Monday, December 31, 2012

What God looks like to me.

I bedded down by the wood stove last night, cozy in my sleeping bag while the temperatures dropped to the single digits.

Spending New Years with my sister-in-law's family in Central Oregon has been a great adventure so far. Spontaneous and testing the limits of my flexibility, but fun and adventurous at the same time.

I woke up to my brother coming in, stoking the fire and putting his infant daughter back to sleep in front of the stove.

I stirred in my cocoon and we visited as he watched his baby sleep - checking to make sure she was warm enough, admiring her, comforting her if she squirmed - and again I was reminded of God as a father.

"He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep... The Lord will keep you from harm - He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Things that matter this morning

I crept into the quiet dining room this morning, presumably to burn through some pages in the book I'm supposed to finish before I start a class I've signed up for, but my keyboard was calling to me like an old friend.

By the time I had fixed myself a cup of tea, contemplated whether all of the water outside was "raining," "falling" or just "drizzling," and had booted up my computer, the book was far out of my mind.

I've missed taking the time to search out what's on my heart and put it into words.  You know, I think it's healthy for me, in a way, to dredge down to the bottom, to sit in solitude with only my thoughts and the clicking of the keys, to open up the doors of my mind and explore the ideas and insights that I don't normally have the time or energy to pursue.  To know what's going on in my heart.

I keep telling myself that I'm way too busy most of the time.  Too busy to pursue my relationship with Christ.  Too busy to invest in my little sisters who are growing up so fast.  Too busy to sit and listen to my dad when he's exploring new ideas and insights.  Too busy to chat on the phone with a friend and catch up on what God's been doing in her life.

I did a mental review to see just what it was that I've been to busy with, and my automatic defensive answer was that I've been too busy with....life.

This morning I gave that answer some objective thought only to realize that these very things I've been too busy for - they are LIFE.  These are the most vital aspects of life, these relationships; with my Savior, with my sisters, my brothers, with my dad and mom, with my sweet friends - these are the pulse and purpose of my life here.

The shower just shut off indicating that my quiet time is up.  The studying will have to happen later, maybe with headphones on.  Right now I have a life to live.

Edit:  Learning new things is life too, and should not be discounted.  I think the idea here is for me to find a balance between the two; not shutting out the people so that I can learn more about... people, and not shutting out the investment into the future so that I can invest more in the present. =)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Of quiet reflections in a bustling household

The bustle of breakfast greeted my ears when I stepped into the kitchen this morning. I'd been looking forward to some quiet reflective moments over a cup of coffee from the time I first opened my eyes, so the fourteen plus people gathered around engaging in fourteen plus conversations took half a minute to get used to.

As always, the conversations were too intriguing for me to tune out completely, and before I was totally swept away, I found myself thanking the Lord for giving me what I didn't even realize I needed.

His gifts to me are so far above and beyond what I think I need or want, but they're the perfect fit for me every time.

I'm so grateful for a Father who knows me better than I know myself; who gives me exactly what I need before I ask.

For the sister who cooked breakfast for me.

For Dad, who offered to put eye drops on my irritated eye, because I was too chicken to do it myself.

For my little sister who makes a great pot of coffee.

For my not-so-little-anymore brother who sets an awesome example for me in his attitude towards life, in the way he lets grievances roll off his back.

For my nieces and nephew, and the smiles they constantly bring to all of our faces.

And I'm going to have to start getting up earlier than I have been lately if I'm going to have that quiet cup of coffee.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Home sweet home

Ah, where can I start?  I've  been on sensory overload for the last week.  It's hard to believe that it's only been a week since we packed up the little Jetta, piled in and headed out on the extended road trip that brought us home in time for Thanksgiving.

Home to little sisters, running out to greet us with bear hugs.
Home to lights shining cheerfully, beckoning us in.
Home to a delicious dinner that had been saved for us travelers.
Home to Dad and Mom and all thirteen of my siblings, my siblings' spouses and their kids.

Laughs and hugs all around, stories from the road, pictures to be shared, memories to be recounted.  Peace and warmth and love and then a whole slew of work to be done in preparation for the forty-two guests at the Thanksgiving table.

Ironing table cloths and folding napkins became a game.  Mountains of dishes a challenge.  Music and harmonies seeping out every corner of the house, sometimes even the same song at the same time in the same key!

Windows were washed, food prepared and consumed, floors swept and vacuumed and swept again.

And then came the phone call, announcing that our sister-in-love was in labor. 

Thanksgiving for family, and all that the word means.
Thanksgiving for the opportunity to be witness to the miracle of my newest niece's birth.
Thanksgiving for Jesus, loving me in spite of myself.
Thanksgiving for the awe and wonder of life here on this earth.  And I'm told that Heaven is even better than this!

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet simple things of life which are the real ones after all."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm beginning to learn that she is right.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time

It's daylight savings day, so naturally time is the subject on my mind.

The clock in the kitchen is ticking away, marching on in a steady rhythm. The house is quiet, and I'm settled in next to the faux fireplace with a cup of coffee and my bible and journal. I realized just then how I've missed this.

I start writing in my journal, taking in the beauty of the quiet morning, grateful to be experiencing it.

#down comforters
#wood stoves
#rainy days
#morning quiet

"How long has it been?". The question crossed my consciousness like a whisper. "How long since you've risen before you absolutely had to on purpose?"

#soft promptings to get me out of bed
#open conversations with the other baristas at the coffee shop.

