People often ask me about the name of my blog... click here to read the story.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fragile Growth

"And they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." ~Isaiah the Prophet, Isaiah 61:3b

Okay, so it's not an oak, it's a maple. Brad noticed it growing up between the garage and the compost box (in a 3 inch wide space) a few years ago. Standing true and straight, protected (and probably fed) by the compost box, the tree grew to about 6 feet tall before Brad transplanted it. As he dug it up last fall, he saw that the base and the roots were twisted because of the garage's foundation. He gently carved away at the base, trying not to damage the roots. After planting it, we waited all winter wondering if the fragile tree would make it. This spring...still standing tall...still very fragile...the maple has leaves! The volunteer sapling with the damaged root system survived.

"Zee grrrapes, zay haf to sufair to prodoos zee finest vine in zee vurld." ~some, hard to understand French woman on a PBS travel show
The host of the travel show was in Burgundy, France talking with a wine maker. She, the vintner, was showing him the centuries old vineyards and explaining why Burgundy wine is so wonderful and rare. The soil is awful and the environmental conditions less than ideal for most plants. She went on to say that the grapes have to suffer...that when the vines have to work to grow in the harsh environment they pick up unique, special flavors not found anywhere else in the world. The suffering grapes produce one of kind wine.

"With a very dry and strong southerly wind blowing, we could use some moisture..."
~Dave Winslow, Weather guy on KTIV

Living on the Great Plains, we're used to, shall we say, strong air currents. But even by Iowa's standards, we've experienced brutal, sustained winds the last 2 1/2 days and nights. I spent all day Saturday planting flowers and tomatoes and dividing perennials...would the fragile plants survive the onslaught...I wondered. I tried to keep them watered; I moved the ones I could to more protected areas, but some just had to endure the harsh, dry winds. I was sure my tomato plants would snap. Sleeping with the windows open, I woke up about 3 a.m. to quiet; the winds finally died down. First thing this morning, I stepped out to check on my plants. I think they've made it. The tomatoes didn't snap and the others were already straighting back up. The wind swept little plants endured.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~Jesus, John 16:33

I don't know what your story is, but we've all experienced tight spots that damage our root system, less than ideal growing conditions, and dry hot winds that threaten to snap us off at the base. We all have times in our lives of fragility. Times when standing tall seems impossible, fruit non-existent and growth unattainable.

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us...." ~Paul, Romans 5:2b-5a

I know sometimes it feels like no amount of character building seems worth the pain. But whatever your struggle today, I do believe (for myself and for you) that He is shaping you into an oak...cultivating one of a kind grapes in your heart...and giving you a strong foundation to endure the winds to come...not so you'll be happy or so you won't have to suffer anymore, but for His glory and renown.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Words aptly written...

"Sticks and stones may brake my bones but words will never hurt me."
Whoever came up with this little childhood gem should be racked. It's one of the biggest lies that I've heard.
Words do hurt. They can do unrepairable damage. Italic
I remember stinging words from every stage in my life. Like whispers in the quiet night, hurtful, pain filled words come back and echo in my ears when I'm doubting myself, or doubting God.
Why do words hurt so much? And why are they so easily recalled? I feel like some of the painful words spoken to me left an indelible print on who I am as a person. Having a kid make fun of my teeth or my ears, left me always self conscious of those traits. Having boys in junior high rate me compared to other girls left scars on my heart that just don't go away. As an adult, I know they were speaking out of their own insecurities and their own pain and that there was little truth in what they said. But even as adults, we suffer the pain of cutting remarks...words that degrade us or bring into question our worth. The legacy left by those hurtful words is a vast, deep one.
Thankfully, I've also been on the receiving end of beautiful, encouraging, Truth filled words. Growing up, my mom rarely spoke harshly, raised her voice or made any negative comments to us. She just didn't. Both my parents, in general, live Proverbs 25:11 "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." They walk through life handing out golden apples left and right.
So, Jennifer, at GDWJ ( recently posted several blogs giving her own reasons for blogging. Of course, that got me thinking about why I blog.
Is it simply exhibitionist tendencies? Is it the desire to be known...really known on a heart level? Is it because I love to write? I didn't come up with any one answer, but I guess I blog because I know the impact words have had on my own life. I know that words can do more damage than sticks and stones...but words can also bring healing, encouragement, insight, wisdom, peace, grace, joy...words can leave a vast, deep, legacy of love.
That's partly what I hope my blog does. I know I'm honest to a fault at times and it probably either freaks some people out or gives them the impression that I'm always one step away from some sort of "Peaceful Pines" institution. But, I blog, and try to be honest doing it, because I'm compelled to share (hopefully) life giving words.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rough hewn

