Multiplication

It’s that time of year. You know, the temps are dropping, the leaves are falling, pumpkin decorations are lining the shelves…it’s fall! My favorite! It has been a busy start to September with work and three kids in fall sports. In the midst of my busy, I signed up to bring a meal to a sick friend this week. As I looked at my calendar, I realized I had no time to cook thanks to our baseball schedule. However, I wanted to bring at least one thing homemade to her, so I wouldn’t be a total friend failure. I decided on my pumpkin bread. It’s quick and easy to make, I had all the ingredients and everyone loves it. Done.

I got out all my supplies and reached for the recipe box (yes, I still have a recipe box). As I pulled out the recipe page, I remembered, this wasn’t my pumpkin bread at all. Clearly written across the top of the 8×11 page, in my friend’s penmanship, was “Amy’s Pumpkin Bread.” This was Amy’s pumpkin bread recipe. Amy, my neighbor from my old hood. Amy, who lived across the street and loved me so well for 11 years. Amy, who taught me how to be a good neighbor in my first real neighborhood. Amy, who brought me pumpkin bread every year when the weather got cooler. Amy, who gave gifts and meals when all the babies came. Amy, my neighbor.

I got a little emotional for some reason looking at the recipe page. I remembered. I remembered all the years of eating Amy’s amazing pumpkin bread and looking forward to it arriving in its pretty package with a note on top. I finally asked her for the recipe and she wrote it down in her cursive handwriting. It sits in my 20 year old recipe box, pulled out every year about this time. The boys always start asking for her bread when the weather cools down. They know it’s pumpkin time, and Amy’s bread has become a part of our fall traditions. 

This recipe page has yellowed and is covered in oil and pumpkin stains and looking at it today just hit me. As I was making pumpkin bread for my sick friend, I realized something. Amy’s generosity and kindness has multiplied. I have made countless loaves of pumpkin bread. The recipe makes 3 loaves, so we always make some to eat and some to share. Every time we make it we share. My mom has the recipe and she shares too. That’s multiplication. My kids are watching the sharing.  They were watching 2 weeks ago when we made some for us and shared 2 loaves with neighbors who are in a rough spot. The boys will come home today and enjoy some bread and know the other loaves are being given away. They are seeing the multiplication. Maybe there is a lesson there for them. That’s a Kingdom lesson you know, multiplication. 

I wonder did Amy make the recipe so large so she could share? So she could multiply? I bet she did. That seems like the Amy I know. But did Amy know that she was planting a little bit of the Kingdom in my heart as a young wife and a young mother just by bringing by bread? Just by loving on me and my babies? Just by being there to listen and be my good neighbor? My friend at Faith, Hope, Love and Therapy always says “Go love your neighbor.” Now, those are some good words, Go love your neighbor. Those are kingdom words. Jesus told us to do that, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and boy, don’t we love to love on ourselves!

Loving our neighbors equals multiplication and multiplication equals a growing Kingdom. Jesus was always loving neighbors and multiplying loaves for those in need. 

I’ve benefited from watching folks work out multiplication over the years. They didn’t even realize it, but they were growing the Kingdom just by loving their neighbors. I watched my dad loan his tools out and make sure his garage was open on Saturdays for anyone that needed a repair. I watched my mom serve tirelessly as she worked full time but made sure the house was open and food was cooked for Bible studies or church meetings. I watched my grandmothers bake for and serve the sick and the needy. This is the easy part. Loving others is the easy way to bring heaven to earth, to grow the kingdom of God, to multiply His goodness.

He said others would know we belong to Him by the way we love, so…just go love your neighbors, those in your circle, those who you hear about that have a need: the friend at work, the kids down the street, the new mom at church, the tired family that just moved in, the teacher that’s overwhelmed. We all have something to offer, whether it’s time or money or just an ear to listen. Go and love your neighbor, go and multiply the kingdom, just go…you never know who’s watching or listening…you never know how God will use the gifts you have to change someone. 

Here is Amy’s Pumpkin Bread recipe. Now you really don’t have an excuse! Remember, it makes 3 loaves, some to eat, some to share. I don’t think she will care that I am offering it up. I think this was her heart the whole time…to love others…to multiply the good things God had given her. 

Amy’s Pumpkin Bread

3.5 cups Flour

3    cups Sugar

1    cup Water

1    cup Oil

2    tsp. Baking soda

½   tsp. Baking powder

3    tbsp. Pumpkin pie spice

1    tbsp. Cinnamon

1    tbsp. Vanilla

1.5  tsp. Salt

4     Eggs

1     Large can of pumpkin

Mix all ingredients together. Options – sprinkle top with mini chocolate chips or chopped walnuts. Spray 3 loaf pans and pour in batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1.5 hours. Insert knife to ensure center is cooked. After removing from pans, rub with butter. 