Being thankful for the conversation about valuing quiet time that I had yesterday reminded me of the conversation I had earlier in the week with another girl who doesn't believe; mostly because all of the Christians she knows are total hypocrites.

For some reason, I couldn't get that conversation out of my head. I kept playing it back, wondering if I said enough or too much, praying that she would see Jesus in my life.

I claim to be a person who seeks and follows Christ, who has a personal relationship with Him; but truthfully, that relationship has not been my priority. Entertaining myself, keeping busy and getting "enough" sleep have been on the top of my list.

"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

This quiet whisper was really starting to interrupt my solitude, so I thought I'd better give some thought to figure out what it was all about.

My time is the single most valuable thing that I possess . (And who really possesses time anyways? That's like possessing air or steam or the wind)

But, above material things, above my bank account or my favorite jeans, I value my time. And I'm finished with investing it into me. Lord knows I don't need any help turning my heart in that direction any more. I love myself so much there's almost no room for anyone else.

My relationship with Jesus and His most precious creations. That's what I want to treasure. That's where I want to invest my time.

#the extra hour we got today to spend on my newest pursuit, instead of sleeping it away.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Awestruck

I was driving to my sister's house and took a turn off on a whim.  The road winded in front of me through the forest, through the fog and rain.  I'm sure it wasn't the best day to go exploring, but I had time and a full tank of gas.

When I parked my car beside a lake, the rain had let up.  Silence reigned supreme.  The normal rustling and chirping noises of the forest were stilled.  The sound of my car door echoed off the trees, breaking the silence for a moment before being swallowed up in the fog that shrouded the lake.

I'll tell you, in those minutes I spent outside of the car, I felt incredibly small. 


"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."



The forest was towering and impenetrable by light, the lake seemed endless as it faded away in the gloom.  

"He's so great
And I'm so small
Jesus holds me 
Lest I fall
He's the ruler 
Over all
He's so great
And I'm so small."

Feeling awed and slightly intimidated by the greatness and power of God, I got back in the car and headed back down to the highway.

It reminded me a little bit of when Moses was begging to see God's glory and God said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, 'Yah' in your presence.  I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," God said, "You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Then, God, knowing the fullness of His glory was too much for Moses, chose instead to protect Moses while giving him a small glimpse of Himself.


Truly, the heavens are declaring the Lord's glory.  All of creation testifies His power.

1.) He's So Great - Written by Ron Hamilton 2.) Exodus 33:10 - Probably written by Moses

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unworthy, but considered worth dying for.

For an outsider to read this blog, I'm thinking they would probably get a biased picture of who I am - but then again, skimming over my posts today I noticed that the most commonly used words were "grumpy" and "coffee."

(Okay, I guess it's not such an inaccurate representation after all.)

My name is Merrie Grace, but when I was a toddler (and a child, youth, teen and, lets face it, even sometimes as an adult) my family called me Grumpy Grace.   I can grumble and complain like you've never heard before.  (Of course, it's only when I have something very valid to complain about... like, cold fingers, cold toes, no firewood, cold weather, grumpy people and bad coffee.)

I drink coffee almost every day, sometimes twice a day.  I like to tell myself that it's not because I need it, but because I just love the way it tastes, but that's not completely true.

I procrastinate like nobodies business.  I don't like folding laundry or doing dishes.   I don't put away my clean, folded laundry (that somebody else cleaned and folded for me), I'm disorganized and I hardly ever follow the rules.

I adore attention.  Like, absolutely and obsessively adore it in an unhealthy sort of way.

I'm not disciplined, not very diligent and definitely not determined.

I give up on people.

I stay up too late when I know I need to get up early.   I sleep through most of my predetermined quiet times.  I talk myself out of working out at least twice a day.  

I often don't respond to my emails or text messages.

I'm afraid of the dark.

Insecure.

Jealous.

Foolish.

Unworthy.

And yet, in spite of all my flaws and inconsistencies, with my weakness and fears, I am LOVED.

I'm the most unworthy person that I know and yet, He, knowing my heart better than I know it myself, counts me worthy.

I saw a tweet on twitter about loving a person while hating their sin.  The author commented that to say that was the same as saying "I'm going to love you but reserve the right to hate what I want about you."

I got to thinking...  Does my sin actually hurt God?  Or is He bigger than that?  I'm exploring the idea that the reason God makes sin illegal is because it hurts me!  Just the same way that Dad made playing in the street illegal and Mom wouldn't allow me to use the stove until I was big enough,  The Law is built to protect me, and breaking the law hurts me.

It doesn't give me leave to hate other's lawlessness, but rather to be sorrowful for them.  If God is bigger than their sin, does it really help Him to have me hold the grudge for Him?

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me.  All of me.  I want to learn to love others with that same kind of love.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Taco Bell and Waltz Music Have In Common: And Other Unrelated Ramblings

Waltz music is comfort music; and Taco Bell is comfort food. Especially the bean burritos.

After stopping in at a random beachside coffee shop this morning we parked up the street from our new secret surf spot (affectionately named, "The Spot," among other things) and walked down towards PCH, longboards and wetsuits in tow.

"How sweet it is to be loved by you!" My dad was singing to himself as we walked down the sidewalk.

"Wow, God! It sure is!" I commented in my head, just noticing the warmth of the sun on my face and smelling the salt air.

If it sounds like I'm trying to make you jealous of how awesome my life is then you probably read into it right, but thats not the point. Besides a few moments of peaceful serenity (read: the whole time I was in the water, the afore mentioned observation and maybe two other brief periods of reflection) I spent most of the day bouncing back and forth between stressing out and being irritated at situations that were out of my control.

