Deciphering Me

So I must confess I have a guilty pleasure.  I love to watch Hallmark Channel movies!  It doesn’t matter how many times I have seen a movie, each one is like a dear friend to me that I enjoy spending time with again and again.

The up side to this is I regularly intake good, wholesome entertainment that always has a happy ending!  I also see the characters overcome adversity, find strength in spite of their human weaknesses, and mend broken relationships.  Some rekindle old dreams while others are discovering that change isn’t a bad thing.

The downside of this is that I see these characters in all kinds of jobs that I think I would really love to have, which leaves me feeling discontent.  Women who run country inns or bed and breakfasts or are chefs, writers, artists, restaurant owners, bookstore owners, wedding planners, or teachers to name a few.


So for the past few days I have been trying to imagine what my perfect job and life would be if I had no current obligations and money did not need to be a consideration – both the money for any training and/or set up cost and the income from said perfect job to at least maintain my family’s current finances.  Because let’s face it, I can’t turn off the satellite service to save the money on that bill – how would I watch the Hallmark channel?!?!?

I would be a writer with degrees in biblical studies that may possibly moonlight as a college professor while also having either a bookstore with a cafe and fun events for the community or an inn, and may here or there conduct public speaking engagements or fill in as a substitute preacher on a Sunday morning.  My daily life would include walks in nature, time for yoga (which I have never done but REALLY want to), reading/writing/research time, and time for puttering around my house cleaning, decorating, and cooking amazingly delicious and healthy meals.   Phew! Now I can take a breath.

That’s all!  Is that really so much to ask for? Lol.

This career path looks absolutely NOTHING like my current job and life.  As I have reflected in the past, I made the life choices that brought me to this career path based on a desire to be successful.  Unfortunately the definition of successful I used was the world’s definitions instead of God’s.

This realization of what I want to be versus what I currently am leaves me with two choices:


  1. Continue to be stressed and bitter about what I wish my life could be, filling my thoughts with regrets and what ifs.
  2. Know that God has brought me through everything up till this point and that he will use all of this in some way in my life. I can start making little changes here and there to work towards achieving some or all of these visions for myself trusting in God to bring me to that place to be the person he is calling me to be in His own time.

In my old life I would have probably chosen option number one and made myself miserable allowing the bitterness to steal all of the joy out of my life.  But I am a new creation, content to trust in God that he knows the directions he wants my life to go in.  So I am choosing option two.

Starting here and now in fact (with this blog post) – because I am writing.  And I will use the planner I keep thinking to myself that I should use to schedule time so that I can be more intentional about writing.

I will also add to my prayer journal these petitions to the section on my own person goals and dreams (you know, the one I keep meaning to set up to be more intentional about prayer time).  My prayer will be that God takes this vision of what I think I want to be and uses it to help me find out who He wants me to be.  And perhaps who I am now is EXACTLY who and what he wants me to be.

Last year I tried the New Years resolution word thing – where you pick a word to describe something you are working on understanding or being in your life.  The word I chose was Enough.  I wanted to focus on who I am in Jesus Christ and that I am enough exactly as I am.

This coming year I already have my word picked out and it is going to be Intentional.  Intentional in my walk with Jesus, intentional in my health goals for myself, intentional in seeking further education in theology and biblical studies, and intentional in developing as a writer.

Perhaps this is a two-year resolution word…

As often happens, while I was trying to get these words out I ran across on Facebook a Bible verse shared by author Sarah Bessey that has put this all into perspective for me today.  Isn’t God’s timing perfect?!?!

Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (MSG)

Regardless of what my current employment is or my current lifestyle, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I am an accounting manager or a published author.  What matters is how I live my life.  Do I chose the ways of the world or do I embrace my citizenship in God’s Kingdom?  Am I a humble servant of God that is obedient to God’s will for me?

My discontent over my job is just another worldly distraction.  I choose to be grateful I am blessed with employment at all.  And I choose to be more intentional about making changes for my future.  Counting my blessings daily and enjoying the simple things of God’s creation.


 

 

 

 

 

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Bobby Pins, Fish Sticks, and Flowered Yoga Pants

Today has been one of those days that got off to a crappy start – literally!
Here is pretty much how my day went…

As I stepped out of our shower in the basement this morning I discovered that one of our beagles had decided it was much too wet to go outside and do her business.

