Monday, April 21, 2014

Eating Without Being Fed

We had a fantastically busy Easter weekend.

My husband and I had a lot planned for the weekend. He was off from work on Friday, so we spent the day prepping things we'd need for the weekend- a birthday cake for my daughter (who was having a party Saturday), cakes for the Easter luncheon at church on Sunday and for dinner at his mother's house Sunday evening, and many gallons of homemade iced tea and lemonade for all three events. Oh, and we invited friends over for a cookout that night too.

Friday we set up, served, and cleaned up. Saturday we set up, served, and cleaned up. Sunday we set up, served, and cleaned up. All three days were spent having fun, spending time with family and friends, and eating. Especially the eating part. Everything we did seemed to focus on food.

Sunday evening my husband and I, wearied, settled in for the night. I realized something was missing the entire weekend. I looked at my husband. "Did you have any chance to think about God this entire weekend?"
He looked at me, surprised. "No, I didn't." 
Since he was a church deacon, I was running the bread ministry, and both of us were on the hospitality team, we had just become too busy serving to consider what the "holiday" was all about.
"I think we missed the point of this whole weekend." I lamented. He couldn't have agreed more.

In making all of these plans to feed others, we forgot to feed ourselves the Bread of Life- we forgot all about God and His Son. The sacrifice was forgotten, the miracle of His resurrection unacknowledged. We ate like kings, yet we forgot to include the King of Kings in the feasting.

Yikes.

The only prayers that were made were over the food before we ate. There was no time to listen to the sermon, because we had to have things ready when services ended. We put Jesus in a box and stuck him on the shelf until the busywork was done. Then we forgot to open the box and let Him out again.

And not only on special occasions either.

Fasting is to be spiritually fed while not eating. To eat while not being spiritually fed? Well, it's just eating. I can do that anytime.

I'm sure God will forgive me (He's good like that), but it made me realize that I spend too many special occasions (and even the not-so-special ones) not focusing my energy where I should. I lose sight of the purpose- the reason I'm here in the first place- which is to glorify God.

It's a good thing God allows do-overs. Every day is a fresh, new start. Today I'll make breakfast, but also have a good talk with the Lord- I need to be fed both ways this morning!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stepping Out of the Box

I like my little box.

I can play by myself. I can do what I like to do. And I don't have to answer to anybody.

Well, almost anybody. I still have to answer to God. But God doesn't like me staying in my little box, so He decided to give me talents to get me moving.

He gave me the gift of Creativity. He gave me the gift of Song. He also gave me Humor, a Big Mouth, and a Thirst For Being a Ham. All of these in combination can be a pretty heady cocktail, despite the fact that I really, really love my nice little box.

So God made me go to a writer's conference last year and "Inspirated" me to write a song.

No, I didn't spell that wrong either. "Inspired" means breathed by God; to get ideas that are high falutin' lofty and inspirational. "Inspirated" however, means breathed by God- while He's laughing

Yes, it's a made-up word (at least in English)- but it's a really good word for what happened during that conference.

It started with a joke the speaker made. "That would make a good song, wouldn't it?" he joked, when I raised my hand and yelled "I'll write it!" Of course he had no idea who I was (or even where I was in the audience, since he had a spotlight in his eyes), but every time he made a point, he was sure to call out into the darkened audience, "Whoever is writing that song, write this next point down!" 

And I did.

By the time he was finished his talk, I had the tune in my head, and the chorus written.

After the talk, I went up to introduce myself, and he began laughing. He laughed even more when I sung him the chorus! I told him I'd have the entire song written a few days after the conference ended, and I'd send him the lyrics for approval.

And I did. He loved them. I was then asked if I was going to Colorado in the spring, because he wanted me to sing it at the writer's conference there. Sing it. At the conference. In front of hundreds of people.

That made the walls of my little box shake a little. More than a little.

Since I was on the opposite side of the country, going there was impossible unless I became a thousandaire overnight. So we agreed on the next best option- I would send him a video.

The problem was, I've never done a video before- or written music. Oh. I make up tunes all the time- I've just never put all those little music notes in order on bars before. So I looked for someone else to help me, but to be honest, I didn't look too hard. No one likes to work for free, either.

I went back to my little box and shut the lid for a while. At least until the deadline for sending him the video came looming up to haunt me.

I had to step out of my box and compose this sucker myself. I knew the tune, so I found some free software online and hammered out what I wanted, humming the tune as I painstakingly added each note to those endless lines. I got a little help from my husband (who knows how to read music) and within a few days, I had my song.

I wish I had stepped out of my box earlier instead of being too afraid to try something new!

Now I had to video me singing it. Egad. 

Luckily I have a friend that was willing to help me and has some experience in videography. After two sessions of taping we have a pretty good version (with me flubbing slightly one time). He's putting it together for me as I speak, and when it's done, I'm sending it off to the conference speaker. I can't wait!

