Recently I read The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Some devotional type books seem to have nothing new to say, but this one is different. It explores the ancient truths about God and our relationship to Him, but it presents them personally and with such clarity that I could recognize echoes of my own life and experience on every page. I could hardly stop copying out favorite sections.
I love how A.W. Tozer reminds me of the implications of God’s presence in His world and the truth of God as the source of all life. It is God that pursues us before we can pursue Him. We can not go anywhere that God does not exist, yet we need to allow Him to strip away our selfishness and sin before His presence can truly dwell in us and us in Him. And there we find the life that is beyond our deepest anticipations.
If you can get a hold of this book, read it. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from it:
For a number of years I’ve been a farm girl, in station if not always in heart. Most of the time I love the life. I used to milk the cow out in the dewy pasture in the morning. I love new chicks and blooming flowers and abundant harvests. The opportunities for family time and working together are precious.
But sometimes I have resented the way it ties us down (if you have animals that need to be looked after, you can’t just run off on them all the time!) and I haven’t always enjoyed the work. Usually I would rather cook a meal with all the fresh farm products than hoe weeds in the garden. And I’ve had some injuries over the past five years that made it harder to pitch in with all my heart—who feels like working when their knee or foot hurts?
This spring I determined, as I have at times before, that this season I would put everything I had into family and farm life. I would learn to love it. How could I expect to be content anywhere else if I wasn’t willing to delight in my current place?
The adjustment of going from teaching to farm life was hard at first—more so emotionally than physically. It was hard enough that I realized I couldn’t do anything in my own strength. I would need God. I couldn’t just decide to do this and make it happen. I needed to be willing to let God dictate my days and sustain me with His strength.
Because what do I have that I have not been given?
Only through God’s love and grace am I able to walk in the light and serve where He has called me. And I don’t need to worry about what others think or try to prove anything to anyone, not even to my family. I only need to seek His glory in every little choice I make.
As the Lord has been working on my heart, I’ve found myself loving my life as I rarely have before, taking joy in doing what was needed, even if it was something I used to dislike. Sometimes I even wanted to go and hoe in the garden first thing in the morning instead of washing dishes.
Do I now want to be a farmer all my life? Well, I’ll let God decide that. I know that this is where He has me; thus this is the highest calling for me now. I can also trust Him to orchestrate my future. So I will follow God, step by step, and delight in His will.
Of course that decision gets tested from time to time, like Friday two weeks ago. The morning had been beautiful. It was only the second time this season that we picked vegetables for market. I picked snow peas in the dew, and later had fun working in the packing shed with my brothers to bunch radishes.
There was a youth event planned for supper and the evening, so we wanted to be sure to get all the market preparation done before leaving for that, and the boys would need to do chores before supper instead of after supper. Would we make it?
I had committed the evening to God, and the day seemed to be going well. But by late afternoon, I was starting to get a little concerned. The boys were still working in the woods instead of getting at the chores, Selema was still planting something in the garden, and Judith had driven to Berwick to run an errand for Dad. I had gathered and cleaned the eggs so they would be ready for market, but there were still some other little details to take care of. And I really wanted to make supper for my family before we left for the evening.
Judith came home around 5:15. Soon after that, I was rushing to the bathroom to take a shower. My sisters were in the kitchen when I passed through.
“The boys aren’t even doing the chores yet,” one of them said.
“Really?” I stopped in my tracks. “Do they know what time it is?”
“Yes,” Judith said.
I started saying something, feeling that somebody needed to do something to make things happen a little faster. Those chores. They were always holding us back. But Selema said, “You just go take a shower.”
Oh. Yes. Of course. All I can do is my part. Hadn’t I decided to leave it all in God’s hands? I would give my brothers the honor of getting things done without being hounded by a concerned sister.
After my shower, things didn’t look much brighter, though someone did say around 5:30 that the boys had begun their chores. It felt like a bad dream, when you desperately need to get ready to go somewhere and more and more things come up and you run around trying to get everything done and the clock ticks faster and faster and eventually you realize you’ll never make it so you wake yourself up in despair….