Coffee, surfing and lunch with some of my most favorite people in the world was not part of my plan for the day. I was supposed to be on my way to Idaho like, yesterday. My plan didn't include the numerous delays an setbacks that we ran across.

My plan wasn't near as good as God's plan is. That's what I'm noticing right about now. I'm kinda jealous of the awesome day I had. I just wish I would have given my plans over to God sooner so I would've been able to see how good I had it.


Monday, September 24, 2012

About Daddy.

I was tired, grumpy, hungry, tired and grumpy.  (Those traits tend to go together a lot for me.)  I'd been sitting in traffic for an hour and a half to get to the beach where my family was camping.  My day of thankfulness turned into a nightmarish day with anything and everything going wrong.  (Which wasn't all together surprising, seeing I had flippantly resolved to be thankful for anything and everything.)

When I pulled up in front of our campsite I snapped at my sister, pouted, and felt sorry for myself.  I know I'm not painting a pretty picture here at all, but in the interest of honesty, I want to tell the whole truth.

My dad was quietly observing my bad day and my bad attitude (Okay - my temper tantrum) from the get go.    He walked up and announced that he wanted to go get coffee and did I want to come? 

If anyone was less deserving of a coffee date with Dad at that moment, it was me. Seriously.  I'm not being modest here.  I was behaving like an absolute spoiled brat.

He actually wanted to hear my whole list of anything and everything I had to be thankful for - from the 3am wake up call to falling back asleep and being late for work.  Wrestling an old lock after I'd already realized I was extremely late, fighting traffic, a hectic day at the office.  He really wanted to hear it. 

He pulls me into random hugs to tell me that he loves me. 

He skateboarded alongside of me for two miles because I wanted to go running and it was already dark out.

He gave up an entire surf session to get me standing up on a wave.

Besides the part where he works and sacrifices to keep us all fed and clothed, he really cares about the little things - the ones that make all the difference in the world.

"Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" - Matthew 7

I've been overwhelmed lately thinking about how good my earthly daddy is.  As good as I've got already, the scope of my Heavenly Father's goodness - well, it's incomprehensible.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When I'm not allowed to be miserable...

Everybody loves the Monday right? At least everybody loves to complain about the Monday. And a Monday with me working having a nasty head cold while my family is camping at the beach for the second consecutive week definitely seems like something to complain about.

All day I was determined to be miserable, and all day, without fail, it seems like God was trying to show me reasons to be happy.

Random strangers making conversation, time to actually sit down to breakfast, cheerful customers on the phone, my extremely cheerful coworker, the employee at Subway asking "how's it going, beautiful?" in his awesome South African accent.

The South African accent really clinched it for me. "Why do you insist on sending awesome things across my path while I'm determined to be miserable?" I whined to God.

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

"I know what you need before you ask."

So later on when Siri could understand me better with a head cold then she does under normal circumstances; when everyone I encountered everywhere I went was extremely helpful, taking time to joke and make small talk; when I acquired an unexpected car-pool for the long drive down to the beach, all I could do was roll my eyes.

That was my miserable Monday. I wonder how Tuesday will treat me? Anyways, as miserable as I was on Monday, I'm determined to be thankful on Tuesday.

When I told my dad about my resolve for gratitude, he laughed.  "Be careful what you wish for!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

Being like Jesus

The first time I noticed him was at least 8 months ago.  He sits in the Starbucks by my work every morning between 7:30 and 7:50 and holds court.  (The type of court that royalty hold, not the judicial type.)

There was always a different crowd around the corner table by the pick up counter with this gentleman as the common denominator, and after I first noticed him, I started to pay attention.  He listened to people. He encouraged them, laughed with them and hurt for them when needed.

I watched and listened as he helped one of his friends plan their much needed vacation and while he comforted another friend whose house was being foreclosed.  He would try to find something in common  with each person he spoke with, and not in an "I've already been there, done that" condescending sort of way, but more of an "I understand, I'm in your corner" sort of way.

In spite of my love affair with coffee, I'm not a regular at any particular Starbucks, so it took awhile before I popped up on his radar. 

First it was a few casual "Good morning!"'s with a smile and nod, and then a, "Oh, you ARE here!" when he saw me sitting outside.

This morning, sitting across from a motorcycle cop at the table next to me, he leaned over during a lull in the conversation. "And, how was your weekend?"

For some reason, his indiscriminate, gentle but relentless pursuit of friendship reminds me of Jesus. 

I don't anticipate us becoming BFF's or anything, but I'd be willing to bet that there's a lot I could learn from this man about loving the people around me. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Things that matter

I drifted from conversation to conversation last night, contributing here, just listening there, taking it all in. The boys we like and how to determine and be content with God's will from the girls organizing their luggage in the van; the same old controversial issues and a bed time story around the campfire. The rules of five card draw and the value of each chip from the kids at the picnic table. (This last one being more of an argument than an actual conversation.)


Within two hours of arriving, my family had turned these two beach campsites into home. No wonder I felt a little bit lost as I started the 53 mile drive back to work this morning.

As I'm writing this I'm sitting in a coffee shop just ten minutes away from our house, but without the laughter, the conversations, the arguments - the life - it's just a structure, not a home. Four walls and a roof.

A friend posted a section of Psalms 139 this morning that I read before climbing out of my sleeping bag. My mind was socked in with a fog as thick as the marine layer that rolls in each night.


You have searched me, Lord,

    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar...
 
