Monday, May 23, 2016

Look forward to something

I am a firm believer that you always need something to look forward to.

When life seems the same old, same old, day after day, we often start to get annoyed. The little chores start to pile up; family and work stresses don't have a release; the to-do list seems to take over weekends.

But when you have something to look forward to, the mundane everyday is bearable because it's leading up to something greater.

For me, the things I look forward to are trips. Last April, we took a trip to Jamaica, and I think it was over lunch at the resort that we started to think ahead to what our next trip would be. Would it be Ireland this time? What about Israel? Italy? Apparently we were in the "I" mood.

We started a few trips on paper and then changed our minds as to where we wanted to go. In January, I stumbled across a pretty good deal for a trip to Sandals Ochi in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and we decided that we would start planning a trip there.

And we planned ahead. About a year ahead.

Time drags on, and I am already incredibly excited to head out on our vacation, but it does give me something to look forward to each day. I ogle over Sandals resorts on Facebook, and I look up Ochi on Trip Advisor to read reviews and look at pictures. I have even started to count down the days.

We had some friends who planned an exotic vacation in only two weeks. That makes for instant gratification, but I do have to say, I think I like planning further ahead than that because I like the anticipation. It makes the vacation so much more special.

In the meantime, I had a trip to Colorado to look forward to, which is now over. There's a trip to Wrigley, some possible weekend excursions for weddings this fall, maybe a small anniversary getaway?

My trips make my everyday life more exciting. What do you look forward to?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I'm perfectly content with life, or maybe I'm not...

My first job I stayed in for five years, and I have been at my second job for two years. I know many people have spent 10, 20, 30 years at the same job, but I also know many people have never stayed at the same job for more than a year or two.

I've been with the same man for 12 years, married for going on four years. Yet again, I know people have spent 10, 20, 50 years with the same person, but there are also people who haven't had a relationship more than six months.

Some people just have a temptation for discontentment. They see all the things wrong in their job --- their imperfect coworkers, the stress, the challenges. They see all the things wrong in their marriages --- their imperfect spouses, the stress, the challenges. And instead of just being content in where they are and dealing with what is truly just life, they give up and search for something else that will make them satisfied, but nothing will give them that contented feeling.

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You cover and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." James 4:1-3

We look for contentment all around --- my marriage isn't making me content; my job isn't making me content; my money isn't making me content.

I have a pretty easy life. We are financially sound. We have a wonderful marriage and good jobs. We have a beautiful place to live and plenty of friends. I am pretty content. And so I should be.

But there are still places that I am discontented. I wish we could have new clothes, because we have realized our clothes are mostly about 10 years old. We get to travel to an exotic place about once each year and a half, but if I had what I wanted we would do it a couple times per year. I wish we could buy new windows, landscaping and could renovate our tiny kitchen. So maybe I'm a little more discontented than I think.

And that's not what I want. I am beyond blessed. Instead of so often focusing on what I wish we could buy, I have to look around and see everything we have. Because discontentment and unappreciation is sin. Paul Tripp says, "When we sin, we aren't just breaking God's law, we're actually breaking God's heart."

So I start off this blog by thinking how content I am compared to so many people. I have pride in my contentment. Then I start thinking about the places in my life where I am discontented, and I realize just how much I do desire and do sin in my longing for worldly goods.

Our deepest longings, which we think can be filled with material goods or good jobs or marriage, is really a longing for God that we fill with other stuff. And that other stuff is never enough.

"You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him is sin." James 4:13-17

We've been going through Genesis in church. And today the youth pastor preached from James, which just happens to exactly line up with what my Bible reading for the week was. Think God is trying to reiterate something to me? I'm thinking so...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Life is easy, or it can be

Life is easy.

It's easy to stay home and watch TV. It's easy to walk into church on Sunday morning, drink coffee, eat cookies and then leave after the service is over. It's easy to go home right after work and relax. It's easy to not talk to anyone else and to ignore the issues happening in the world. It's easy to not make phone calls, to not write cards, to not say "hello," to not make eye contact and smile. It's easy to not put your shopping cart back and to leave it in the parking lot.

But just because life can be easy, it doesn't mean that taking the easy way out is the best way out.