I haven't mentioned his name because I want his approval first. I'll post the video on my website after he uses it for the conference- which is soon!

It wasn't easy, but I'm so glad I stepped out of my little box!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Time Warped

It hardly ever seems to be the right time.

I wrote a book, and I thought I'd have it ready for the agent by now. But God has other plans and is making me wait- and that's a good thing. I've already thought of a few more extras to add to the manuscript since I sent it out to be critiqued. When I get it back I'll be excited all over again; I can make the changes, additions and improvements needed to make my book a spectacular read.

However, I planted seeds for my garden a little over a week ago, thinking they might be ready for planting by next month, and some of them grew so fast I have to re-pot them now.

I'm rarely in sync with God's timing- though it's awesome when it happens!

Sometimes it's funny when it happens. Like the time I was stopped at a light under a tree after a cold rain a few summers back, and God sent a little freezing cold raindrop through the infinitesimal crack in my window, right into the volcanic heart of my armpit. I sucked all the oxygen out of the car, my gasp was so huge- but it made me stop complaining about the heat!

Sometimes it's a blessing to others. We knew a family in need, and as I made my way down the second floor steps to leave, I noticed the kids forgot to put away the toilet paper left in the hall. I snagged a few rolls and put them in the bag with the food and other items we were donating to the family. 
The woman of the house made a beeline for me before I made it up to her steps. "You're a lifesaver!" she said, hugging me hard and ignoring the food entirely. "How did you know we were out of toilet paper?"
I had to confess to her that wasn't me- it was God's timing. He knew, and made my kids lazy just so I could snag a few rolls for her. I was very glad to be a part of her blessing.

Other times it's just me and God, simpatico. There are times when I have to catch a series of buses and manage to make all of them, one right after another, or just as I'm leaving the house to go shopping, someone comes along and gives me a financial blessing (one time it was the tax refund in the mail, another time someone owed my husband something for work he did in their house). I love, love, love when that happens!

It's always good to look back on these situations when I'm not-so-in-sync with the Big Guy. I'm either being impatient (which is often the case), or I'm being exceptionally pig-headed (which unfortunately, is also often the case.) I have to remember that His timing is not mine, and cherish the times when our clocks are moving at the same speed.

I just have to learn to stop playing with the pendulums!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Do I REALLY Want To Be a Millionaire?

We are inundated with hype from every crevice of our lives to find ways to make more money. Ads on our media devices, the games we play, the TV, videos, movies and even the music we listen to often portray that money equals happiness. Or at least to be happy whiling away on a beach in Tahiti.

To be honest, I wanted that for myself and my family too! 

"If we only had" was a subconscious mantra I had whispered in my mind since I've been on my own, because as a teen I was in the lap of upper middle-class luxury; of course I didn't know any better, but it was hard to see past the in-ground pool, a full bank account and getting my own car.

Life was good back then (at least financially) and every day since I've been striving to get back to that ideal life. But is that really the true happiness I was looking for, or was I looking through money-tinted glasses?

Did I really want to be a millionaire? Would having money falling out of my pockets bring me the contentment and happiness I want? My initial response is "YES!!" Why wouldn't I be happy? Everything would be paid off, we could finally go on a real vacation (we haven't been on one since our honeymoon seventeen years ago- camping doesn't count dear), and I could burn myself to a crisp on that beach in Tahiti. 

Initially it would be fantastic- my husband could stop working. Debts would be over and done with. No mortgage; we could renovate and even buy a second house (or a third) for family members so they wouldn't have to pay rent anymore. I could get that gigantic fridge with the french doors, build a greenhouse, and even hire a cleaning lady so I'd never have to clean house again. Ahh...

But what would happen to our family after the shiny wore off? How would we spend our time? Would we get lazy and stop wanting to work on anything, including ministry? My husband probably wouldn't stop (he's a ministryaholic), but I probably would step back from life just to spend my days reading books (or playing computer games) and getting my feet rubbed by my new masseuse. Selfish, I know, but that's just the way I go when I don't have goals.

If I had to answer the question "Do you really want to be a millionaire?" my answer would still be yes (surprise!)- but with stipulations. Most of it would have to be used to improve the lives of others. And by most of it, I'm talking at least ninety percent. I just want enough left over to pay living expenses, afford a few luxuries like a second car, but not so much that I feel I can stop working or doing ministry. I want enough that we don't have to work for anyone else, but can fully focus on the gifts God gave us, so we can do great things in ministry. That's where my true joy lies.

It's good to want things. But when the wants are all taken care of, there's a lack of desire. I never want that to happen to us. So I'd rather do without the financial windfall if it will keep me from doing His will. Hoo boy, that was hard to say! My greedy little heart wants to hold onto every scrap of fundage we have, but I know better than to indulge. The second I do there will be no joy, no contentment, no happiness. True happiness is being able to help someone else in need, even if you can only do a little. 