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

Merging onto the freeway filled with frantic commuters the thought hit me.  "The where doesn't matter... What matters is who you're with."

Yeah, I know.. earth shattering depth, right?  Well, I hadn't any coffee yet, so don't judge.

Anyways, I'm enjoying my day today, knowing that wherever I go I'm with the One who knows me better than I know myself.  Wherever I land in this crazy life, it can be home.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wisdom from Socrates. (Or not.)

Have I mentioned lately how good God is to me?  I'm sure I've tried, but my words are completely inadequate.

Recently we (read: my Dad) have been discussing how even God's judgments are merciful.  The extent of God's goodness is unfathomable.

I read a quote by Socrates a couple weeks ago that kind of explained why we can't fathom God's ways.  (And before you go on thinking that I'm all refined and cultured because I read the great philosophers, I should let you know that I got it off of twitter)

"God created man in His own image, and then man turned around and returned the favor." 

It rings true when I realize that every time I'm trying to understand God and His ways I fail, because I'm stuffing His design and plan into a box that is limited by my logic.

My nature doesn't have the capacity to love and forgive and be righteous and just and merciful all at the same time, so when I catch glimpses of God working this way, it blows my mind.

Here's something crazy.  I've found that the things I've complained about the most (either out loud or to myself) in the recent past have ended up as huge blessings.

A little over a month ago I was really feeling sorry for myself that I had to spend my Saturday at the eye doctor instead of going to the beach with my siblings.  It was a pretty reasonable complaint.  Nobody else in our household has to wear corrective lenses, besides the reading glasses that my parents have started to rely on.  I'm the only one, and they caused me to miss a beach trip.  Definitely worthy of a first class pity party.

When I got home from the optometrist, Dad and Mom and my little sister were the only ones home and they were getting ready to go visit our Pastor, who was in the hospital.  I hate hospitals.  Almost as much as I hate missing beach trips, but on impulse I put my shoes back on and got in the car.

Before we left, he prayed for us.  I've always been blessed by his prayers.  He'd never end a prayer without asking God to "bless each and every one here in a very special and wonderful way."

It was the last time I saw him.  Pastor Sam passed away just a week later.  

Today, I'm really glad that I have to wear glasses.  I wouldn't have seen him that last time if I had good eyesight like the rest of my brothers and sisters.  (No pun intended)

In God's economy the hard things become the best things.  We have to give in order to get; die in order to live.  The whole glasses thing might seem trivial, but to me, it revealed another glimpse of God's character.

I'm definitely guilty of creating a god in my own image as Socrates observed, but I sure like the One who is completely opposite of me a lot better.

P.S.  Okay, so I googled the quote that I quoted earlier, and couldn't find it.  Maybe Socrates didn't say it after all.  Maybe someone else said it, or maybe the twitter user made it up.  Whatever the case may be, it still rings true for me.

"The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it is difficult to discern whether or not they are genuine." - Abraham Lincoln



Friday, August 31, 2012

"Lookin' down at creation"

I got home last night (like most nights) in time to help put the finishing touches on dinner.  The kitchen at our house has a sort of gravitational pull that draws us all in, whether we're working on food, snacking on food, cleaning up food or just chilling, there always tends to be a crowd there.  For some reason last night we were discussing the shift in popular music, how rap and techno beats are fading out and more creative and alternative styles are coming in.

"I bet I could predict what the next number one song is gonna be," my little brother boasted. "Merrie, can I use your iPhone?"

Things were quiet for a little while before this horrible children's choir's rendition of an old Carpenters song started playing through the speakers.

We, being the silly individuals that we are, can be, started dancing and exclaiming how this song was just our absolute favorite ever.

*gasp* "How in the world did you find this?"

"Oh, I googled 'the absolute number one song for 2012' and this is what came up!"

"I looooooooove this song!" *spinning in circles*

"I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world"

I've been listening to this awesome (and super convicting) sermon series by Chip Ingram all about love and lasting relationships while driving to and from work this past week.  He talks a lot about the difference between God's recipe for a relationship and the worlds recipe for a relationship, about the difference between love and infatuation, and he focuses on something that really hit home to me.  He said that a person who needs an "other" or a relationship to feel fulfilled is the very person who is not ready for a relationship at all.

He stresses that every person needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved, cherished and worth dying for to Jesus.  A person who knows this doesn't even need another person to fulfill them.

So naturally I've been pondering just what love looks like, just how that applies to me, and just how loved I really am. I've been thinking about it so much that I found myself singing that silly song, only now with conviction.  "I'm on top of the world, lookin' down on creation and the only explanation I can find is the Love that I've found ever since You've been around, Your love puts me at the top of the world."

P.S.  Maybe the song wouldn't seem silly if my first introduction to it wasn't through Kid History and the second introduction was someone else besides that terrible children's choir.  Anyways, it rang true for me today.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Instruction for today


"I will bless the Lord at all times.  His praise will continually be in my mouth!"
 

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous.  It is fitting for the upright to praise Him. 

Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. 


Love the Lord, all you faithful people.  The Lord preserves those who are true to Him, but the proud He pays back in full. 


Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before Him.

I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

"Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.  Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken."

NOTE: There's no way I could add anything more valuable to these words penned by David so many years ago, but I did want observe the action words.  Just like Hebrews says "Labor to enter into His rest," we have to do somethings - sometimes even the action of waiting and being patient - to see His goodness.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Learning to say "Thank You."