Yet, it’s not up to me to make things happen, I reminded myself. And so what if we were a little late? I resolutely kept on with making supper.
And each time I looked at the clock, I was amazed at how little time had actually gone by. Maybe we would get there after all.
Mom eventually took over Selema’s planting so she could shower. Judith and I got supper on the table. Caleb came inside a little before 6:00. I was amazed. Already? Who knew they could do the chores so fast? And he said Jesse would be coming soon too! I never cease to be amazed at my efficient and enterprising brothers.
I loaded camp chairs into the back of the car. And there went Jesse, heading for the house to take a shower. I looked at the time on my phone: 6:00.
Before long the five of us youth were on the road. We were hardly even late to the event.
And even if we had been, it would not have mattered like it always does in my bad dreams.
That evening, our youth group was all together again for the first time in months. Raynold and Lena served us a delicious supper outdoors. We played volleyball for a while. Then as dusk fell, we gathered around the fire again to sing praise and prayer to the God whose beauty is a reality beyond description.
There is a difference between dreams and reality. In a dream, I can wake up when it seems like too much to handle. In real life, I need to stick it out. The latter might be harder, but it’s far more fulfilling. God has grace enough to get me all the way through a bad dream—whether large or small—and right out on the other side into the sweet light of His joy.
Instead of waking up and finding all the difficulties gone, I can wake up to the presence of God in my circumstances, and He leads me through to a happy ending.
P.S. This week I would have had the opportunity to go to Ontario for a month or so to help a dear family who really needs a maid. I was very excited about the idea—I haven’t been to Ontario for almost two years, and I’ve sometimes wished for the chance to help a family with young children.
But we discussed it as a family, and concluded that at this time, it would be wiser for me to stay here.
Considering leaving and then deciding to stay was somehow grounding. I had evaluated both ideas—staying here or leaving—and realized that each option would be brimful of amazing experiences. The question was which one was God’s will.
God provided direction through my parents, and the joy in my heart confirmed the decision. In His will, my life is established, and it has a definite purpose. There is no place I would rather be. I look around at my family, think of my church brethren, watch the mist on the North Mountain, and know that I am in the place where I belong.
1 Peter 5:10: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
A few years ago, I read through all the prophets on the order they appear in the Bible, over the course of some months. I had thought the prophets were mostly pronouncements of judgement and doom with a few prophecies of Jesus’ coming mixed in.
But my perspective changed as I saw the heart of God for His people in the prophetic books. Everywhere, He is seeking His lost ones. The judgements were intended to draw them back to His heart, not to drive them away. And there were always the promises of restoration, when Israeal would be returned to their homeland from the land of their captivity.
I was so blessed by these threads of mercy that I eventually compiled some of the verses into a collection, tweaked some phrasing, and added some of my own words to connect them.
I just told a friend last night that I don’t usually write long poems. But is this a poem? I can’t decide. I can only pray that the words will bless you.
I. Cry of the Creator
O mountains, hear my controversy,
and you mighty foundations of the earth,
listen as I plead with the one I love:
Though I have bound together and built the sinews of
strength in your arms,
Yet you imagine mischief against me,
strengthening resolve for sin.
Though I have redeemed you out of the land of servants
you have made your hearts as an adamant stone,
hardened against my words.
You are an empty vine,
bringing forth shrivelled fruit for yourself alone,
and your good deeds are as morning clouds
that melt in the heat of day.
Therefore I have given you cleanness of teeth,
the gift of famine to show you your sin;
I have withheld the rain from your fields,
and given you pestilence.
I said, “Surely you will fear Me,
surely you will receive my instruction,
that you may live and be spared from destruction”—
but you do not listen.
Now turn to Me, my beloved,
turn to me with all your heart and with weeping;
rend your heart, and not your garments.
For I am slow to anger,
gracious and merciful, of great kindness,
and willing to repent of the evil I have done to you.
Sow to yourself in righteousness,
and you will reap in mercy;
break up your fallow ground,
the long-neglected soil of your soul—
for it is time for you to seek Me,
to seek me until I come and rain righteousness upon you.
