Sunday, August 18, 2019

Handfuls on purpose


When we bought our "new to us" house four years ago, we purposefully bought a house in an older, more established neighborhood-one with more room between us and our neighbors than the newer housing developments in our area. Our home is on a corner lot so we only have a next-door neighbor on one side. Between us and that neighbor there is not a neat and tidy fence. There is, for want of a better description, an area I like to call "no man's land." While in the front, back and other side of our yard we've worked hard to remove and prune back the overgrown shrubs the previous owner left behind, neither we nor our next door neighbor are sure of where the property line lies in "no man's land".  There's a large tree of unknown species in the front of "no man's land" by the street. There's a HUGE walnut tree at the back of "no man's land" by the back fence. In between there is a wild tangle of assorted overgrown shrubs entwined with wild blackberry vines and aggressive, impossible to kill english ivy. While it wouldn't be hard to look up the plot plans of our two yards and figure who actually owns what, there are two factors that I think are contributing to neither one of us doing so. The first reason is - that wild jungle of overgrowth is it's own free privacy fence. Their puppies never come over into our yard and our grandchildren never venture over into theirs. Those blackberry vines are nature's barbed wire. The second reason is - neither of us wants to face the amount of work it will require to get "no man's land" into shape. Right now we can both use the excuse that we can't pull out bushes or cut down shrubs when we don't know who they belong to.

Last week I noticed that the blackberry vines on our side of "no man's land" were heavy with ripe blackberries. I spent a good hour picking the ripe berries while the summer sun warmed my back. It was rewarding to put some blackberries from our own yard in the freezer for a future berry crisp. A thought popped into my mind as I did so, "handfuls on purpose."  In the Old Testament book of Ruth, Ruth is in her own personal "no man's land", her messy middle. She and her mother and sister-in-law had all lost their husbands. Her mother-in-law decided to leave Ruth's homeland, Moab, and return to her homeland, Bethlehem, Judah. Ruth committed herself to go with Naomi and to serve Naomi's God. With no husbands, Naomi and Ruth were poor. So, Ruth went to a field to glean grain for them to eat. In this "messy middle" this "no man's land" that Ruth was living in, she had no foresight into God's plan and purpose for her life. All she could see was the mess of the circumstances she was living in. Yet, God knew that she had a key role to play in the most important event in all history, the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. She "happened" to be gleaning in the field of Boaz a relative of her deceased father-in-law. She "happened" to get his attention and he blessed her with "handfuls on purpose"- extra grain that Boaz had his workers leave for her to gather. Boaz "happened" to be her kinsman redeemer. They "happened" to get married and then she "happened" to have a son. Ruth was the great grandmother of King David, and from his lineage Jesus Christ was born. But, that day in the field, Ruth didn't know any of this. All she knew was that in the middle of her "no man's land" God, through Boaz, had blessed her with handfuls on purpose, with more than enough.

Sometimes, I get hyper focused on my current "no man's land", my messy middle. All I see is that dreaded english ivy and those pokey blackberry vines and all of those overgrown shrubs. But, in the middle of that mess there's a dogwood tree with the most beautiful spring blooms, there's a wild rose with pink blossoms that smell exquisite and, this time of year, there are ripe, sweet blackberries. My very own God given handfuls on purpose! Similarly, I can at times get hyper focused on the messy middle of life. I can fail to notice how many handfuls on purpose my more than enough God leaves for me along life's way. I also don't foresee the end of my story-His good and perfect plan for me. Ruth was a part of HIStory, but so are you and I. A bowlful of blackberries, a little handful on purpose, reminded me of that fact this week.



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