Commence pity party
Three hours of sleep is not the best way to start a work day.  Or a work week, for that matter.  Filling up my gas tank (again) is getting hard on my wallet, and I'm really sunburned.
Pity party completed

Last night we all piled into the van.  Eleven of us with as many blankets and sweatshirts (yeah, even with the 100 degree temps) headed to the rendezvous - a poor unsuspecting Starbucks store.  We loaded up on coffee and joined the caravan.  The eleven turned into twenty seven, and the destination was still unknown.  Getting away from the city lights was the main idea.

The meteor shower was incredible.  We laid out the blankets under the stars and soaked in the cool desert air.  Dad even got to hear the crickets sing for about three seconds.  We told scary stories, lame jokes and plans for the future.  We ooh'ed and ahh'ed over the meteors streaking across the sky and tried (unsuccessfully) to convince one of the little ones that shooting stars don't make any noise, and if they wanted to see them, they needed to look at the sky instead of burying their head under the blanket.

In retrospect, it was totally worth it.   But retrospect wasn't what I had in mind when my alarm when off this morning.  Tearing my head away from my pillow was actually physically painful.

I groaned about getting up, I silently complained about my empty gas tank, and I wanted to be mad about my sunburned shoulders too, until I remembered a snippet of a conversation I'd recently had with my sister.

I was putting my contacts in as we were getting ready for the day.  I'm the only one in the house who has to wear corrective lenses besides my parents who each have their reading glasses.  The contacts are a trial pair that maybe don't quite fit right, so they're not exactly comfortable and - to be honest - I've been in this "let's feel sorry for Merrie" mood for a couple days now.

"Have you thanked God today for your vision?" I asked my sister.

"No," she responded.  "Have you?"

Ouch.  Lately I've spent so much time thinking about what I don't have that I forget to be thankful for what I do have.

The five hours of sleep that I didn't get? Well - I told you about the meteor shower already.  The empty tank of gas?  Two perfectly beautiful trips to the beach within three days.   The sunburned shoulders?  Hours of playing beach volleyball with my friends, splashing through the surf, visiting, laughing and playing more volleyball.

It's taking me a while, but I'm learning how to say "Thank You."

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Paul said...

"Brothers, I'm begging you, as the Lord's prisoner, that you would walk in a manner that is worthy of the job you are called to do.  Walk with lowliness and meekness, humbling yourself.  With endurance and love for one another, purposing to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all."


LA evening, thanks to Photo Pin
I was sitting on our front porch in the evening breeze, talking to my brother on the phone.  (Which was also a good excuse for getting out of the dinner dishes.)  The brother, far away from home, was telling me how he was blessed to have shared fellowship with a man who's doctrine is light years away from his own.

We got to talking about how we (Christians) tend to lend the utmost importance to things that matter so little.   Head coverings and whether or not we're supposed to eat organically.  How to spend our money and how the Bible says to get married.  What Christians should wear.  What activities they should participate in.  Whether or not to celebrate Christmas and what kind of music is glorifying to God.  When and how the rapture will happen, Calvin-ism, Armenian-ism or Universal-ism... Sadly, the list goes on and on.

Instead of spending so much time and effort trying to show other believers where they are wrong and we aright, what would happen if we focused on what we have in common?  One body and one Spirit.  One hope, one Lord, one faith and one baptism.  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and us all.

I want to be able to look past the outside of every believer - past the appearance, the doctrine, the denomination - and be able to see the heart.  The part that's just like me.  Created by the same Creator, loved by the same God, led by the same Spirit, filled with the same hope.

It would be a major game changer, that's for sure.

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Working today.

"Employers around here don't hire 'Christians' because they've made such a bad name for themselves."

"Your work ethic is a huge testimony."

 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."


I quit my job.  Accurately I quit my job a few months ago, back in May.  That was when I told my employers that I wouldn't be staying past the original one year commitment.  While it's a good job working for a good company with great people, it's not where I want to be in five years, (or even one year) so I severed the tie.

The quotes I wrote above are all snippets of actual conversations I had within a three day period.  I didn't bring up the topic either time.

More timely words have never been spoken.  (Or maybe they have in some time and place in history.  I don't know.)  I had been showing up at the office, putting in my time, getting my required tasks completed and going home, because what's the point of investing into a company or a position that I was leaving?

I have 40 days left of working here.  I know because when I changed the calendar over to August this morning, I counted up the work days I have left.

The first time I counted it was 65 days.  65 days to fill the position of customer service representative, to answer cranky customer's calls.  65 days to watch the clock moving every so slowly towards that blessed five o'clock.

Now there are only 40 days left.  40 days to give my best, to change cranky customers into satisfied customers.  40 days to serve my employers as unto the Lord.

You know, as a Christian, I should know better than anybody that we don't really have a guarantee of any days left.  Each day should be lived as if it were my last.

In reality, I have today.  Today to give my best.  Today to do everything as unto the Lord.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Everyday battles...

Giving the biggest battles over to God comes natural to me. Perhaps this is because its so blatantly obvious to me that the results are out of my hands.

I'm talking about my very own battles here. Of course it's easy for me trust Him with other people's battles. But thats kind of like the time our family went out to eat and the server dumped a tray of 16 ice waters down my younger sisters back.

"Oh, it's okay!" my family heard me reassure the server. Easy for me to say.

For me, a young single independent/dependent (yes, that IS an actual term. I just made it up.) there aren't too many big battles for me to give over to God. My biggest worry is probably that my car might die and I wouldn't make it to work. A forced day off? What a bummer! (That was sarcasm, just in case you wondered. I would love it if that happened.)

