acknowledge, praise and thank Him when we’re surrounded by some of His beautiful and amazing work. That’s just the way it should be, but what about looking for God in the ordinary stuff of life as well as the majestic and beautiful?
God is the God of the ordinary. He is always waiting to surprise us around every corner, but sometimes we’re so busy looking for Him in the big stuff, we miss Him in the little stuff. God doesn’t always bless us in huge dynamic ways, sometimes His blessings come in quiet, ordinary situations. Last weekend Dave and Kevin were hauling the cattle trailer back from MSU
and the truck just absolutely died; no warning, just completely conked out. YUCK! That was one of those situations that can really test your patience. But, in the middle of that ordinary situation, God was waiting with a blessing, the truck broke down on the way home, with no cattle or show supplies and equipment to worry about and the completely cool part of the situation, the truck conked out about 100 yards from our driveway. The Wohlfert’s were quite thankful for His choice of location!
God doesn’t want us to speak with Him just when we see big, beautiful and amazing stuff. He wants to hear from us as we stand smack dab in the middle of the everyday ordinary stuff that makes up our day to day life. He wants us to realize He’s waiting for us in the middle of the regular! How many people can you pray for when you fold a load of laundry? How many times can you call down God’s blessing upon your family as you pack their lunch or prepare dinner? How many times does your heart ache when you call to mind someone who is sick or suffering? Why not lift them up in prayer by name every time you wash dishes or sweep the garage. That stuff is a huge part of our everyday life, ask God to meet you there!
The next time I see a sunset or feel the cool rain on a hot, dusty day, I’ll be sure to thank God, but I will try equally hard to thank Him and chat with Him when I try to match up whichever socks the dryer hasn’t eaten or scrub petrified syrup off the breakfast table. I hope today is an ordinary day because God can make EVERYTHING beautiful…and I can't wait to see how many places I can find Him in my ordinary!
A seed to plant: Pick three things you see or use often (cell phone, car keys etc.). Make up a short little prayer you can say each time you use that ordinary object. Perhaps you could pray before sending or answering a call or text on your cell phone, “Lord, please make my words pleasing to Your ears.” Or before starting your car you might pray, “Lord, let this trip bring me
closer to You.” The possibilities are endless. Imagine how something as ordinary as making a call could increase the number of times in a day you speak with your Father. Maybe you could post some of your objects and the prayers you created to go with them.
Blessings on your day!
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.
Key words..."I have in mind"...meaning God is in charge of the plans not us! News flash...He is a much better planner because His eyes see what ours cannot...His ears hear what ours cannot and His plans for us are sprouted from a love so big we can't even imagine it!
God is a God of surprises and they are quite excellent! I'm from Kansas and every December Dave and I pack up the three little Wohlfert's (although they are all much taller than mamma so little isn't the best adjective but it makes me forget how old I'm getting so I'm gonna go with it) and drive the 800 plus miles to visit my family. A couple years ago as we were traveling back to Michigan on New Year's Eve we were racing against the clock because the boys had suddenly become old enough to have a social life and heaven forbid we missed one minute of fun. I remember stopping at a rest area and hearing a loud hissing sound as we crawled out of the Suburban...YIKES...not a happy sound coming from a tire! The boys groaned and began to see their evening plans turn to mud. I said a quick prayer for our safety and the kids patience and understanding. And...as the God of surprises would have it, we hopped back on interstate 70 and the next exit was only 2 miles away and guess what the first thing we saw was...yup...a tire repair shop. In the time it took the kids and I to walk to the fast food place across the road and order lunch, the tire was fixed and for a surprising cost of less than $15 dollars New Years Eve was once again a happy thought.
You can't plan that kind of wonderful...you can't invent that kind of surprise...only the God of surprises is THAT good. I spent the rest of the trip home wondering how many times had God surprised me and I'd been too wrapped up in my own plans to recognize His work?
A seed to plant: (aka..your homework...man I love being a teacher!)
For the next week, before your feet hit the floor, tell God good morning and then ask Him to plan your day without any help then keep a running tally of all the surprises and blessings that come from living Jeremiah 29:11. Please pass them along so we can all enjoy your surprises!
Blessings on your day!
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