Not long after arriving at work I received a call from my son that this same beagle decided to also have a field day in the kitchen and spent her time dumpster diving in the garbage can!

I had to confront an employee that I supervise about their recent bad attitude.  I dislike this part of my job very much!

Halfway through my commute home I ran into intense wind and rain.

Arriving home I got to work and  scrubbed the kitchen floor.

(Remember the dumpster diving beagle?)

 

Next came filling the sink with dish water to wash up the bowls and cups that had gathered through out the day. At this point thoughts of pulling up the recipe for Korean beef with rice and broccoli that was planned for dinner tonight had me completely overwhelmed. I was very quickly becoming the Crabby Mom Extraordinaire.

A quick call to my husband, and we both quickly agreed that frozen fish sticks with mac and cheese would make an ideal supper for tonight.   A very wise move on his part!

As I began to put together this quick supper I reflected back over the stresses of my day and began to hear the words of a hymn floating through my head.  The hymn is one that is inspired by verses 9-10 of Psalm 57 (NRSV):

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
 For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
    your faithfulness extends to the clouds.

And I realized that maybe, just maybe, for once I should follow the advice from all of those articles that I read on a regular basis and focus on my blessings instead of my troubles.   

So, tonight I am extremely grateful for bobby pins.  They are currently pinning back my bangs which have grown extremely long.  And I am reminded by these bobby pins that later this week I will be going to the salon for a hair cut and relaxation.

I am very grateful to the company that took the time to catch and prepare the frozen fish sticks that helped form a quick meal for my little family.  In a burst of charity I threw some canned green beans into the microwave to class up our meal and round us out with a veggie.

I am grateful that today the grey floral yoga pants I ordered over a month ago were waiting for me in the mail box. The cheerful flowers on my comfy pants tonight have been a cheerful spot of color on a grey and rainy night.

I am also very grateful for my husband who came home and made not a single word of complaint about the change in tonight’s menu.  He tucked into his fish sticks and mac and cheese like it was a gourmet meal at a fancy seafood restaurant.

As this trend in my mind continued, I began to feel a bit like Pollyanna in the Disney movie from the ’60’s and started to play the Glad Game.

I am glad for a job that allows me the ability to be available when my son is sick or has a sports meet.  I am also glad for the opportunities to grow that have come my way in this current job.  Even having to correct an employee is a growth opportunity – it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to learn new and better ways of communicating with others.

Wind and rain may have slowed down my progress home, but I am very glad and grateful that the car I drive is safe and dependable.

And yes, the beagle did try my patience greatly with her bad behavior and antics this morning, but I am very glad at the end of every day to see her happily wagging her tail to greet me when I walk through the door at night after work.

By the time the dinner dishes were done, I realized that I was no longer a stressed out crabby mom.  Perhaps my day hadn’t been so bad after all.  Turning my mind away from troubles and intentionally choosing to focus on gratitude acted as a balm on my weary soul. It is amazing how a little bit of gratitude goes such a long way!

Our Father in Heaven wants us to seek him in everything and he will gladly share whatever burdens we have.  In doing so, he will also help us to see the hidden blessings he is constantly showering us with if we but take the time to realize it.

Finding things to praise Him for in the midst of our mundane tasks helps to keep our hearts in perfect harmony with the One who created us.  He wants and deserves our praise – not just in the highlights of our lives, but also in the everyday struggles, joys  and the trials and tribulations of our daily lives.

Even on the most stressful of days, we can find the hidden blessings of bobby pins, fish sticks, and flowered yoga pants.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.   – Colossians 3:14-16 (NSRV)

 

 

 

 

 

Sanity Check

 

Do you ever wonder if you are, perhaps, the resident nut job at your church?

Our church families are just as complicated as our biological families.  We all have that one crazy member that everyone can identify as THAT crazy person.  The one that we cringe at when we see them coming (yes, church members are still humans!).  We find them harmless enough, but they just don’t know when to stop talking or just have no filter……

I am wondering if that is me.

Over the last several years I have been involved in a variety of projects and served in a number of different ways in different capacities.   Last year I realized after soul-searching that beyond being a people pleaser I was also very prone to believe that my identity was found in the things I did.