So I'm left with the little battles... coordinating schedules, being late somewhere, paying overdue bills that weren't received the first time, that cranky customer...

And even smaller battles - a dead battery on my phone, my sister keeps using my phone, I can't find my keys, the little girls are arguing or giggling when I'm trying to sleep. (okay, that could be on the bigger battles list.)

Each one of these turn to a battle when I get frustrated, upset or annoyed over the situation.  Each situation is an opportunity for me to acknowledge that God is in control and thank Him for His purpose in the situation, just like I would do if it were something big like a life threatening disease, or losing my home to foreclosure, or some other big deal.

I think to a God who has infinite power and control, no one situation matters more than another. No sparrow falls without Him knowing about it, which makes me think that He also cares if my car registration bill is loaded with late fees just like He cares about my cousin's battle with cancer.  Not to say cancer matters little, but that God cares much.

To take the battle into my own hands is to deny His strength.  For me to become frustrated or upset is to say, "God I don't believe You're still in control over this situation.  Or if You are, I don't believe You're working it for good, so I'm gonna take charge here."

I want to trust Him with the small things.  To thank Him for the little details.  To acknowledge His hand and His presence in every aspect of my life.

I want to glorify Him with my attitude.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Open for fellowship

Boy was I on the verge of late this morning.  I woke up about an hour after I had turned off my alarm, and still had a hard time convincing myself to get out of bed.   Playing hard all weekend followed by 14 hours in the van plus one full day of work equals me. Well, a very exhausted version of me.

I stopped for coffee and a whole wheat bagel on my way to work, reasoning that my work would be better with me focused and fed than prompt and hungry.

"Besides, if traffic is smooth and I get all green lights, I can still make it on time."


This particular coffee shop is my favorite place to stop in the morning, and not necessarily because the coffee is the best, but because the service is amazing.

"And how's your morning going so far?"  The barista asked me.

My typical answer, "Pretty good!" was on the tip of my tongue, but I caught myself.

"Honestly?  I woke up an hour past my alarm, but it's going alright!"

Last weekend at Camp it was mentioned that we as Christians miss out on the greatest benefit to being a part of the family of God by putting our church smiles on, and never opening up and being honest about what's going on in our lives.

"Are you late somewhere?"  The barista continued the conversation, ringing up my medium coffee and plain toasted bagel.

"Not yet!" I quipped.  "I'm headed to work, but I'm pretty sure I'll get there in God's timing anyways."

This drew a smile.

"Amen." he said softly.

I don't remember who asked who first which church they attended, but the conversation took off after that.  He has a burden to see unity in the body of Christ - unity that spans the denominations.  I was able to encourage him with what I've been learning from 1 John 4.  He told me about a bible study that meets during the lunch hour at the coffee shop.  I invited him to visit our church sometime.

I got to work with a smile on my face, rejuvenated by the few minutes of sweet fellowship I got to share with my brother.

I've been in that shop fifteen or twenty times to buy coffee, but never had I been fed like this morning.  Whoever said that Christians miss out when they wear their masks was right.

The clock was just turning to eight when I arrived. Pulling into the parking lot right in front of me was my boss.  He has the key to the building, so getting here any earlier wouldn't have done me any good anyways.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Heading home

Conversation is rising to a fever pitch in the van around me. Ideas and stories are bouncing around, comparing experiences and sharing giggles.

My face is roasting from a sunburn. My lips are chapped. My muscles are aching and I'm exhausted.

Camp Dwight was as amazing as ever, but in a way, it was so much more. The weekend started out with a 14 hour drive through the night and cutting garlic scapes at my sister-in-law's family farm. By the time noon rolled around I was ready to crash.

Retiring to the hammock under the trees for a nap, I pulled out 1 John to prep myself for interacting with 600+ people from all different walks of life and all manner of beliefs at camp. The first verses of chapter 4 jumped out at me in a brand new light.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:"

I was floored! The chapter goes on to say that God dwells in anyone ho confesses that Jesus is the Son if God.

I'm so quick to judge other believers who have different ideas than I do and to dismiss their views as invalid. But realizing that these spirits are of God changes that.

Fellowship with 600+ people who have my God dwelling in them? It's so much more than amazing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Home Alone 2

Here I am again, duties and obligations compelling me to miss a portion of the family vacation.

Maybe for your average Joe, coming home to an empty, deserted house is nothing new, but this is the girl who lives at home with 10 of the remaining 14 kids.

I'm more used to coming home to a yard and house full - dad tending the avocado trees, my little sisters skating and biking in the parking lot (I live at a church), my older sisters working on dinner.  Usually there's music playing from at least one stereo, conversations flowing, brothers coming and going, delectable scents wafting from the stove or oven or both.

Our home is a hive of activity on a normal day.  Coming home when nobody is there is kind of like walking into a tomb.  (Not that I would know what walking into a tomb is like, as I've never done it.)

After I ate and cleaned up my dinner, I had to get out.  Grabbing my keys and phone, I hit the road with no particular destination in mind.

Whether it was the pull of gravity or muscle memory, I ended up parked in front of my grandma's house, feeling very silly and tempted to drive away.

"Uh, hi!  I was bored an lonely so I decided to intrude on your evening and uh..."  Yeah, I didn't think that was the best approach.

Finally I picked up the phone and called her.

She was thrilled to hear from me, and even more ecstatic that I was outside. They brought me in, tried to feed me, visited, tried to feed me, got me something to drink, tried to feed me, offered me a place to sleep, and and succeeded at feeding me. The dinner salad I had already consumed didn't constitute a meal in their book.