O, my beloved, what shall I do with you?
What have I done to you?
How have I wearied you?
How have I driven you out of my arms?
Return to me, and I will return to you.
Return, my beloved,
II. Faint Answer
Come, and let us return to the Lord:
For He has torn, and He will heal us;
He has struck us, and He alone will bind us up;
He will turn again and have compassion on us.
Though we have fallen, we shall arise;
Though we have sat long in darkness,
The Lord shall be a Light unto us.
III. Assurance of Mercy
The Lord your God has come into your midst,
And He is mighty. He will save,
He will rejoice over you with heaven’s joy,
He will nestle you down in His love,
And joy over you with singing.
And the Lord your God will save you
In that day of repentance and mercy;
He will lead you forth as the flock of His people,
My friend Marlene Brubacher recently brought this quote to my attention. It’s been so true to my experiences so far, and I trust it will continue to be–because God never changes. I hope you can see this principle in your life too.
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”
I decided to share a diary-style chronicle of a recent week.Enjoy=)
Sunday, February 21, 2021
The church service was a rich tapestry of praising God in song, a thought-provoking Sunday School discussion on the topic of love, and a message by brother Arthur Penner inviting us to the deeper things of the love of God.
We had invited Arthur and Tina for lunch. What a blessing to visit and to hear the wisdom of the elders.
After they left, we youth—Selema, Judith, Jesse, Caleb, and I—went over to Ervin and Doris’s house. They had invited the youth for Yujel’s 16th birthday. Ervin met us at the door, saying, “You’re just in time for the game!” We joined the circle and were soon deep in a game of Occupation. There was plenty of laughter and hard thinking and collaboration as we tried to discover the identities of the mink farmer, the preacher, the cloud seeder, the art director, and many more over the course of several rounds of the game.
Then we sat around talking and eating Doris’s good taco salad and the birthday cake Julianne had decorated.
There was hockey that evening, so after supper most of the youth hurried off for that. My siblings and I didn’t go this time. As I got out of the car at home, I saw the brilliance of the stars. So I soon slipped out of the house and went for a walk alone through snow and starlight, over the field and into the woods. The moon shone full. I savored the peace and the chance to commune with God.
Monday, February 22, 2021
After breakfast, I left for school as usual. I had rearranged things at school and given CJ a desk of his own instead of having him work at the table beside me. “I have a new desk!” he said in wonder when he saw it.
My school day was short; CJ’s parents picked him up a little before lunch for an appointment. I cleaned up my classroom, did some preparing for the next day, and went home for lunch.
That afternoon I worked with Caleb on removing the stitches in his leg. He had been slashed in the leg by a male pig a week before, and now the stitches were almost growing into the wound as it healed. I had gotten one stitch out on Sunday morning. There were two more to go. With sharp instruments and perseverance and Judith’s help at holding a light, we finally got another one. The wound was swelling and the last one evaded our efforts. We put on a poultice, deciding to try again later.
I worked on some writing projects that afternoon, and studied for music class the next day.
After supper my siblings and I gathered in the dining room to sing the songs from a program some of us were part of last summer. The blessing of shared music!
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Both Judith and I needed to get ready to leave this morning—Judith works for Brian and Mary Barkman (from the church here) on Tuesdays.
With Dad’s help, we got the last of Caleb’s stitches out before I left. We had to do it differently than the doctor had told us, but it worked.
With that finally taken care of, I was ready to face the day. The parking lot where my student and the grade one class were playing for recess was slushy that day, but we still had fun playing Twenty-three Skidoo. It was a good day of school. In the afternoon I taught the first grade music class.
After school I took some photos of the misty North Mountain and talked with my co-teachers in the sunny school hallway before doing my school work.
When I arrived home, Selema told me they had butchered roosters that afternoon. I was not sorry to have missed out.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Lynette Horst showed up at our place bright and early to pick up Selema. They wanted to go visit and clean for a lady near Antigonish that day. I went out to talk with her a little, in the invigorating morning air.
It was another good school day. Not without its challenges, of course, but God’s grace always makes a way. I was excited to see how independently my student participated in our game at the noon recess.
