Friday, October 22, 2010

Thoughts on paradise

Yesterday I picked the last few ripe tomatoes of the season. Tomorrow I will bring in the last of the peppers. While doing this I have been thinking about paradise. Not what we picture as heaven, but what was created in the beginning... the Garden of Eden. I have always imagined it in all its beauty. According to Merriam-Webster, paradise literally means an enclosed park. Reading Wendell Berry this week left me with a new sense of Eden. My thoughts on this paradise are slowly changing. Maybe it was beautiful because it was separated from the rest of creation - separated from something outside. Consider this poem:

Enclosing the field within bounds
sets it apart from the boundless
of which it was, and is, a part,
and places it within care.
The bounds of the field bind
the mind to it. A bride
adorned, the field now wears
the green veil of a season's
abounding. Open the gate!
Open it wide, that time
and hunger may come in.
(from A Timbered Choir)

Maybe Eden was perfectly beautiful not because the whole world was new and unspoiled, but because it was separated from the whole world and cared for by Adam and Eve. It was fenced off from the rest (at least I have always assumed this because they were put out of the garden and there was a gate.) A farmer looks at his field and loves it for what it is, but also for what he has made it to be. God separated Eden from the unbounded world and created a caretaker to cultivate it. Did God help Adam to dream of what it would become as two farmers surveying their land? Did God show Adam how to sow the seeds that would grow into produce that would adorn his fields? My father walks his land and plans and cares and tends it. It is beautiful. And it is surrounded by wildness. The wildness is beautiful, but not tended, not cared for. My father's land is full of wonderful bounty. His gate does open and begs my family to come and eat. Was Eden a place for Adam and Eve to come and satisfy themselves? So often I think of Adam as a herdsmen or zoo-keeper, not a farmer. But his garden was paradise. He was enclosed in something set apart for him. Now we have a small, weed filled glimpse of what he had. I look forward to the day when God will open wide the gate and say "Come. Eat. Be set apart forever with the Lamb that was slain. There will be no more hunger or thirst." Or weeds!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Turning 42

Today I turned 42. There was a time in my life when turning 32 was depressing, much less 42!. But I must admit, since turning 40 I have learned to love my age.

In my twenties life was crazy. Steve and I got married very young and the process of having my rough edges rubbed off was painful. Then we had three children before turning thirty. That changed life to say the least! Good changes, but God can really use your kids to push on things in you that need to be transformed to be more like Him. In our thirties Steve and I grew three kids and followed where God was leading. Not easy things to do.

Now, in my forties, life seems so different. I have more freedom - but still have three kids who are home and for the most part want to be with me. I have an amazing husband whom I love with my whole heart. We still have some of those rough edges remaining, but they fit together a little better and are not so painful. Steve and I could not be more different. But we have learned to work together and to glory in each other's differences. It is a good place to be. And it is better than when I was twenty or even thirty. I look back at that woman who struggled and fought and matured. I don't envy her. Now we have children who are growing into amazing adults who love the Lord and are a blessing to us. We have been married longer than we haven't been married (if that makes sense!). The woman I am now is nothing like what I imagined I would be. But this woman is more dependent on Christ than herself (though not every day), more thankful, a little more confident, a lot more community minded, and more in love with her husband than she could have thought possible. Yes, we have hard days... but life at 42 is good. I love my life. I thank God for His graciousness and mercy to our family.

Story of our new building

Tonight our church met in its new location. There is a story. But Steve can tell it much better than me. And he has pictures. So check out his blog:
http://www.stevemizel.blogspot.com

Homecoming 2010

Last night the girls went to the Edwardsville High School Homecoming. We had the parade on Wednesday and the football game on Friday. They looked beautiful.

Victoria Hope

Esther Catherine
Steve and I are so proud of the beautiful women they are. We love them!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Stories My Table Tells

I must admit that I have an ugly dining room table. It was given to us by an older woman in the church we were attending who was moving. It is from the 50's. It looked beautiful for a while. But we are a busy family who apparently knows how to damage furniture. We scuffed the top and left water marks. Soon enough the wood absorbed moisture and the surface became bubbled. It is wretched looking.

But, I cannot tell you how much I love this table. When I think of all the meals we have had here. There have been romantic, candle-lit, Valentine dinners for five. There have been meals with people we did not really know. There have been large, laughter filled Miller family gatherings and Mizel-from-California celebrations. We have cried with friends at this table. We have had angry conversations at this table. It has seen joy and sorrow. It has seen love and even a little hate. It has seen newly married couples and on-the-way-to-divorce couples. It has seen lots of teenager parties and groups of boys eating home-made french fries and milkshakes for birthdays. It has heard dreams of future love and anguish of dashed hopes. It has heard prayers of thankfulness to God and cries to Him for mercy. It has seen some come to a new faith in Christ.

It has been a tent. It has been a homework desk. It has been a work bench. It has been a nurse's station. It has been a pastor's conference table. It has been a painter's easel. It has been a gardening bench.

This well used table has seen some of the best food on the planet. My mother has served her famous food from it. (Italian Cream Cake or Red Velvet Cake or home-made salsa or Fonya Potatoes). We have eaten freshly picked corn from the garden or just-delivered-from-Kentucky burgoo and mutton. Mmmmmmm. It has held some of my very own food disasters, as well. But each dish has been served with love.

The purpose of my table's life is community. In a sense, it is at the heart of our home. We have lived and loved and mourned and celebrated with family and friends and neighbors on its ugly surface. It has been used by our family and community for over ten years. We have bought new chairs and new table cloths. But somehow, I just can't see parting with it and all of it's beautiful memories.

Looking back I can see that this is handed down from my parents. Their table has very much served the same purpose and I am grateful for all the times that I have sat there and been loved and fed. I also saw my mother's mother do the same. My grandmother had a huge table in her kitchen that served many meals to many people. I look forward to some day sitting at the tables of my children. Sharing meals together has been a gift passed down from generation to generation. Sharing meals is sharing life.

Here's to hoping that your table has its own beautiful stories to share. Enjoy!