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Eden's Mirror

Looking into the mirror of God's story

A Free Tomato

I don’t recall the day exactly, but you can be assured, it was a day when our golden California sun brilliantly bathed our garden in its life-giving light. I must have been collecting the crop of my recently planted kale plants, or gathering our blue-green, dirt-brown, and crystal-white eggs from our chickens. That was when I saw it: a cluster of baby green growth sprouting up from the soil. Even through the lens of an amateur, I could discern this was no weed.

I think it’s a tomato plant! Excitement mounted in my soul.

closeup photo of sprout

You see, I am the only person in my family who likes tomatoes. That is the mystery of preferences, is it not? How could anyone deny the splendor of the warm shiny red smooth skin and the pop of juicy goodness? Alas, among my husband and children, I remain the only one (at least at the time of writing this reflection – since then, I have won at least one to my side).

And so when I realized that I had not planted this beautiful little blessing, I immediately recognized it as a gift from the hand of the Lord. To this day, I do not know how it got there. Perhaps He sent a little bird to snatch up and drop a tomato seed from another garden. Perhaps some little chubby fingers from the neighbor’s toddler dug into my soil when I wasn’t looking. But let me tell you, that tomato plant is thriving! It burst through its tomato cage and required stronger support to keep it standing upright! It’s branches have stretched high and wide, threatening to consume my entire garden space. I have never possessed such a proliferating plant!

As I harvested my first crimson crop, I could not help but wonder at the simplicity of God’s gifts. If you’ve ever read the children’s story, The Little Red Hen, you know that if you did not “plant the corn”, if you did not “cut the corn”, if you did not “cook the corn”, then you “shall not eat the corn”. It is a work ethic ingrained into us in childhood. And yet here I was, I who did not plant the seed, I who did not till the soil, I who did not cause the growth, sumptuously scouring down a savory gift I had done nothing to earn.

Is this not the nature of all God’s gifts, most especially the gift of communion with Him? From the beginning of time, since the gift of that first garden so long ago, God has never required penance for His blessings. No. It was not His gifts that required wages but our sin. Our God is a generous and gracious God. The difference between the Garden of Communion so long ago and the Communion of the Church today is that the Garden cost God nothing, but our Communion with Him in the present cost Him everything.

If then God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31.

THIS, not just my tomato plant, is God’s free bounty – the abundant blessing of beholding Him, breathing Him in, in all His beauty. And it is most fully a gift to be received, not earned; a gift that dispels the lies that I could ever earn His favor on my own. A gift that is mine, and that today, I could enjoy just a little more of through the flavor of a free tomato plant.

 

I Met God in the Desert

I woke up that morning feeling somewhat discouraged. I couldn’t place my finger on it exactly until I had the kids dressed and fed, husband sent off to work, and had the space to begin preparing my breakfast. As the bacon sizzled its tantalizing scent throughout the house, it hit my chest like a weight of bricks: I longed to return to the wide open road from which I had come just four weeks earlier.

My mom offered to drive me and my two girls (four and two at the time) out to her house in East Texas. So we had embarked on one of our many adventures together – driving from Los Angeles to Dallas with two kids and a mostly-in-order black Honda Accord. Most of my friends thought I was crazy but knew me better than to say anything.

Out of all our adventures together, this was by far among my top favorites. There was something about being in control of all my stops and starts, not worrying about being on a schedule. Just one goal in mind: to get to Mom’s house.

It was an endless drive. After a while, our minds habituated to the routine of watching the road signs for the next nearest town – did it have a gas station? How many miles until the next rest-stop? One exit didn’t even have a name – it was just Exit 29, 15 miles.

grayscale photo of road

Out there in the desert that stretches for thousands of miles, you begin to wonder why any living creature would settle in these dust bowls at all. But the towns were there.

London, West Texas was so far off the beaten path, there was no cell-service, and the rest room had a sign requesting no toilet paper be thrown in the toilet due to poor plumbing! Another, Alpine, Texas, had one main diner in town, complete with the waist-length gray-haired, mid-50’s waitress who wrote your order on a standard lined note-pad, and talked to you only from behind the bar next to your table. It felt like we were in a movie. But these were no imitations, no one was trying to put on a show to entertain us – they were just making a living, almost annoyed by our interruption in their day, there where they were literally hundreds of miles from the next nearest town or interstate.

Out in these desert towns, there was space to exist and no one to impress. People knew your face and name and favorite diner order almost immediately. No one was in a hurry, there was no place to go.

And it was out there in one of those desert towns that I met God in a silent storm.

Lightning had frequented our journey. We had seen it at night as we were driving over the border from Arizona to New Mexico. It greeted us as we crossed into Texas, where city lights faded, and a consuming darkness prevailed.

But this lightning was distinct. The clouds enveloped a hillside, rolling over it like a blanket, putting the dust to bed. When it lit up the sky, it exposed the fading pink from the setting sun still lining the clouds. Purple, pink, navy blue dark, the lightning grasped a moment for the eyes to behold before burying it back in the darkness. You couldn’t capture this beauty. I tried, though deep down I knew my attempts would be in vain no matter how many times I clicked my camera.