After school, Kathleen (the first grade teacher) and I drove to nearby Berwick to return some library books we had gotten to teach our students about other countries. We had fun shopping at Bargain Harley’s together yet. Then I took her back to school and went home. At supper, Mom told a little about the small ladies’ gathering she had been at in the afternoon.
That evening there was clothes packing for CAM at Larry Kornelson’s place, for any of the church people. (We have it every other week in the wintertime; Dad is on the board for taking care of its operation.) A nice-size group of people showed up, and it was the normal hubbub. People talked as they tried to decide if a certain article was fit to send overseas or not. Conversations on any random topic swirled about. The children ran around to pick up garbage and try on the discarded clothes—they were thrilled to find animal costumes, and for a little while, one of them was running around holding onto the tail of a fleeing ‘lion’. The men tied up the finished clothing bundles, kneeling on top to pack as much into one bale as possible.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
I began the day feeling a bit flustered and behind, but God was in the day.
The morning’s classes went quite well. After lunch I taught music class again. We tracked the beat of simple songs on heart icons that CJ had helped me put up on the wall. The whole class enjoyed it—and my student did as well as any of them. How exciting to see the progress of their understanding—and that perhaps I’ve been able to teach them something after all.
My second joy-joy moment came a little while later when a ten-year-old with shining eyes slipped into my classroom (for a few minutes of extra practice) and handed me a note she had written. Every time I glanced at that note for the remainder of the afternoon, I smiled. And kept smiling. Small tokens of appreciation can do so much!
After school, Kathleen and I put away some new books in the supply room. This room is just off from the playroom; when we were finished, we took a notion to do something we’ve never done after school before: play a little ping-pong. Neither of us is a pro, but it was a fun way to unwind from the day.
When I drove home, the sunset was a wild glory of torn gold in the west behind the edge of the mountain.
At home, I made a poultice for Caleb, checked email, had supper, and showered. Selema and Judith told me they had been at the clothes packing place again that day, helping finish things up.
Then we girls drove up the mountain to Julianne and Lynette’s house for a girls’ Bible Study and tea party. We sat around their cozy living room, sang, shared hearts, drank tea, and ate shortbread cookies. The evening was too short—as those evenings always are.
When we left, the moon was shining and the wind seemed to want to blow us off the edge of the mountain. Far below in the valley, lights twinkled. We drove down to our valley home.
Friday, February 26, 2021
The school day began beautifully with brother Philip Penner leading in devotions for the whole school. He had a list of Bible trivia questions for the students and got everyone engaged.
The rest of the day was a challenge that kept me begging God for wisdom and grace. Art class lightened things up—we worked on balls made of colorful paper circles.
After school I dashed about to clean up my classroom, then sped home to get cleaned up myself, for a massage appointment. (At home, things seemed a bit wild too. Mom and Selema were away, helping a lady who has come to church sometimes. Dad was selling frozen chicken to someone and getting ready to go pick up some hay with the van and trailer.)
Judith went with me; she had a massage appointment too. While she had hers, I took the chance to relax in the car and do some writing and editing. The massage was wonderful—Friday evening is the perfect time for a teacher to get one=)
Before we headed home, Judith and I picked up Louise Horst (the massage lady lives next door to their place). She was going to spend the evening with Mom while her husband and son played hockey with some others from church. Dad and the younger boys left for the hockey too as soon as we got back—their skates had been left in the back of the car I was driving.
After a quick supper, we youth left for a youth singing at church. We sang hymns, practiced choral songs (in preparation for a program), tried to define words the way a mom would, and talked over snacks—a delightful evening.
Saturday, February 27, 2021
As usual for Saturday, we bustled about early to get Dad and Judith off to Halifax for the market.
My morning filled up quickly with writing, teaching preparations, doctoring Caleb, and practicing the choral songs from the evening before with my siblings.
As soon as Dad and Judith came home from Halifax, Dad got ready to leave for Yarmouth to pick up a wood chipper he had bought. Caleb went with him.
That afternoon, the ten-year-old girl who had earlier made my day by her note came over. I had a wonderful time with her—we went to see the bunnies, played educational games, read a story, and baked a chocolate cake together.
