Monday, May 29, 2017

Prepared for the future

We were at our land, and I spotted a tall plant amidst the long grass. This plant had green spokes on the stem, and a few white flowers were starting to bloom.

"Oh no," I said.

"What?" Nate asked.

"Garlic mustard!"

I had just spent a day at work pulling the invasive species from one of our county properties, and I knew this invasive liked to get out of control quickly. We certainly didn't want that happening on our land with so many other things to do there already.

So I used a pair of work gloves that were in the car and started pulling all the garlic mustard that I could see.

"I think my job probably was the best preparation I could have had for being a land owner," I said to Nate. "God knew what he was doing."

I would never have pictured myself working for our local conservation board. My writing and rhetoric degree certainly didn't push me in that direction, although it has turned out to be the perfect fit. I love what I do, and I love who I'm becoming as I spend more time outdoors.

Plus, the fact that I learn what is good and what is bad in the environment is perfect for our future lives that we want to spend outdoors.

I have seen in a variety of areas ways that God has prepared me for the life I now lead. I have seen that my issues with anxiety in my younger years taught me how to trust God, and for the most part, be able to control my naturally worrisome spirit which has been exactly what I needed for my current life. Plus, my job now is preparing me for being able to take care of the acreage that God has blessed us with.

We don't know where God will lead us, but it's nice to see every now and then that he has been carefully planning my life and preparing me for exactly where I am today, even when I couldn't see where I would end up.

What a relief it is to know that God can see the future and is preparing me for it, even when I have no idea what it is!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Graduation Sunday goes beyond congratulations

It's graduation Sunday, and that always starts with a little disappointment for people without seniors. It seems like a worthless morning at church.

Our youth pastor started talking about transition, trying to make the sermon a little more applicable to all the people in the service. Because, really, how many people aren't in a period of transition? Life is always changing, always evolving, always moving.

The passage was in Mark, when Jesus was preaching and the crowds were crushing in. It was exciting for the disciples. They saw miracles and hearings. The first stage of transition is like that, you're emotionally involved and excited.

Then Jesus and the disciples left on a boat and the storm came up, and the disciples were terrified. We think that's ridiculous that they were worried even after they saw all the miraculous things Jesus could do. They were surprised that Jesus could calm the storm. Wasn't it obvious at that point?

When we go through transition and enter the second stage of worry and fear, shouldn't we also know that Jesus is powerful and completely in control? We can run around, pan if, try to keep the boat from sinking, or we can run to Jesus and ask him to save us. It's an obvious solution, but we often forget Jesus, the all-powerful, is with us.

I have struggled with so much anxiety in my life. I have since I was a kid. The times when I run to Jesus, when I make a decision and then let God handle the rest, have been the most peaceful moments of my life. When I don't trust, those are the moments when it feels like the storm really is drenching me, when I'm terrified the boat is going to sink, when I try to go forward but the waves keep moving me back and in circles.

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" Matthew 6:25

The pastor said that anxiety often stems from a lack of understanding of who we are. We are God's children. We are the prize jewel of creation. He takes care of the birds and the flowers, and we forget that he sees us as treasured creation, more valuable than anything else.

You have value simply by being created. If God didn't see value, he wouldn't have created you. He chose to put you on the earth.

That's awesome.

Transition times, scary times, comfortable times --- anxiety has no place. God is in control and he's there, because he loves you and values you. Keep that in mind.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Treat your elders with respect, not patronizing them

A volunteer at work told me a story about her part-time job.

She was watering plants and watching all the teenagers walk around, chatting and not really doing anything. She suggested that they come help her do some watering, trying to get them to do their jobs.

"I'll help you sweetie," one 19-year-old said, patting her on the shoulder.

Smoke started coming from my volunteer's ears.

Sweetie?

This teenager thought she was being nice, offering to help an older woman. But this woman isn't an invalid. She is completely capable and wasn't asking for help because she couldn't do something. She felt completely old and patronized at that moment.

How often do we treat older people like they are "special" only to really treat them like they are useless?

I think it's so important than we respect our elders and treat them like they are valuable, contributing members of society instead of like they are on their way out and really just an inconvenience.

The pastor this Sunday also addressed this issue, saying we are to respect our fathers and mothers, and this isn't just applying to children. This is often applying to how we treat our parents as they age. He is taking care of his ailing father, and people praise him for it.

"That's just what you're supposed to do," he said, with a confused look on your face.

We are supposed to take care of our parents with respect and honor, not like they are an inconvenience. And that goes beyond our parents and our grandparents to all elderly we encounter. These are important people with important experiences and important lessons to teach.

They are valuable.

Treat them as such.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Focusing on Christ instead of being a good Christian

"We focus less on the life of Christ and more on the life of a Christian."

I thought this was an interesting statement when the youth pastor said it during his sermon on Sunday, and I wrote it down to contemplate a bit later.

When we read the Bible, what do we look for? Rules, regulations, directions on how we should be living and acting. We need to be peaceful, content, not worrisome, trusting, giving. I guess those are the ones that come to me immediately, because those are the ones that I struggle with and seek to get better at.

But are we losing the meaning of being a Christian when we focus on how we are supposed to live?

The Old Testament Jews had to live strict lives, filled with regulation, so that their sins would be forgiven. However, Jesus died for our sins and rose again to beat death, giving us freedom from such stringent lives.

When we read the Bible, everything in it focuses on Jesus. It tells the story of people needing redemption, needing a savior and is filled with prophesy about the Messiah's coming.

The whole Bible points to one thing --- the fact that Jesus is God, and he came in the form of a human to die a horrific death, being the perfect sacrifice for all sin that had ever been and ever would be. Should we only accept him as our savior and ask for forgiveness, we will spend forever in heaven singing praises to his name.

