Saturday, January 28, 2012


The big purple blotch on the top of my foot spread from toe to toe, and halfway back to the base of my ankle. It looked like it ought to hurt—and yet, I couldn't remember incurring the injury. I pressed on the bruise with a finger. Sure enough! It felt tender and sensitive. How had I hurt myself? Had I tripped, fallen, dropped my suitcase on my foot . . . ? I could only guess.

Although this bruise did rival others in size and ugliness, it didn't alarm me. Ever since I was small, I've been accruing scrapes and bruises, wounds and scars by various klutzy maneuvers. I promptly forget the ouchy incidents—after all, they're too numerous and minor to save in long-term memory. And yet, the reminders remain. Under my skin, broken blood vessels regenerate their walls and clean up the damaged cells. Burns blister and scab over. Broken skin knits itself back together, often leaving faint scars as records of pain I can't even recall. My quick dismissal of my little accidents doesn't lessen the labor my cells must go through for healing.

Another kind of wound surprises and concerns me more than bruises and broken skin. Sometimes I find hurts buried inside my heart, ignored and neglected so long that I can't even remember who or what inflicted them. In fact, I often don't know these "bruises" exist until—whoops—I've found myself reacting to life and relationships in unhealthy ways. When I stop to notice, I find unresolved bitterness, pride, pain, and resentment.

Unlike superficial injuries, this sort of wound can't be healed by busy cells without my conscious effort. It takes careful examination and a trip to the Divine Doctor to truly resolve these internal issues. His love and His instructions can soothe and heal any hurt. Frequently, though, the healing process intensifies the pain for a time, and that can sometimes be hard to enjoy. Too often I'm tempted to cover my hurts back up and ignore the root issues; it seems much more convenient to remain in "ignorance" of my wounds and their origins. Unfortunately, this only increases my sinful responses—and the bitter ache.

I'd be concerned if that bruise on my foot hadn't healed by now. Thankfully, it has. And now to tend the ones inside. Guess what? I'm finding it's worth it!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I Love the Country

A list I started while living in Boise, Idaho. I'm sure I'll be adding to it my whole life long. Want to join the project? I'd love to see your reasons in my comments!

No one-way streets. The way you got there is the same way you'll find your way back…no GPS required.

No street lights. You can sleep deeply—without curtains! Plus, you can see the stars.

No traffic noise. Instead, you get frogs, insects, and wind in the trees.

Fresh air. Feels so much better than exhaust fumes!

Quiet walks in the woods. The trees and grass in the back 40 acres may not be groomed like a city lawn, but the truly natural space can give you that awestruck, reverent feeling like nothing else can.

No easy access to fast food. We're healthier that way.

Going to the store is relatively rare—which makes it a fun event. Besides, you get to buy in bulk. Every time you come home from town, it's like Christmas!

More genuine…less artificial. Reality beats reality shows.

No stopping at green lights. In fact, at country stop signs, a rolling stop will usually suffice.

Parables and object lessons all around…that point to the character of God instead of how wicked humanity has become.

Big sky. No congested skyline to trap in the spirit.

No congested traffic. Ahhhh…stress-free driving. In fact, driving rural roads busts stress!

Dogs run free. Wouldn't you rather be a country dog that needs no leash or fence?

Birds and wildlife. Who needs the zoo? The pussy willow bush RIGHT outside the window teems with nature's aviators!

Big gardens and orchards. The produce tastes great…and it feels great to work out there!

No close neighbors = no need for blinds. The location is plenty private, so let the sunshine in!

Free communion with God. Fewer distractions! So much more creation to lift my thoughts to Him.

Sunrise and sunset. That beautiful flash of color that leaves you contemplative and poetic. Out here, sunset lasts an hour!

Awesome storms. There's something fantastic about watching the wind whip the trees back and forth as the sky lets loose a downpour—especially if it comes with lightning and thunder.

Self-sufficiency. When you live in the country, you know the power might go out, or the road might not get plowed immediately—and you're ready for it.

Simpler lifestyle. We may not get out as much—but that gives us more time for what's truly important.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Limestone, Lentils, and a Life Lesson

The water from my parents' shallow well could win a contest for limestone content. I've never tasted a more bitter clear liquid. When we moved into the house, my parents shopped for water softeners—but were told that the hard water would quickly corrode and destroy any softener. And so, the shiny stainless steel kitchen sink soon acquired a white crust, despite frequent vinegar treatments. The kettles, faucets, porcelain surfaces—any fixture that had frequent contact with the water—soon had distinctive limestone deposits. Not only that, but we girls had to learn that every shower here creates a bad hair day—and there's only so much we can do to improve it.

I've been away from home for some time, living with a well of average mineral content—tame compared to what comes out of taps here. Because (thankfully) we haul in soft water to drink, I'd forgotten how much the hard stuff can affect everyday life—forgotten the tricks we use to foil it. Enter the mystery of the uncooked lentils.

I like lentil stew. It tastes good, it's nutritious, and it's quick and easy to make: just throw water, lentils, carrots, onions, and potatoes in a Crockpot overnight and season it in the morning. When I woke up Thursday morning, however, I was surprised to find the lentils as chewy as ever. I took my stew to the midwives' potluck, anyway, turning up the temperature. Thankfully, I don't think anyone tried to eat them, because after cooking 5-6 more hours on high, the lentils still weren't done.

This morning Mom put the Crockpot on so we could eat the lentil stew for lunch. After a couple of hours, I went to check on them. Still hard. I put them in a pot to boil.

For three hours.

Mom and I began discussing what could be the matter. Had my Crockpot worn out? That wouldn't explain why the boiling did nothing. Was it the salt I added before instead of after cooking? I couldn't remember ever having to worry about that with lentils the way I do with beans.