It was a beautiful evening, and I enjoyed every moment of it. 


I learned some random things about myself.

1.  I tend to talk to myself when I'm by myself.

2.  Sleeping in a tomb isn't so bad as long as I don't have to live in it.

3.  I don't like to ask for things, but sometimes that's exactly what I'm supposed to do, because the Giver is blessed by giving even more than I am blessed by the receiving.

Hebrews 4:16 - Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Of 'Check Engine' lights

She strutted into my office with a stack of papers, all of them with questions she should be able to answer, all of them apparently needing my expertise.

In the beginning I was flattered that she respected my intelligence enough to bring her questions to me, but it got old fast.

I could feel my blood pressure start to rise.

"I have to make sure to leave before you do!" She giggled.  "You're so smart!  When you leave, there won't be anyone to answer my questions."



You mean, do all your work? I mentally added.

This isn't some inexperienced intern or anything, but the company's accountant.  She's been here for 6 months.  Long enough for her benefits to kick in, but apparently not long enough to learn the ropes.

Years ago I heard a sermon, (preached by my very own dad) that said anger and aggravations are like check engine lights on our dashboard.  If you have a relational problem with somebody it's a warning of a bigger problem.  Perhaps even a relational problem with God.

This past Sunday the idea was broached again.  This time we were instructed to close our eyes and bring to mind somebody who annoyed us.  It wasn't hard.

But Dad!  (I mentally argued)  I'm totally justified in being annoyed with this lady!  I already have a huge work load without having to listen to her chat, complain, ask simple questions without listening to the answers - and without her dumping all her work on me!  The worst part of it all is that she's not a believer, so I HAVE to be sweet to her!

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40


But Lord!  (Again, arguing mentally) She's not hungry or sick... She's not naked, needing clothed.  She's just lazy and annoying.

"And I love her.  Just like I love you.   I died for her just like I died for you.  How can you love Me without loving the one who I love?"

Ouch.

Check engine lights are usually an ouch too.  Time to pull over and evaluate the damage. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Of inadequacies and victories.

I was struck by something I've never noticed before while reading the story of Gideon this week.  It made me giddily happy to realize that Gideon was the least qualified for the job that God had picked out for him.  In his words, "I beg your pardon Lord, but are you sure you have the right guy?  I'm from the weakest clan of all of Manasseh, and I'm the least in my family!"

He balked and doubted and questioned and second guessed God, and still didn't get in the way of God's greater purposes.

It made me happy to know that God uses people like that.  People who are fearful and doubting.  People who are under-qualified for the job at hand.

It made me happy because it made me realize that God can use me.

And then, in church today we read John 3:30.  "He must become greater; I must become less."

Nobody doubted for an instant that it was God going to battle against the vast army of the Midianites.  Gideon and his 300 men against more Midianites than could be counted.

Nobody counted it Gideon's victory.

He must increase, I must decrease.  More of Him, less of me.
 

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
::Philippians 3::

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heartcries

Please pray that I would have strength for each "today".

Please pray that I would be able to smile at the people who make me cringe.



Please pray that I would find joy in the now, that I would redeem the time that I have left, and that God would use me to impact lives for the remainder of my time here.

Please pray that I would be content, because here is where He has me.

Please pray that I would remember that sometimes, I'm the only part of Jesus that a person will ever see.

Please, God, help me remember this every moment - help me to remember that I never know when someone is watching me and judging You by my actions.

Please, God, give me grace for every moment.

Please, God, continue to work in me.  And through me.

Please, God, break me.  And restore me.  Fill me with your Spirit.

I'm inadequate, but You are able.

I'm undeserving, and You are worthy.

I'm weak, You are strong.

I'm so glad that You love me.

Thank you.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wholeheartedly

My mind has been playing the wholehearted theme over and over again to me, since I wrote this post on my friend's blog a week ago.   Wholehearted involvement, pressing into Jesus with my whole heart, not holding anything back, not letting anything get between.

And then, while lying in my bed waiting for sleep to come, pondering the status of my current relationship with Jesus and listening to my sisters make plans for the weekend in the kitchen I was hit with tears.  I wish they were tears of joy, or tears of awe, but, honestly, I started crying for what I was missing.  For where I had been a year ago, totally on fire for Jesus, seeing His hand in every detail, riding on top of the world.  For all the family events that I couldn't participate in.  For being not a part of my little sisters' lives as they were growing up incredibly fast.

My sister came in about that time, and of course, challenged me.  "You can't look back.  Life is going to have ups and downs, I guarantee.  But you never go back.  You have to keep pressing forward.  And sometimes its being in the valleys that allows you to see Him the best.  God has you at your job for a reason. You're doing a different work there, encouraging your co-workers, witnessing to that lady, being a bright light to your customers.  Just because it's not where you were doesn't mean it's not where you're supposed to be."

(Okay, those weren't her exact words, but that's the basic idea).

This morning while driving to work a phrase from Luke 9 randomly popped into my head, and since pulling out my bible to look it up while cruising down the freeway didn't seem prudent, I looked it up when I got to work.  


The whole passage was reinforcing my conviction that the Lord wants me to pursue Him with my whole heart. And not look back.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, "I will follow you wherever you go."  


Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." 

Wholehearted involvement.


He said to another man, "Follow me." 


But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."  


And Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 


Nothing between.


Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family." 


 Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

Holding nothing back.   

Friday, June 22, 2012

Subtle promptings ignored...

It started while I was driving home from work yesterday and noticed a man walking up the hill with a gas can in his hand.