As I witnessed this sight, it struck me that it would have happened, whether had I been there to see it or not. God was not showcasing His glory just for me. He was doing what He always did – watering the desert with rain, feeding the soil and the desert life that depended on it, giving much-needed water to the creatures that called that particular hillside their home. He was very much alive and living and active, engaged in His world – for it was His creation to nurture. It was a privilege to be there – to witness this demonstration of His handiwork. And He would have done it even without me there to see it.

It put me in my place, seeing that lightning storm in that desert. I am small; He is not. All the worries on my heart just fell to pieces as I beheld this small glimpse of His greatness and goodness.

I worshipped.

A worship that transformed me.

I feared Him and yet had to keep beholding Him.

These are heart-postures I throw all my energies to attain to during my normal life, and yet, there I was, in that desert-town, encountering a taste of God’s glory, when all I had been doing was walking back from dinner at the diner to my bed in our hotel. I hadn’t been looking for Him, but He was there all the same, whether I cared to stop and behold or not.

This is a taste of Eden and the promise she yet holds for us: to behold God without effort. To see Him for who He is, without striving. To fear Him and yet desire Him because of His beauty and glory.

This is what Adam and Eve lost us when they betrayed Him in the garden so very long ago. The sweet ease of communion with God, not belabored by distance, time, misunderstanding and lack of faith, nor the clutter of sin that so utterly clouds our vision.

Scripture says that some day, when Jesus returns, we will see Him as He is – and what is more, we will become like Him.

Oh how my heart yearns to be heavenward. To the leave the dust of this earth behind and behold Him always and forever.

But linger though I may beneath that darkened sky, I must soon return to my bedside for a night’s sleep before the sun rises again on another day. And what lingers on in my heart instead is that fragrance of heaven I caught in the glimpse of the skies, the night I met God in the desert.

Edens Mirror

I currently reside in a white-washed concrete three bedroom apartment, crowded into a narrow inlet of land surrounded by sidewalks and a noisy thoroughfare. That roadway is packed into a puzzle of streets which stretch their concrete vines around every possible structure in its path. The city is like a weed, a ground-cover of pale hard cement, suffocating the life beneath the ground.

Now, not everyone feels this way about the city, to be sure. There is a grand display of life and glory here too – but that is another story. Today, my stale home, surrounded by a gray platter of discolored houses and apartments, strangles the life out of me, and I pant for want of life-giving beauty for my eyes to behold. I long for the garden of Eden.

beautiful calm clouds cloudy

I tasted of it today in my garden. We’ve been growing peppers and tomatoes and kale for months now, and have only recently reaped a rich harvest. We sat in the hammock, with a yellow and red pepper in hand, and consumed it almost in an instant. This is how food was made to be eaten, I think, as I watch my children beg for more from my hand. There is no arguing about eating one more bite, no “eat your vegetables if you want to have dessert”. It doesn’t matter how hungry or filled you are – when that sweet, sun-kissed pepper hits your lips, you want more.

Wasn’t this what it was like in Eden? Where you picked your food from trees and plants grown by the hand of the Lord through your tilling of the soil and watered by His loving care and goodness?

I swallow my last bite, this sweet foretaste of Home, and take my children’s hand to walk back across the hardened concrete drive, through the cold stale gate, and into the crowded space of our darkened living room, and think to myself, Yes, I was made for Eden.

And so are you

But perhaps you have forgotten that, as I so easily do. I go about my day, consumed with chores, children, commitments, and the days can feel as colorless as my concrete walls. Yes, Eden is lost to us now.

We don’t know what our lives would have been had Adam and Eve not taken that first bite of forbidden fruit. In so many ways, all we know is what we have lost: a life without grief, sorrow, disappointment, suffering; life in perfect communion with the very One who spoke the universe into existence. What our eternity then would have been we will never know.

We only know what we can see of Eden’s reflections, like a mirror, beckoning us to recall what we lost, if only to move toward the One whose communion with us has become so dimmed and marred by our own tainted hearts.

Eden’s Mirror is our looking glass – our place of remembrance, our place of sorrow and joy, of stumbling and repentance. She tells the tale so often woven throughout all of God’s breathed-word in Scripture: creation, fall, redemption, hope. She points us ever forward to the promise made so long ago of the One who would come and rescue us and take us at long last home…with Him.

I invite you to come on a journey with me of learning to see Eden’s Mirror, to better hear His voice, to return home to Him in the present circumstances of your lives and in the life of the age to come.

Eden’s Mirror

Introducing Eden’s Mirror: An ancient looking glass reflecting divine revelation for our past, present and future. Coming soon…

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Magnetic

Upon recently returning from overseas, my heart has been reflecting much on my experience of life as a Third Culture Kid. What follows below (and possibly more reflections to come on this blog) stem from those thoughts and feelings I’ve been processing as late. I share it here because perhaps there is another one of my “tribe” out there who will be encouraged to have someone else speak their language. 

The morning call to prayer wafts through the musty air of breaking dawn.

Everything in me wants to rise from my sleepless bed and stand upon the balcony, letting the heat begin to stick to my skin. I want to take it all in.

I am alive.

Adrenaline from jetlag-sleeplessness pulses through my veins and a deeper life follows suit.

Here, I am alive.

Though I know not the language, the customs, the traditions; though I don’t even possess just yet my belongings, I have arrived home. Where unfamiliarity is my home. Belonging where I don’t belong.

Like a magnet, negative and positive. Same and different. A world of contradictions, and I am home. This world of unfamiliarity is where I belong.

 

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