It was my third time giving blood today. I've been woozy before, and it was comical when halfway through donating this time the nurse walked up to me, "Are you OK?"


A minute later. "Are you OK?"


Then two nurses were standing in front of me.

"You sure you're OK?"

"Yes." They looked skeptical. "Well, I'm hot."

That confirmed their thoughts, so they nudged me over and had me lay down instead of sitting up. When completed, they made me sit up little by little, and then finally told me to swing my legs over and when I felt OK that I could go to the canteen.

The moment I swung my legs over the edge, I started seeing stars. So I waited for them to clear, but it got worse and worse. So I turned back around and sat with my legs on the bed again.

They came to check on me, and I said I was seeing stars. So I laid back down again. Comically, they needed the bed, so they brought over another cot, had me slide onto it and then wheeled me into the corner. For "privacy," they put up a partition around me, gave me a cold cloth for my head and put a fan on me.

Oh my gosh. I was laughing and about dying of embarrassment as I laid in my little corner hut.

It would be easy for me to give up. It would be easy to just say I can't give blood. It would be easy, but it wouldn't be worth it. I'll keep going back, because I think that God calls us to give. And if I can help save a life by giving of an hour of my time, a little discomfort and a little wooziness, then it's worth it.

And it will be easy next time to have an excuse to eat a candy bar next time before I go.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Genesis: The painful path of maturity

I'm back!

Since Grandma died, life has felt like a whirlwind and we've done nothing but go, go, go.

But this morning I'm back at church, and we're continuing with the book of Genesis, now getting to the story of Jacob, Laban and Laban's daughters.

Jacob returned to his mother's land, and he met his cousin, Rachel. She showed up with her father's sheep, and Jacob rolled away the stone from the well. He was showing off his muscles for the beautiful girl. And her watered her sheep, again, showing off for this beauty.

Jacob tells Rachel he is a relative, and she tells her father, and everyone is super excited. Jacob knew the story of his parents, how his grandfather sent a servant to this place and found Rebekah for Isaac. He wants the same thing to happen for himself and Rachel. However, most likely Laban just saw dollar signs. He had seen the huge dowry paid for his sister Rebekah, and he wanted the same thing for his daughter.

But Jacob didn't have anything. So he offered to work for his uncle for seven years in exchange for Rachel. Laban agreed, although it was twice the typical payment of a dowry. Laban took advantage of his family member; you can see where Jacob inherited his cheating persona. The seven years when pretty quickly for Jacob and Rachel as they waited for their wedding day.

Laban really wanted to get rid of his older daughter before Rachel, so on Jacob's wedding night he gave him Leah, whose name means cow, who was not very attractive, who was nothing compared to Rachel. Jacob didn't realize it because Leah was covered in a veil, and Jacob got drunk during the "drinking feast." By the time it was dark and no one could see, Jacob slept with Leah, but didn't realize it.

We know it was bad that Laban tried to exploit Jacob, but think about Leah. She had seen Jacob and Rachel's love blossom. She knew of their feelings for each other. However, she still went along with her dad's plan to steal her sister's groom. That side of it is not often thought about.

Jacob wakes up and freaks out. His uncle manipulates him once more to get more work out of him in exchange for Rachel. This creates havoc in the home as Leah now is trying to always outdo her sister to be the beloved wife.

This happened because Laban said that it was not customary to give the younger before the older. So they had snuck in and fooled Jacob. It was just like what he had done in his own family. His older brother was supposed to have his family's blessing, but Jacob had dressed as his brother and stolen it. Now his first wife had jumped in, dressed as her sister and stolen her sister's joy. Jacob could see what he had done to his brother.

God is committed to maturing us, but we all struggle with certain sins. Sometimes then we have to deal with someone else who struggles with the same sin so we can see what it's like to be on the receiving end of that sin. It will help break us of that sin when we get frustrated with it.

Oh how I have experienced that before. I've seen my own sin in others' lives, and it is always convicting. Galatians 6:7 says, "For whatever one sows, that he will also reap."

Your sin will come back to haunt you, not only in its consequences but also as God brings similar situations in your life as he tries to teach you a lesson.