A time to sow…a time to reap <3

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I don’t wear a watch these days. There really isn’t much point. 

I can check the kitchen clock as I go about my various projects. 

Sometimes I have to do them quietly as Russ carries on his work at our kitchen table via phone calls and Zoom meetings. 

I fix us lunch and we eat together and take a quick walk around the block before he returns to the table and I return to my to do list. Often that includes sitting here at this desk and spending the time I used to long for just following rabbit trails of thoughts. 

While our life is quiet and in some ways far removed from the shocking realities others are dealing with, we are not ignorant of the ways this pandemic has shaken the core of all the systems that were in place.

All levels of business, relationships, churches, and governments are feeling the impact and if we didn’t have enough to keep us struggling to not worry, the media is happy to provide worst case scenarios to keep anxiety churning. 

This pandemic has left no area of the industry Russ works with untouched and in the midst of the knowns and unknowns of his challenges, we are also deeply aware of the impact on others here and around the world.

They come to mind as we work through our day and we do what you are probably doing. 

We choose to trust God. We pray. We do what we can do and we wonder what it will be like when “this thing” ends. 

That’s what we have come to call it in our family texts.

“This thing”

“This thing” that has separated us here in our part of the world from those we love and from those around the world who are also separated and on it goes. 

“This thing” lets us only connect through telecommunication, social media and six foot waving distance with others in our neighborhood when we are out walking. 

“This thing” that has filled so many with fear. 

“This thing”that has emptied schools and churches and workplaces, restaurants and ball fields and concert halls, board rooms and factories and businesses.

I can’t say we took it for granted, those places and people we were accustomed to seeing and talking to and living life with. We just didn’t know that we could all, the whole entire world, experience such an abrupt halt in our routines in such a brief span of time. 

We wonder when “this thing” will end and what our “used to be” will look like in the aftermath. 

This week as I realized, short of the most incredible nation-wide miracle where the numbers of cases drop to some incredibly low number or vanish (which believe me, is possible for God) I will experience my first ever Easter Sunday via a live feed.

As a side note, if that miraculous turn around happened, can you imagine the churches and pastors scrambling to open their doors???!!!! How fun would that be to see?

Yes, I know and agree with all the memes…

Spring has not been canceled.

Easter has not been canceled.

The celebration of the Resurrection has not been canceled.

The conquering of sin and death has not been canceled. 

But celebrating in community with the Body of Christ gathered in one place? That has been canceled. As far as we know…

So as this reality began to sink in, and I felt a sadness in my heart, I would just pray and ask God to bring all of us in the Church here and around the world comfort and hope in the midst of all that we have seemed to lose. 

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As I would pray, an old bit of Scripture kept cropping up in my spirit.

It wasn’t like I had it memorized word for word, but the gist of the passage just kept rising in my thoughts…we were like those who dreamed and our hearts were filled with laughter and joy. 

Those words became an anchor for the places in me that are longing to touch our family, to hug (sorry anti-huggers…but I want to hug my friends in the lobby of our church so badly right now), to look in their flesh and blood faces and not via some computer screen or from six feet away…and it rose in me as a promise that this time of isolation will end and we will be reunited. 

Let me share the whole Psalm with you right now. 

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 

Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy. 

Then they said among the nations, 

“The LORD has done great things for them.” 

The LORD has done great things for us; we were joyful.

Restore our fortunes, LORD, like watercourses in the Negev. 

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy, though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he will sure come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves. 

Psalm 126 a song of ascents CSB

Can you see that the bedrock of their restoration and joy was a foundation of sowing in tears?

Oh dear friends. 

Yes indeed – pray for our God to restore our “fortunes”…but more than that I urge you to use this time of isolation to sow in tears. 

Your broken hearts and longings are seeds sown and planted as you pray and meditate on what God is speaking to you.

Yes, to YOU. 

While the whole world has been put on hold and while some of our fellow humans are still out there doing the thing they are called to do, any of us who have been given the time to carry a bag of seed…humbly take it up and plant a prayer, a word of encouragement, a conviction in your heart, whatever God is speaking to you in this season…sow that seed, water it with your tears.

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May the Church of the Resurrected Christ tune into the Giver of all Life and do the hard work of this season – whatever the bag of seed God has given to you. 

We will surely be restored. 

We will surely reap a harvest from this time if we do not grow weary in doing what God has called us to do. 

Remember this will pass and we want to come out on the other side with our arms full of the sheaves of all the harvest God intended for His people. 