 

Bandaids

“Band-aids just hold the blood in”

This is what my then 7 year old told me after a nasty bike fall in the cul-de-sac. He came in scraped on every bony part, a little bloody, but mostly just sad. He’s my sensitive one. He needs lots of sleep, hugs and kind words. His heart is very tender and can be broken in an instant. Especially an instant that involves concrete and blood. Thru his big tears, he shows me all the boo boos and immediately asks for band-aids. He requests the emoji band-aids his Gigi got him, and he always wants the poop emoji.

I get out the Tupperware that holds all the medicine. It’s really a mess in there. Purple Cough syrup and Pink Benedryl have leaked and formed a tie dye swirl on the bottom. I get a little lost in the stickiness of it all, picking up a tube of yeast infection cream and begin to squirt it on the band-aid. Luckily, I catch myself and reach for the Neosporin tube next to it. Who knows what Vagisil might do to his cut or his tender heart. As I’m sticking on all four band-aids, (he needed a few extra) he says, “Mom, band-aids just hold the blood in.” I agree, and we head down the stairs, but something about this statement sticks with me. Literally. 

My boys want band-aids for everything. They think they hold some kind of healing power. Any bump, bloody or not, and they want a band-aid. They just make them feel better. One day we were out of masking tape, and Ben asked to use a band-aid for his project. It’s as if these sticky things are magic. But today, Ben seemed to have realized they were not. “Band-aids just hold the blood in” he says. They don’t heal the wound, they just hold the blood in. 

Somewhere along the way I began to believe that band-aids were magic too. I used to be a school counselor. I loved this job but I also felt very torn. Kids would come in my office for 20 minutes, have a good cry and a good talk. Then I would give them a hug and a sucker and send them back to class. I always said I was just sticking band-aids on them because I knew 20 minutes was never enough time to really help them. 

But I wonder, how many band-aids have I put on my wounded heart? Just hoping they would heal it, stop the pain, make things ok? But they were just holding the blood in. How many sticky things have I applied thinking they were magical? Good behaviors, bad behaviors, unwise relationships, Instagram posts, chocolate brownies, compromises, lies, insults, bible studies even?  How many band-aids have I used to cope or numb the pain or distract me, thinking they might heal my brokenness, make me feel like I was enough, but they only kept the blood in. There was no healing, I just wasn’t bleeding all over everyone, so I thought it was ok. 

What’s so scary about bleeding anyway? Why is it that the sight of blood scares children and they just want a band-aid to hold the blood in? Why don’t I want anyone to see me bleed? It’s too much, too vulnerable. Blood is messy and people don’t like to get messy. 

Well, I’m tired of band-aids. I want the real stuff, the real healing. Real healing comes with a cost. It requires time, time of quiet and solitude before God, so you can really hear what he has to say about those broken places. It takes confession, confession to others for all the things you’ve used or abused to cover up those broken places. It takes humility, humility to admit that you don’t have it all together and you are willing to stop hiding those broken places. It takes some fire in your belly, fire in your belly to tell the enemy to go back to hell and leave you alone and that you aren’t going to hang out anymore in those broken places. It takes courage, courage to believe that God has healed you and you can let go and one day tell of those broken places. 

In Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:25, Luke 8:43 we see a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Based on the text from these different passages, we learn that she had spent all her money on lots of treatments and probably some band-aids and none had worked. Her condition is worsening. We see that she comes to Jesus from behind to touch his garment. She knew he could heal her but all she could do was reach out for his robe. We know that she is immediately healed of her condition. Christ feels power leave him and wants to know who reached for him.

“Who touched my robe?” Why does he want to know? He knows she is healed, why does he care who she is? But he does, He cares who she is. In Mark, it says that he kept looking for who touched him. He kept looking for her. He called her out. I believe he’s calling her out of her hiding. Jesus wants to know us, to have us come close and he will keep looking. She reached out but then the word tells us she shrunk back. But guess what, Jesus wants us near even if we are covered in messy things, in blood, in hiding. 

Mark 5:33 says “the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her came and fell to her knees in front of him” and Luke 8:47 states “the woman realized she couldn’t stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him.”

Why is she trembling? She has been healed! I believe she is trembling at the thought of coming out of hiding. She has been an outcast for at least 12 years. She is exhausted, lonely and covered in blood. She is dirty, smelly and poor. Broke and broken. Scripture says she bled constantly for 12 years. I am sure she is emaciated, depleted and hard to look at. But Jesus wouldn’t let her stay hidden. He saw her treasure inside, the woman she was meant to be despite the blood, despite the band-aids.