After a lot of reluctance and stubbornness on my part, I finally surrendered to God’s will and began to step back from some things and give other things up completely.  This has put me into a very odd position for me.

I am not currently the person serving in different areas, but I have a ton of knowledge about how things have been done, changes that have been made over the years and why they were made, and other historical type information like that.   A repository of mostly useless information at this point.

As a result, I get asked a lot of questions……at least at first……and in a way, my busy-a-holic soul loved this because it kept me in touch with those positions I had given up.  I was still in the know……I was still important…….

And then the questions stopped coming……and I had to remind myself that this is a VERY GOOD THING!!!  I have successfully transitioned out of multiple roles with just a small remaining role in the worship planning/leading arena.

However, I still seem to stumble upon conversations coming and going at church and I JUST CAN’T STOP MYSELF at times from throwing in my two cents worth.

This is why I am now wondering have I become the resident church nut job?  The one who just can’t seem to keep her nose out of things that are no longer her concern?

So just as I have had to become more intentional about prayer times and scripture study times, I must now also become intentional about not picking back up the things that are not my current assignments from God.

I have often complained that I don’t like people stepping on my callings, or feel like I am at times being held back by folks from doing the currently assigned tasks from God.  However, if I refuse to let things go, then I am the person stepping in the way and holding others back from their full potential in God’s callings for them.

Letting go doesn’t mean losing a part of me, it instead is actually FREEDOM for me.  Freedom to continue to grow and the ability to allow others to grow as well.  Freedom to spread my wings and be open to trying new things.

My identity is found in belonging to the one true living and eternal God.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  The same God that Deborah, Ruth, and Esther belonged to.   This needs to be my focus.  This is what I need to be intentional about.  I am being prepared for “just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14 – NRSV).

What I do at church does not define who I am in Christ.

My new guiding verse can be found in Isaiah 58:11 (AMP):

“And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places, and give strength to your bones: and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

Going forward I will speak less and listen more.  I will reserve my opinions and keep them to myself unless asked specifically for them.  Yes, yes, I know, but please try to contain your laughter at those last two statements…… I will, with God’s strength and guidance, be able to accomplish even this!

So, while I may be a recovering busy-a-holic, and a recovering nut job (okay, may not be any way for me to escape this one!), at the beginning, the middle, and the end of every single day I am a child of the one true King.  And that makes me ENOUGH.

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13 – NRSV)

Offering My Opinion

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:3-5, NRSV

I am so tired of trying to figure out who I am supposed to be and where I am supposed to be this person at.  I don’t want to be political.  I don’t want to be religious.  But I also don’t know what I do want to be.

Am I a theologian?  Who knows.

Am I a disciple?  I am trying desperately to be one.

But I don’t know who or what I am reaching out to in a world that is crazy and getting more so all the time.  When did chaos become the normal order of the day?

We as a country, as a people, and as communities have become so opinionated and divided.  When did opinions become rights?  Do I really have the right to voice my opinion on the serious matters of the day if I haven’t taken the time to research and educate myself on the matter at hand?  I mean, really truly study and know the ins and outs of whatever it is that I am about to make an opinion on.  Googling and following social media does not count as a valid source of education.

Opinions are not rights.  They are educated, intellectually thought through pieces of information that should only be offered if I am prepared to have others with differing opinions question or challenge my opinions.  It is also expected that others will have different thoughts and perspectives from mine.  That is perfectly okay.

It doesn’t make them stupid.

It doesn’t make me stupid.

It makes us challenge each other.  It pushes us to be more.  It helps us to continue to be motivated to seek wisdom.  It challenges me to be the best me that I can be.

It makes me a life-long seeker and learner.

Funny, because that could be the very first required task listed on the Job Expectations and Requirements for the job of Disciple.

Why are we so afraid to engage with each other in debates?  What has happened to agreeing to disagree?  Human lives are messy.  There is no way we can ever all agree on everything exactly.  What a dull grey world it would be!

God has made each of us uniquely different. And he has also made us each uniquely gifted.  We are meant to go out and color the world around us with grace and mercy painting fresh ideas of what truly matters.

Teaching what true salvation is.

We don’t always have to agree on everything.  I can still love without being in total agreement and perfect harmony on thoughts and important issues of the day with my fellow mankind.  We are only here for a short time.