May the LORD bless you and keep you until we can laugh and be filled with joy as we see one another face to face <3

On the positive side…<3

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One of us got the bright idea that since we were going into at least two weeks of work-from-home, shelter-in-place, lock down; the other of us, named Russ, could paint the hall bathroom and back bedroom. 

We took a vote and it passed. 

He got right to it and since I have an aversion to pans of paint and roller brushes, he did that and I would come along behind with a small bowl and an artist brush to do the areas close to ceiling and edges. 

We are, and always have been, successful in marriage by staying in our lanes. 

So yesterday afternoon as he ran his work world from the end of our kitchen table, I donned my paint clothes and headed down the hall to put the finishing touches on Project #2. 

I was up on top of the ladder when I could hear sirens blaring in the distance. It was obviously several first responder vehicles and since the wail of the alarms were punctuated by horns honking, I assumed there had been a major accident on the highway a few blocks east of our house. 

It continued and my heart dipped low thinking about what kind of horrid thing had now occurred on top of what we already have going on.

I prayed and painted for a few minutes and then decided the whole dang world must be coming to an end and I wasn’t going out standing on a paint ladder.

Realizing I hadn’t heard anything from Russ and as the sound of sirens was now coming closer, fear gripped me that they were for him. 

I came out and the kitchen table was empty, I called for him and got no answer.

I now feared the Rapture had happened and somehow I missed it…as the sirens and honking were now clearly right on our street.

I noticed the front door was slightly open as I headed for the porch and there was my best friend out on the side walk, smiling and waving along with most of the neighbors as car after van after car drove by waving and smiling and making a joyful noise. 

He had called for me but I hadn’t heard him behind the closed door so he thought I had gone for a walk.

Out in front of our house was a sight that is being repeated across the country and let me tell you…what a sight!

The teachers from the local schools were driving through the neighborhoods led by the fire truck and police, with poster board signs on their vehicles announcing “We miss you!” and their names and all kinds of balloons and party stuff in the windows. 

There I stood in Rachel’s old too-tight clinical lab coat and my paint pants, brushes and bowl of grey paint in hand…waving like I was one of their school kids, or had some under our roof or whatever. 

I was doing that kind of laughing and crying thing we do when all the emotions are just exploding out of the deepest places of the heart.

And those sweet teachers did not discriminate this 60 plus couple…they waved right back at us like we were missed as much as any of the other little tykes.

Across the street, our neighbor who owns one of the local restaurants and is working hard at the new business model of take-out only, was smiling and waving with his wife and daughters. 

This parade was like a beacon of hope and the reminder we are a community and that this will pass. 

In the midst of this time when I know it is bad in places and people are facing such hard decisions in certain locations, I see God working good in so many. 

I see couples walking and talking together who used to be rushing off to the next thing or settling down in front of a ball game on TV. 

Families are sitting down to tables together and without the rush of having to fit all the practices and homework and chores into the few hours between school and bedtime, they are actually getting to know each other.

There are continuous opportunities for each of us to examine what used to take up our time and attention and evaluate our priorities. 

As we grieve the loss of certain freedoms and amenities we took for granted, we can do a heart check to see if we had set up idols of comfort and convenience. 

“Functional idols” is a theme in so many teachings I have heard leading up to this and God is now revealing to us, His people, where we had unconsciously erected a few or more of them in our hearts. 

I pray for myself, our family, our friends and community, the world at large to not only recognize the Hand of God at work in this time, but that we would seek His face. 

By that I mean, truly desire to simply know Him and to be in His presence as you sort through all the emotions and reactions that will arise throughout the day and night. 

May you be blessed to sense His nearness to you, for surely He is not far from any of us <3

Well, hello April <3

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So it is April Fool’s Day which happens to be the anniversary of the birth of Russ’s dad and we celebrate a young friend who also was born on this date…so nothing but love and hugs on this day of trickery. 

I have been sharing a lot of my heart this past week regarding our current setting, but I want to step away and take a minute to stay semi on track with the original plan for 2020.

Today, we continue with what we started in January and here is a little about my March discipline. 

As a refresher or if you are recently new to the Journey, I followed the lead of this sweet counselor friend of mine and adapted her idea to try something new each month. 

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Kaloupek Counseling LLC

For this month I combined the idea with a Lenten discipline I read about for a 40 day purge of possessions. In other words, I have adapted the adaptation of the plan above and taken it to a new and even more complicated level.

Because as always, why do things the simple way when you can go big or go home?