It was a rough few hours last night at the Horstman household. After sitting in the rain and wind without an umbrella for over an hour, watching my daughter play soccer, I gently informed her that we couldn't stay for the boys game, but had to head back home (a half hour drive) right away.
I prepared myself. I knew what was coming.
No tears.
No rolling eyes.
No yelling, angry protests.
Just a clenched jaw and a stony silence. My 15 year old was upset and angry.
I tried not to let it change my mood.
Good Game! You played well!...thanks
Do you want a steamer before we leave to warm you up?...sure
As we drove on in silence, I started to question my decision. Maybe we should've wasn't that big of a deal...what's another two hours...
Then I heard the voice of Reason reassuring me I'd done the right thing. We needed to be home. The rest of the family needed us home.
I thought of all I'd done the last few days, specifically for her:
drove 15 miles out of my way to pick her up and take her to another town 10 miles the other direction so she could eat a special supper with friends...
waited in that other town while she was with those friends then drove her back home...
got up early to make her favorite muffins for breakfast...
went to the grocery store at 7 a.m. to get drinks she told me she needed for the soccer team...
dropped everything and drove like a maniac to her game after she called me panicking because she didn't have her home game socks...
But, I realized, none of it mattered at that moment. All that mattered to her, right then, was that we didn't stay for the boys game. No amount of gifts, running around, schedule changing, or words of encouragement mattered. Thankfully, Reason kept me from saying any of this. I just drove on, pondering.
I do this to God all the time. ALL THE TIME.
My life is like the best Christmas morning ever! I'm like a kid surrounded with gifts that I asked for and dozens that I didn't dare ask for because they're beyond my wildest expectations. But instead of revelling in the moment, I sit in the middle of my presents, disappointed by the one that is missing from under the tree. I clench me teeth and sit in stony silence wondering Why didn't He give me that? I've asked for years's a good thing...why won't He give me that?
As I sat in the van, with one of my greatest "gifts" sitting next to me, I unclenched my jaw and broke the silence with Him. I began to thank God for all He's given me: for all the times I've called on Him in a panic and He's rescued me...for all the trivial things I thought I needed that's He's patiently provided...for all the essentials He gives me every day that I all too often take for granted.
The rest of the night was fine. She got over it (which I knew she would), I kept my cool and didn't make it worse (another gift), and I went to bed thanking Him.

track #11 on the player

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Hi Mom.
Once again, my week was so crazy (and I'm not that organized) that I didn't get a card or gift off to you...bad daughter, I know. It's one of the nasty things about living far away, I can't do things last minute!
So, I'm sorry my sentiments have to come via a computer screen.
I love you, Mom.
I know I don't always show it and can be reserved and reticent...but I do love you.
I love your ever present smile.
I love your quick laugh.
I love your true heart.
I love your steadfast faith.
I love the grace you extend to everyone.
I love the way you unabashedly love Dad, your daughters & sons in laws & all your grand kids.
I love your constant awe and wonder.
But most of all, I love your love for God...
I love you, Mom.
May your heart be blessed and encouraged today.
Love, Patty

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hand Woven

I don't know why I turned down that road. I never go there. Concentrating on the next task, I usually speed right by without ever noticing the iron gates, gravestones, and sign announcing the entrance to the cemetery. But today, in the cool rain and mist, I made the right hand turn and drove into St. Pat's Catholic cemetery.
Intrigued by the old markers, I drove slowly, taking mental notes of the dates and names. All the time, I wondered about the lives lived, the children lost, the spouses mourned.
Life is so short, I mused to myself.
That's when I saw it. Amid the Kennedy's, Mulhearn's, and O'Donnell's stood a big red stone family marker with "Burnes"engraved on the obelisk.
What? Burnes?
Curious, I got out and walked through the wet grass.
Yep..That's what it said...Thos Burnes: born December 24th 1833 died 1897.
Is Thos short for Thomas, I wondered.
Who was he? How did he get here? Could we be related?
Burnes is my maiden name and frankly, there aren't that many of us. I grew up in Michigan but I know my forefathers settled in Hopkins Minnesota, but I never expected to find my name in a cemetery in Northwest Iowa.
What did it mean? Did it mean that this place I fought so many years to call home could really be where my roots were?
I don't know. I don't know what it means, if anything.
I've thought a lot lately about God's big picture and how we only see a tiny, minuscule part.
My daughter is doing a project for English on families. They had to find relatives that came through Ellis Island. Well, all my ancestors have been here too long, but several of Brad's came from the Netherlands at the turn of the century and did make the journey through the Island. In searching for records, we found that there was a unique surname of good friends of ours from college that were on the same boat as Brad's ancestors. Amazing isn't it? To think that people over 100 years ago could have had a connection, long forgotten, that was remade by great grandchildren who never knew?
That's how it felt to see my name on that family marker. Could I have a connection to this place beyond marriage?
It would take much more research to find out, but the point is, God is ever weaving our lives together in a tapestry beyond out comprehension.
Our lives are so short and in two generations, no one will remember me or anything I've done, but somehow, how I live now, will impact future generations in ways I can't begin to imagine. It feels overwhelming and sweet, and lovely and big all at the same time.

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty and I will meditate on your wonderful works... They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness."
Psalm 145:1-7(italics mine)