Suddenly, Mom remembered. "OH!" she exclaimed. "Did you use the hard water?"

I blinked. "Yes." Could we not cook with tap water, here?

Mom chuckled. "I've been using soft water to cook beans," she said. "They never seem to get soft with the hard water."

The stew soon found its new home in the compost—not much hope for legumes brewed in limestone, it seems. We could have continued to boil them indefinitely, and they would have stayed as hard as ever.

I grew up with something else just as hard, ugly, distasteful, and destructive as the Francis tap water: my own sinful heart. No matter how long and determinedly I try, I can't make my heart soft, warm, tender, and inviting. Years of training can't change its rocky core. Left to itself, it wounds others, gives me grief, and leaves a legacy of pain and dysfunction behind.

Thankfully, God doesn't relegate me to the compost. Instead, He makes an incredible promise: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).

With an offer of such a beautiful existence, who would want to keep their old chunk of limestone?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Birth Pains

Twenty-six years ago today, Mom and I finished a hard day's work together. I don't remember it, but she does. She did most of the work, of course, but I think I did some of it, too: not just in being born, but in learning how to breathe and nurse and cry and recognize people and understand the world.

Incredible changes happened in my circulation that day, thanks to an ingenious design. All of a sudden, my bloodstream switched from a gentle, low-pressure system with all its needs supplied by my mom to a pulsating, high-pressure stream of blood that had to be oxygenated by my very own lungs and fed by my tummy. In a matter of minutes, arteries and veins that had shunted blood to and from my umbilical cord suddenly constricted, soon to become ligaments. The pressure difference between the atria in my heart caused my foramen ovale to swish closed, separating the left and right atria so the blood could no longer course freely through, bypassing my little lungs. I didn't have to work at that. God had it all planned out ahead of time, and He made sure it worked for me.

Mom and Pa made all my decisions back then, and they chose the kind of birth that gave me the healthiest start in life, completely alert and unmedicated. It helped us bond closely in those first few hours, and it made my job of breathing and nursing and adjusting to the world much easier. Mom chose to work hard and feel the pain because she knew it would be best for us in the long run.

Today I make my own decisions, but I appreciate the choices Mom made back then. She got me off to a robust start. As a new year of life begins, I want to emulate those choices that benefited my first day of life. I want to choose daily to work hard for what's worthwhile. More than that, I want to choose to feel the pain that brings deep personal growth, and not try to dull it. After all, just as Mom's pain brought me into life, my own pain brings me back to the Author of Life.

And He works miracles in my heart that outdo even the transformation from fetal to neonatal circulation...every time I let Him.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Published Outside YD

My hours of writing and then submitting variations on an article to every newspaper in Iowa have begun to be recognized. The Gazette is a large Iowa newspaper based in Cedar Rapids, and they accepted it as a guest opinion article. Other papers, including the Des Moines Register, are taking it as a letter to the editor. It's a good day in Mount Sterling. :-) Pray for change all over Iowa!

The paper for the University of Iowa published it even though I'm not a student!

I even saw that somebody had reposted it to their blog. :-)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Test of a Calling

In every notable room in my parents' house, simple wooden shelves whisper volumes to anyone who stops to observe. They tell the purpose and function of not only the room, but also the people who use that room most. This ordinary furniture tells the secrets of thoughts, goals, dreams, and desires.

In my mother's office, the bookcase is loaded with volumes on two topics: spiritual instruction, and natural health and healing. The shelves in my father's studio host an eclectic assortment of artsy trinkets—and music books. The bookcases in the living room reflect their shared interests: gardening, traveling, family photos, hiking, nature identification. Like the pictures on the refrigerator, bookcases—full, empty, or absent—can help you get to know even a stranger.

I thought carefully when selecting the books for the shelves in my bedroom. I chose the books that I thought I would read and refer to most—and I boxed the rest up. Only later did I realize what the bookcase had to say about my passions, dreams, and interests.

Three of my seven shelves support books on birth, midwifery care, and home remedies. I placed them in the bookcase first, since I am, after all, a midwifery student. Two more shelves hold my spiritual books—not all of them, but the most special, as well as the ones I plan to read this year.

The remaining two shelves didn't make as much sense to me when I unpacked my books; I simply arranged them how my heart mandated. A few inspirational self-help books on personalities, relationships and romance, healing from past hurts. A handful of music books. My dictionary and thesaurus, Chicago Manual of Style, and Stein on Writing. Three empty journals received as gifts, twelve already filled, and one in progress. My writer's notebook, my binder full of Writer's Digest articles, and my writer's portfolio.

"The test of a calling, to me, is this," a friend recently remarked. "Can you do anything else? If so, do it."

When I left my job at Young Disciple, I didn't expect to be quickly called back into writing. Sure, I knew I would always have a writer's heart and I'd always dabble around with words. But, reasoning that the world has plenty of good authors (and no end to the mediocre), I planned to make my difference in the tangible world of mothers and babies.

And yet, as the bookcase testifies, the writer's calling has its stronghold in my soul. I can barricade myself with other pursuits; but like my friend, I have found that "God won't let me do anything else." As I cultivate new skills, knowledge, and interests—exploring the potential of new callings, to midwifery and other ministries—I have come to understand that in order to thrive, I must remain true to the calling God has already placed on my life, the talent He has already given. That's why, without abandoning my midwifery apprenticeship, I've added freelancing jobs and studies in journalism (plus a blog) back into my life, concurrently.

Do you know your calling, or would you like to discover it? Perhaps—just maybe—your bookcase already whispers it.