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As you can see, I have done a very fancy chart to keep track of my progress. Also you will note that I am officially 6 days behind. But that has happened other weeks as well.

Remember I said I wouldn’t turn this into a legalistic effort, but would shoot for participation points. 

Some days I had the mental and emotional energy to dig through several boxes of memorabilia and other days I was doing well just to stay on task without losing my footing in the present moment that was March 2020 on planet earth.

No excuses. I just know that some trips down memory lane can trip me up, so I have been purging as I can and catching up when I get behind. 

What have I learned from this exercise? 

Well, I am so glad you asked. 

Here are a few off the top of my head:

#1

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If you are one of those who zoomed in on the list, you will notice there were quite a few boxes in the “china closet”. 

The china closet is actually a narrow storage area in our basement where I have set up shelving and it basically looks like a booth at a flea market. 

I come from a long line of collectors of all things breakable.

My paternal grandmother painted china plates that would make you weep. My maternal grandmother, and both of her daughters apparently loved crystal, serving sets, bowls, salt and pepper shakers…all of it. 

My mom, who never swallowed a drop of alcohol, collected the most beautiful goblets, cocktail glasses and snifters imaginable. I have mugs that were made in Germany and probably came over on the boat with my great grandparents. 

So many beautiful figurines and vases … and I use them. I bring them out in different seasons and serve out of them and well…there are worse things.

Mixed in with these aged treasures are the handcrafted items from our own three. Plaster of paris hot pads with handprints, sponge painted clay pots, tiles with marker drawings, paper weights made out of juice glasses…treasures abound. 

So I learned I have no need to ever grace the decor area of Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx. Ever. 

And if you see my car parked in front of an antique mall, please call for back up and start intervention. 

#2

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I learned the longer you keep something, the harder it is to get rid of. 

Cards, pictures, clothing, children’s costumes and uniforms. 

As the years pass, these basic items that were just supposed to give joy in the moment and be useful can take on a life of their own. 

They seem to hold all the memories of the person and season when they were useful and there becomes attached to them an importance they were never meant to hold. 

I will never be able to be one of those who just pitches things as they come in the house, and I do believe there is some value to having some memories stashed in the nooks and crannies. I am sentimental and this will not change.

But I also believe it can become a place of idolatry if the usefulness of an item is being withheld from someone else so that I can “hold on” to some part of the past.

I am not a Marie Kondo follower, but I am a Christ follower and so I do not hold an object to see if it brings me joy. 

I hold to Jesus and talk to Him as I sort through our things. I ask Him to continue to help me learn how to separate the eternal from the temporal. I ask Him what is okay to keep and what needs to be released. And then I pray about who might benefit from the items and I follow through. 

There is a balancing that needs to happen and as I am doing this discipline, I can see where in some places I have been off balance.

#3

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This purging and cleaning out doesn’t take as long as one would think. 

I always thought I didn’t have time, but typically find twenty minutes is adequate to empty a box or a drawer or a cabinet, put things that are to be kept in the right place, return the contents as needed and dispose of what is not needed. 

Twenty minutes to lighten the load. 

#4

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Doing this one task most days has given me an increase in energy and focus to work on other projects that need to be done. 

There is a domino effect where accomplishing this one task inspires me to another and then another. 

Success breeds success and all this talk is making me want to sign off and start catching up on my goal. 

I also need to review my ideas for 2020 and decide on April’s discipline…how about you? 

How are you doing with staying somewhat on track with growth in 2020?

Some thoughts on prayer <3

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Anybody else marveling we are three months into 2020? 

In some ways it has flown by and in other ways, have mercy…it has been the longest three months of our lives. Bar none. 

I think back to January and how very few, if any, people had the entire world being unified by one battle on their radar. 

But God did. 

I can assure you of that one truth. 

None of this takes the God of the universe, who sees the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end, by surprise. 

He has no beginning and He has no end and He exists outside of time and space and origin. 

He always is and always will be.

He formed us and all that is out of absolutely nothing and He cares for us and loves us and has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him though we blatantly have disregarded Him. 

We are invited during this time of a global pandemic that is shaking all the foundations of health, relationships, governments and the economy to engage in even more intimate and personal fellowship with the God of our hope and salvation. 

That is my view today and will be my view always, by His grace that holds me fast to His mercy and truth.

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So this morning as I have studied along with Kelly Minter’s fourteen day glimpse at portions of the Sermon on the Mount regarding prayer, I offer you my paraphrase of Jesus’ teachings on prayer from Matthew 6: 5-8 and then I plan to put it into practice:

Whenever you go to pray – 

Go in a private space

Shut the door to all distractions and just be very alone with God

Pray to your Abba Father who dwells in the deepest and most hidden places of your heart and soul.