And he called her out. And in verse 34, he calls her Daughter. This rejected and despised woman…he calls her Daughter. The prince of heaven calls her Daughter. That just does something to me on the inside. It breaks me a little. That the height of heaven would intersect with the depths of earth and use that good word. Daughter insinuates that she belongs, that someone wants to identify with her, a woman that others were embarrassed to claim. “Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege” (Romans 5:2).

I wonder if when Jesus saw her, if he saw himself. After all, we are made in his image. Did he see his bloody future-self hanging on a cross. All alone, tired, smelly. Broke and broken. There is power in our bleeding, in His bleeding. Band-aids just hold the blood in. But the blood of Christ heals all wounds. It calls us out, it defines us, it says that we belong. There’s a trade to be made. Our broken, bloody wounds for His. By his stripes we are healed. 

He’s looking for us too you know. He’s calling us out of the bloody, broken, hidden places. He knows us, he knows our pain and he knows our name. He calls us Sons and Daughters too.

No more band-aids for me. Not even the cute emoji ones. I am ready to come out of my hiding and fall at his feet. How about you?

the okra lady

I ventured into Wal-mart one Saturday morning after school had started back…all…alone. It felt like a treat, because Chris had the kids entertained. It felt like a treat, coming off of a busy summer with all three dirty boys around 24-7. It felt like a treat, because it was just me and my blue buggie. I love Wal-mart. I love to look at dish towels, and water bottles, and cheap sunglasses. I love the seasonal aisle and the crazy t-shirts and the craft section. I love to get lost in Wal-mart, especially in the fall, especially if I have picked up a pumpkin spice latte before I shop. Man, do I sound like a southern, 40-something  mom with too much time on my hands. I guess it’s the little things.

After about an hour of buying groceries and lots of things I didn’t need, I entered the check out line. There was an elderly woman ahead of me, paying for a few things. I began to listen to her conversation with the cashier: “That’s a large package of okra you have there.” said the cashier. “I know, I’ll never eat it all, it’s just me at the house now. This is just the size I’ve always bought, “ said the elderly lady.  This conversation stuck with me and just wouldn’t let me go. “It’s just me at the house now.” That’s what she said. That’s what the old lady with the big package of okra said. “It’s just me at the house now.”

The okra made me think of my grandmother, Charlie. We called her “Pa.” We ate dinner at Pa’s almost every Sunday after church and some Saturday nights. In the south, you call lunch “dinner” and dinner “supper.” So, regardless, for lunch, dinner, or supper, Pa would make a feast and always included fried chicken and okra. Those were two of my favorites that she made. Fried Okra and Fried Chicken. What a gift to my childhood. They are worth capitalizing. I am always excited when fried okra is on the menu at some southern restaurant. You know, one of those “pick a meat and two sides” places. Okra is always one of my sides.  When I eat it, I feel comfort, like a child again, remembering home and Pa and Sunday lunch. So, I guess this is why the okra lady caught my attention. Why her statement, “It’s just me at the house now” hung in my ears. Pa died before it was just her at the house. She was still married and was still cooking okra for visitors. It was never just her at the house.

Strangely enough, I saw this elderly woman coming out of the local hospital a few weeks later. I have an odd ability to remember faces. No body ever remembers mine, but I knew she was the okra lady right when I saw her. I was picking up a prescription and there she was, all alone, walking out of some doctor’s appointment headed back to her four, quiet walls because it was just her at the house now. 

I paused, I thought of my other grandmother, Ann. It’s just her at the house now. I thought of my mother, Rhonda. It’s just her at the house now too, and I realized one day, it may just be me at the house. I wanted to soak this up, to not let this lesson pass me by.

Right now, coming off of a summer of boys 24-7, there are still boys at my house, well, a lot. There is a man there too, Chris, that I adore, and I think he adores me. He makes messes and makes me laugh and makes me better. There are the boys, Mack, Ben, and Sam. They make me tired and make my heart bigger and make me better too. There is middle school angst and elementary school homework and dirty cleats and never enough milk or cereal, and bills to pay and lots of socks to sort, but it’s not just me at the house now. Not yet anyway.

How I wish I could taste Pa’s okra again. How I wish I could have a tight squeeze from my grandpa or smell dad’s cologne. I want to remember my days are numbered and the people in my house have numbered days too.  At some point, it could just be me in my house. So I want to make these days count: These days when the house is full and loud and messy. These days when the bus still comes around the corner and fall nights mean baseball and bedtime prayers. These days when the whole pack of okra will be eaten and not wasted. I don’t want to waste any of this.