We focus on this twice a year --- Christmas and Easter.

The rest of the year, we focus on how we're supposed to be living as Christians.

However, if we put our sights on God and the life of Christ perhaps we would be less concerned with how perfect we are supposed to act and Christ's love would flow through us naturally. Perhaps we're focused on the right goal but the wrong way of going about it.

What do you think?

Monday, April 24, 2017

No big deal?

God individually gifts us.

But we might not even realize it.

Nate was struggling with a writing assignment the other day, and I offered to help. I sat down and popped out several hundred words while he prepared our steaks to grill and tagged him back in.

He worked while the meat cooked, and then after dinner I tagged back in and reached the necessary word count pretty quickly.

When I said the assignment was done, he just looked at me quizzically.

"What?" I asked, eyebrows upraised.

"I can't even comprehend," he said.

To me, writing is no big deal. I can write a press release in a solid 10-20 minutes, and I've heard from co-workers that it would take them two hours to put together. When I finally find a topic, a blog takes minutes to whip together --- although thinking of a topic can be a little slower going.

I don't really understand when people think it's cool that I can write so quickly. To me, it's no big deal. That's just the way my mind works. I can't speak worth a darn off the top of my head, but if I can just write it out it flows from my fingers.

What's no big deal to me is a big deal to other people who are gifted in a different way.

For instance, my husband is a logical thinker, and he would rather write a paper that is a structured debate with concrete ideas. He would rather think through science or mathematics. To me, that's just incomprehensible. Ick.

What I stare at confused and what takes me hours to understand, he gets in minutes. What takes me minutes to write takes him hours.

It's so interesting in marriage to see the differences that God creates in people that seem so similar. Nate and I have always known we're different, but our values, the things we enjoy, the things we dislike have grown very similar. Yet, we're still completely different people blessed with completely different gifts.

And it's nice to have someone else point them out once in a while. What I think is no big deal is truly a gift from God, and I should cherish that. We should call that out in others as well so they can see how God has worked in their own lives.

No big deal? God thought it was a big deal when he created me. I'm thankful for that, even when I overlook it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Do I really want to be hospitable?

In a sermon a few weeks ago, the pastor was talking about how we are to love people in the community.

There is a difference between hospitality --- opening your home and heart to strangers --- and fellowship --- opening your home to friends and family.

In the sermon, the pastor mentioned that we should not only be hospitable out of obligation but that we should do it because we genuinely care about strangers and want to be with them, want to listen to them, want to spend time with them.

I struggle with that.

I struggle with the desire to want to be with people. I am an extremely introverted person, and although I have the ability to converse and spend time with others, there are very few people that I truly want to spend time with.

There is a person who used to volunteer at my work, and I always felt like I should befriend her and try to take care of her because her family isn't around. She is a coarse-type person but I know that she just needs some love.

Every couple of months, I try to call her and see if she needs anything and if I can bake her something. I called her on Saturday and left her a message inviting her to our Easter service and called again on Sunday but she didn't answer.

The thing is, I'm not sure I really wanted her to accept. I would have gladly brought her dinner, but did I want to actually sit down and chat? Not really. Did my heart pound at the thought of talking to her on the phone? Yes.

I know the right things to do most of the time, and I try to do them because I know that's what God wants, but as for the desire to spend time with people who I don't know all that well, it's just not there.

So where is the line of doing what's right and truly wanting to do it?

I guess it's the heart.

I truly do care about this woman, and I want her to know that. Maybe it doesn't take me sitting down and talking to her. Maybe it's enough to just reach out and know that I'm here.

Oh the struggle of an introvert. I guess God created me the way that I am. I pray he can do something with this self-centered, quiet mess.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Thanksgiving

I am a bit behind in life.

The laundry piled up. The cleaning was put off. Church work that I volunteer for was sitting un-looked at on my computer.

So this morning, I started to dig through the list. I was reading through a church sermon that Nate and I missed while out of town. It's on materialism, and the importance of us enjoying the blessings that God gives us. It's interesting.

I think it strangely applicable to this time of year. At Easter, isn't it all about appreciating what God has given us. From the saving grace of Jesus who died on the cross and rose again to save us from our sins, to the cherished life we have after finding our Lord, to celebrating this time with family --- Easter is a time of thanksgiving just like Thanksgiving.

I am so thankful for what God has given me and my family, so I thought a thankfulness post might be the topic of the day.

1. I'm so thankful for a husband who doesn't look down on me when I don't get my work done when we get busy. Yes, the laundry piled up and the cleaning was put off. There were days that I didn't cook dinner and my usual baking was not completed. But not once did he make me feel bad that when I did have a free moment I sat down and relaxed. In fact, he encouraged it. What a blessing he is for giving me the freedom to be me, to relax, to enjoy life and not get caught up in what isn't done on the list.

2. I decided to not go back to teaching dance next year. What had started out as a joy still had joyful moments but had turned quite stressful. I would lay awake at night second-guessing everything I had done wrong when talking with the kids. I rarely do that for my regular job. I have confidence in what I do at work. I love my job. I'm thankful that my full-time work is happy, fulfilling, fun and relatively worry-free.

3. I'm so thankful for a bright future that has all my hopes and dreams in view. I have all I need, and I am completely content. When I was a kid, though, I had a dream of having an acreage with animals and raising my kids in the country. We are certainly on our way to recognizing a dream that I never really thought would happen even though I hoped it would. We are so blessed to have all our hopes and dreams in sight.

4. I'm thankful for times of year like Easter that make me remember the importance of life and what we are to concentrate on. In busy times, I often put off reading the Bible and praying. I'm too busy. That's a terrible way to live life. I'm glad that holidays and worship services keep me grounded and remind me of who I am to be living life for --- it's not me, it's Him.