Let us try to make the world around us, a world filled with darkness, a brighter place to live.  Shine the lights of grace, justice, and humility everywhere that you go.  At the end of the day it is eternity that is what matters.

I want to walk as a faithful woman of God.

As such, I must live in community with others because that is how God has made us.  We are created to live in community with each other.  Every man for himself is a human idea of strength.  Survival of the fittest has been one of the fastest paved roads to hell right along with good intentions.

We each have a place to fill in the Kingdom of God here on earth.  We must learn to appreciate each other’s gifts and be encouraging to those around us as we each learn to use the gifts given to us.

Don’t step on or belittle my gifting’s.  Let me grow into being the full woman God has created me to be.  Help me to spread my wings and explore the different ways I can serve and uplift and bring along others on the journey with us.

Affirm me when I possibly get it right, and encourage me to keep searching and seeking when I get it wrong.

Don’t discount the lessons I have learned along the journey so far.  And help me to find rest because we all need Sabbath time.  Remind me that my worth isn’t in what I do but who I belong to.

Pray for me and pray with me and let me pray for you.  I am a wife and a mother, I am an employee and a manager, I am a worship leader and a teacher, I am a sinner and a child of God most high.

I am a seeker and a disciple.

— But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34 – NIV

Grieving and Lamenting

joshua

I am feeling like a wreck.  Then I feel sad, but okay.   Then I swing back to being an emotional wreck.

At the same time, it still doesn’t seem real.  Reality is funny that way.  We spend our lives watching television shows that use violent crime investigations as story lines, but never expect to see our own family caught up in the horror of a family member actually being the victim of a violent crime.

In my mind I like to think of you walking up to the pearly gates where you see the familiar faces of Papa and Mike waiting to welcome you to your heavenly home.  I can only imagine the capers the three of you will be getting up to together!

Questions flood through my mind.  All of the “what ifs”?  What if I had been more connected to you in our adult years.  What if someone else had been with you that night.  What if they never catch the person who did this?  But I find comfort in these scriptures:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19 (NIV)

and:

How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, and again, “The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:29-31 (NIV)

which are both referencing Deuteronomy 32:34-36:

“Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults?  It is mine to avenge; I will repay.  In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”  The Lord will vindicate his people     and relent concerning his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free.

Justice is in the hands of God.  We can’t do anything to change what has happened and we may not ever be able to see justice served for you here on earth.  God is still in control.  We must place this into his hands.  All that we can do is pray for this enemy, as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:43-45:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Memories have been flooding back to me over the past few days of the childhood times spent with you, dear cousin of mine.  You were an incredibly big-hearted guy who loved to be goofy and make people laugh.  There was a lot of laughter in those days.

I can remember trick or treating with you and going to the Halloween parties at McDonald’s.  We spent hours giggling about Weird Al songs.  And who could forget watching The Bride of Boogedy over and over again.  We wanted to have ” a THIRD eye!”

Times spent in the swimming pool, going to see Christmas shows, lights, and Christmas Land.  Making up our own “shows” and performing them for your mom.  Trips to family reunions and amusement parks.  Big family gatherings during the holidays.  Happy times.  Innocent times.

Before adulthood, grownup problems, and this world’s demons caught up to us.

You fought a brave battle little cousin with the demons and addictions that you faced.   Some times you were successful, and other times not so much.  But we have always loved you!  God has always loved you.  And we know that you loved God as well.

We may never know what happened that early morning.  We are struggling to make sense of the reality of losing you.  We just can’t fathom how someone could do this to you.  But we cling to the promises of our heavenly Father, claiming them for you and for all of us still here in this realm:

“The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.” –  Psalm 10:16-18 (NIV)

Although your life was cut short too soon, we are seeing that you left a big impact on all of those who knew you.  The outpouring of messages from all the different people you knew all mentioned how kind and supportive you always were for each of them.   You touched so many lives in a positive way, spreading love in the midst of your own struggles.

You have finally overcome the battles you faced in this life sweet Cousin.  The demons of this life can’t hold you or harm you any more.  We may never see your big giant grin again, but we cherish all of the memories we have made with you.  Rest easy, Joshua, finding peace with our Father in Heaven.

Until we meet again in the next life, go rest high on that mountain.