Don’t babble and run on with what you think sounds like good prayers. 

Pray from your heart.

Talk to Him like you would a good friend about what is on your mind and heart. 

Speak honestly and sincerely and with raw, unedited words. 

Sort things out with Him that you do not understand because…

He does…

Because He knows. 

Because He listens.

Because He hears. 

Because He helps. 

Then quiet your own words and heart and lean in. 

Be held as you listen for any words He has for you. 

And if He is silent, then just be held <3

paraphrase of Matthew 6:5-8 Laura Reimer <3

Just checking in on a Monday <3

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I can’t remember if March roared in like a lion or pranced in like a lamb, but I can assure you we will not forget how it was lived out, day by day, around the world. 

Everything has changed and while, for the most part, I have kept a fairly even keel throughout; I have moments when it all starts to pile up and holding to positivity and faith is a bit of a challenge. 

There are the good moments like connecting with friends through car windows or from the front steps of the house, moments with our family and church on Zoom meetings and knowing we are watching the same church service as one or more of our loved ones at the same time.  Total gratitude I married my best friend and we actually enjoy hanging out together.

There are great moments like watching a hospital staff line the perimeter of the upper level of their building with hands raised singing “Waymaker” because some guy decided to take his speakers to the parking lot to pray for them and encourage them. Things like cities making all kinds of noise when nurses are changing shifts to thank them and every day people are finding out they weren’t as self-centered as they had feared as they share supplies and show kindness and sacrifice their own wants for the good of others. Celebrities offering concerts from the homes to bring encouragement. Churches of all sizes figuring out how to reach their people and the world from their own homes.

And there are sad moments. There are a lot of every day joys that have been swept away. There are weddings and funerals and births that are happening without the usual gathering of family and friends. There won’t be proms, or spring sports, or end of year preschool picnics. No meeting up with friends at a park after school and hitting up the local frozen yogurt place before scattering off to various ball practices. And people are dying. Every life that is represented in the daily count was loved and mattered to other lives.

There is fear of infection and death threatening to cast the darkest of shadows over a simple trip to the grocery store. There is fear of loss of income and jobs that have no guarantee of being restored once this passes. The unknowns are vast and global in size and are only added to the conditions in this world that were known and were terrible in their own right. Fear that has a very real motivator and yet can be carried to an unhealthy extreme. 

We remember a friend who has a child who lives somewhere that was just listed in the news as an area in crisis. We cringe when we hear of another case being diagnosed somewhere because the reality of the nature of this thing sneaks a little closer to home. Suddenly it seems we know and love and are connected to actual individuals in the health care system. We feel like we are doing pretty well and then a news report flashes across the screen that we are two weeks away from what could be the worst. 

So we teeter between walking by faith and freaking out. We read with disbelief the death toll in a country like Italy and we hope with all our hearts to not be next, while we grieve for the staggering losses these people are experiencing.

Last night as we ended the day looking at the faces of our family in four little squares on the computer screen, I kept going from one to the other. The love for them was so intense it overwhelmed me and I was just tired enough that I felt myself slipping from the present moment to the forecast for how things may transpire in the coming months and it wasn’t pretty.

There are some who seem to be so steady and continue to share only the positive and God love them, how we need those people. 

But for me it is a ten steps forward, two steps back process. I have to say with boasting in the Lord alone that I have graduated from the old two to one ratio. For the better part of the days, I am holding fast in faith that God is control. However; moments of fear or doubt come in little unexpected bursts and can leave me feeling wiped out. Only by His grace and Spirit in me do I find that these nose dives drive me to more intense prayers and praise.

How are you doing?

I hope you are holding up. I hope you are finding that God’s arms are catching you when you momentarily stumble over a pit of despair or hopelessness. I hope you are accessing His Power through the Holy Spirit as you pray and praise and encourage others. I hope you are not only speaking hope, but asking Him to give you ways to share that hope in tangible methods. 

One thing I have found helpful is to keep a little note pad on the counter and every time something good happens or there is something that is a grace gift in this time, I jot it down. When my own light seems to be going dim at the end of a long day, I look over that list and remind my soul of all the benefits God has given us. 

You would be on that list, my friend. 

This little place where we can meet, this is a gift of grace from Him to me.

So journey onward, soldiers…and I will see you tomorrow <3