God doesn't give a rat's butt about how much we give, but that we give what we can fully and happily. That's why he praised the woman who gave her last coin versus the rich man who gave more, but begrudgingly. After all, who wants to accept a gift shoved at you from a grumpy person?

You don't need to be a millionaire to be happy. I just wish I took this to heart years ago- I'd have a lot less wrinkles.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Poorly Rich, or Richly Poor?

God has a great way of smacking me upside the head when I stop focusing on Him.

The past few months have been rough. I've been griping (both internally and externally) about all the issues we've been having and trying to find a way to fix everything. I know God was with me, but I never consulted Him except to ask to get us out of this mess- Not asking if there was a reason behind the mess in the first place.

Instead of my eyes seeing what was in front of me, I kept worrying for the future. Let's just say I was looking at a full fridge and wondering what I was going to eat next week. 

We didn't seem to have a lot, and that always makes me sad. I have a fear of not having enough for my husband and kids. And I hate having nothing to offer people in need.

Then my husband received two phone calls yesterday.

The first call was a family friend that had no place to sleep for the next few days. We had the perfect sleeping couch ever made; all that we needed was a few pillows and a blanket make it sleep-worthy. We had that.

The second call was a man and his wife who hadn't eaten in three days. They had gas to cook with, but no food to eat. All of a sudden my fridge seemed pretty full- full enough to share.

We invited them over for dinner. I made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and we sat them down with as much as they could eat, with plenty of bread and butter. And all they did was talk about how good God was. It was awesome.

They didn't have electricity but they did have a cooler with ice, so I was able to give them the entire pot of soup along with several loaves of bread, a pound of butter (gotta have bread and butter with the soup after all), and a few other things they could have at room temperature or wouldn't spoil in an ice-filled cooler. They left our home with enough food for a few days. They left me with a new perspective.

God provides for the sparrows each day. He provides for the squirrels, the deer, and even the stray cats that visit my yard each day. So why wouldn't He provide for me, my family and our friends and neighbors? And why didn't I see the full fridge before those phone calls?

I was poorly rich. After yesterday I can now say that I'm richly poor- and yes, my fridge is full- no matter how much food is or isn't in there- because God provides and helps me provide for others. 

God is awesome!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Too Many Pickles

Yesterday I collapsed on the couch, exhausted. My husband was too tired to collapse with me, and instead crawled upstairs to take a nap. Yesterday was Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. Supposed to be.

If you're chuckling, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're in ministry, Sundays are not a day of rest- not fully. In fact, this week was so chock-full of things to do- appointments, duties, and errands, I think I forgot to breathe- but I must have at some point, because here I am, making this post.
Either that, or someone needs to call Guinness to tell them I broke the "No-oxygen-for-a-week-but-still-alive" record.

My husband and I definitely had too many pickles on our plates this week.

His schedule included working overtime, church meetings, community meetings, and ministry. Mine included housework, cooking, kids, writing, crafting, shopping, more housework, community meetings and ministry. For most of the week, I couldn't get out of the house, and he couldn't stay in the house. 

I think I got a glimpse of him three days ago, but much like those Bigfoot sightings, I wasn't quick enough to get a picture of him to prove it.

I hope we never have another week like that again. I woke up tired this morning.

Today I'm looking at my pickles to see how many I'm putting on my plate this week. Not too bad, but it could use some tweaking. With any luck I can help keep my husband from taking the entire pickle jar! What good does it do us to do so much without a break? Even God rested on the seventh day, after all. I don't think He had a single pickle on His plate. 

He was pickleless at least once. We need to learn to be pickleless too.

I learned a lot about myself this week. I also learned that I have limits, and if I go beyond those limits, I'm useless to my family and others for longer than I want to be. Maybe you've done this too and you know what I'm talking about.

It's true, you know...too many pickles really aren't good for you!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Christian Kitties

I never knew my cats were Christians!

After a bad day I slumped on the couch, wondering if I would ever get through the trials laid before me. After, all, how could I not worry? Nothing went right, and in many of the situations, I couldn't do anything to fix when was wrong. My sigh was deep and forlorn.

Then along came Boo-Boo and his littermate, Scootch. And they wanted my attention.

"What are you so worried about?" they seemed to say as rears arched under my scratches, tails quivering with delight as I hit all the good itchy spots. "Just relax, enjoy petting us, and take a nap in the sun. There is nothing to worry about, silly human! Our needs will be handled by someone bigger than us. Okay, you can stop now."
Then they both went off in search of a sunny spot for that nap. I considered joining them, but I didn't fit on the sill.

Maybe I should take my cues from the cats- they never worry about anything. Their needs (and scratches) are provided for by me, and my needs are provided for by God. So what am I worrying about anyway?

But that doesn't mean I'm going to sit back and do nothing. I'll do what I can and let God do the rest. Maybe that's why God gave these cats to this dog person in the first place. You can learn a totally new perspective on God.

As for my back scratches? That's why God gave me a husband!