I worked on writing projects after she left. My sisters cleaned the house.
After supper, not long after Dad had gotten home, he went off again to the clothes packing place with Jesse to help unload a shipment of clothes to be sorted.
I took a long soak in the bathtub, accompanied by a charming book called The Door in the Wall.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
There was the usual whirlwind of getting everyone ready for church—baths, last-minute tidying up of the house, breakfast, chores, putting together a casserole for lunch. But we made it to church.
Brian Barkman’s message was titled The Two Kingdoms. His clear presentation and examples from history clarified the reasons we don’t vote and shouldn’t campaign politically. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support the government—we need to support them in prayer, and seek first the Kingdom of God.
We had Peter and Lena Barkman over for lunch. I stayed at their house for a month or two last fall, so it was extra special to have them in our home now, to show them around and just visit. They’re a little like grandparents to me.
The day was mild and sunny. After Peter and Lena left, I said, “I have a hankering to go to the shore.” Judith agreed.
So we girls drove over the mountain, picking up Adrianna and Jelana Barkman on the way and going down the other side to the Bay of Fundy shore at Black Rock. Down by the water, a brisk breeze blew. We ran across rocks in the sunshine, talked, took pictures, and watched waves break on the shore. The massive icicles hanging over the cliff edges were melting. The sun dipped lower in the sky, casting a path of gold across the sparkling water. Friendship and the Fundy shore—perfect combination.
We took the girls back home; they had invited us to stay for supper, so we had an enjoyable evening yet at their house. The lively supper conversation included stories about dangerous animals and a discussion about creation and evolution. And after supper we played some games.
It was another day of God’s blessings… what a privilege to be able to gather with believers and enjoy God’s great creation.
Life is an ebb and flow; seasons of charm and change. And always, amid the whirl of life, God’s light is waiting if my eyes are open.
(All photos are from the Sunday afternoon ramble at the shore.)
My God, my God,
have I forsaken You?
—fleeing from the cross,
nothing but my odious self within my sweaty hands,
thirsting after bitter pleasure,
running—blind—into the city,
where my undoing surely
will be finished?
Why would I continue to
refuse Your love—
the lesser agony of surrender—
for such a shattered state?
My God, my God,
have I forsaken You?
Lord, forgive me, forI knew not what I did.
One Sunday afternoon my siblings and I played a story game with some friends. Everyone wrote a sentence on a sheet of paper, folded it over, and passed it to the person next to them. Each person read only the previous sentence before adding one of their own to continue the story.
As the game progressed, there was no way of knowing what had been written that was now under numerous folds of paper. Sometimes we could add a next sentence right away, but more often we shook our heads or laughed. How to coherently take on someone else’s thought when we had no idea what the beginning was?
And even harder—how to write a satisfying ending? We took our best guesses and engaged our creativity.
When it came time to read the completed stories, everyone took a sheet and unrolled it to read to the rest. The varied handwriting and pen colors told the tale of a multi-authored story. Hearty laughter erupted at the odd—and mostly inadvertent—twists produced by the passing on of words and imagination from one person to another. Characters switched names halfway through, a windy hilltop became an ocean, a frog was banished to an insane asylum.
Amid the fun, I thought of a song I had listened to not long before: “If all things start and end with Him/ then we can believe / His word comes true.”
I have heard countless times that God is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. But suddenly I understood its significance more than ever before. He does not merely begin the story, then pass it off to us to do as we please with. Nor does He make us write the beginning and start stumbling about for a while before He steps in to complete the story with a nice stock ending.
Nothing of the sort will do for the beautiful stories God wants to write for our lives. He begins our stories with His own hand, a new beginning every time. He labors over the writing as only love can do. He walks us through the painful process of editing and shifting about of sentences. It is the same handwriting all through, sure and stately.
Granted, the story will most likely unfold with surprising plot twists. But it is God Himself who gives meaning to all the scenes. And it is God Himself who weaves the most profound and beautiful ending possible, opening out into the glory of His everlasting Kingdom.