I should offer him a lift

But he's already halfway to the gas station, and it would be really awkward to get across the center divider and back through this traffic.  He'd probably be faster on foot.  And it would be weird, because I don't know him, and I'm a girl...........

By the time I merged onto the freeway I was really kicking myself for not helping out.

"Lord, that guy is your child.  He's somebody's brother and son.  I think I'd want someone to help my brother or son, even if they were a random stranger.  You've put a burden on my heart to love the average Joe, and I've ignored it too many times!  Please give me grace to be attentive to your promptings.  And give me the courage to follow through!"

The next prompting I remember was the one I had while going to bed last night.

I should set my alarm for a little bit earlier than normal so I can spend some extra time in the Word.

Yeah, that one doesn't usually get obeyed.  Especially not for me.  I snoozed my alarm as many times as possible before running out the door.

Oh, it's okay.. I still have some extra time.  I can stop for coffee and read the Word at the coffee shop for three and a half minutes.

As I neared the coffee shop, my car started doing this weird shaking thing.  I disengaged the transmission, and the shaking continued.   I checked the gauges and everything seemed normal, but when I saw the smoke (or steam) coming out from under the hood, I decided to pull over.   The engine died while I backed it into a parking spot at a gas station.

Pulling out my cell phone, I was greeted by the blinking battery light.  Yep.  Almost dead.   I had time for a quick phone call to my brother, who recommended I didn't pour water or anything in until it cooled down, and a quick text to my uncle, letting him know I'd be late for work.

As I walked up the street to the coffee shop I was reminded of the guy I had ignored yesterday.  As I sat out on the patio, with a cup of coffee (hey, why not?) and my bible, I was reminded of the quiet time that I had slept through.  With 40 minutes to wait, I couldn't help but be thankful that God had answered my prayer of yesterday, and not allowed me to miss His prompting.

Sometimes when subtle promptings are ignored, they are followed by not-so-subtle directions.  I just wish it didn't have to be so expensive.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A day in the life...

The activity level had risen to a frenzy, and it had been hours since I'd actually seen my desk, buried as it was under papers, all of which were urgently seeking my attention.

The phone was ringing off the hook and in all honesty, I wondered about unplugging it.

"Onyx Shutters, this is Merrie..."

"Merrie, did you get that order I faxed in?  I need it to be emailed to me right away, so I can confirm it."

"Okay, let me see..." I shuffled through the stack of orders off the fax machine, "Yep, it's here!  I haven't gotten a chance to input it, but will get it done as soon as I can."

I promise you it wasn't two minutes later that they called back.

"Merrie, have you sent the email yet?"

At this point, I started mentally composing a Facebook status.  It read something like this:  Dear sir.  You are a pain in the neck.  And calling me every two minutes does not allow me to work any faster, neither does it inspire me to give you better service than the 5 other customers who want my immediate attention.   Sincerely, 'not your slave'.

"I'll have it done in just a couple minutes!" I replied sweetly instead, and hung up the phone.  (After saying the proper goodbyes of course.)

Being a representative of somebody else's company, my actions and attitudes are always on the alert, knowing that it's not my name on the line, but the name of my employer.  It just struck me though - why only at work?  Why not all the time, seeing as I'm a representative of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Some things are more important...

Working full time and attending a week-long seminar hasn't allowed for a lot of extra time, especially when that said seminar is encouraging me to establish godly disciplines in my life such as rising early, daily bible reading and those sorts of things.  Getting enough sleep is already hard for me, (even though I make it a huge priority) so when I was in bed by 10:30 last night, there was a smile on my face.

I was fading into the blissful land of sleep very quickly when I heard faint whispering coming from the bunk below me.

"Girls are you both in the same bed?"

There was a pause and then a quiet, "yeah."

"Get back in your bed, and go to sleep."

"We'll stop whispering, I promise!" the youngest interceded.

"She makes me sleep in her bed every night because she's afraid of having nightmares!" the older one announced.  "I never get to sleep in my own bed."  And then to her little sister, "You'll be fine, 'cause we didn't watch any movies tonight."

Twenty minutes later our older sister came in to hear the tail end of the discussion.

"I really think God wants us to obey Him just because we love Him, not even expecting or thinking about the blessings that come from obedience."  (This was from the 12 year old.)

"What are you guys talking about?"  the older sister asked.

"Oh, theology, philosophy and doctrine.  You know... all that stuff."

Twenty more minutes of sleep versus twenty more minutes of deep discussions fueled by my baby sisters?

Somethings are more important.  Yeah, even more important than sleep.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Where it's at

I've been listening to an audio-book on fasting in my car lately while driving to and from work.  While the author had some good points about God being the rewarder of those who are diligently seeking Him, I'm not quite sure he was hitting the nail on the head when he claimed that God has all these great things He wants to do for us, but we're hindering Him by not fasting.

Maybe it's my reticular activating system, but the subject of fasting keeps popping up in the randomest places, and last night, the speaker at a seminar cited Isaiah 58 as a support of fasting.

So this morning, finding a few extra minutes, I decided to check it out - to see what the hype is all about.

"You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?  Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

But this is the kind of fast that I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.

To share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them and not turn away from your own flesh and blood.



Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;  then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard."

This is where it's at, folks.  God doesn't want us to refrain from eating and drinking, necessarily.  He wants our hearts to be turned toward Him to the extent that we want what He wants.  He wants us to pursue justice and mercy, to be His hands and feet, dealing out compassion and love.   That's the act of commitment and dedication he wants to see.

"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say, 'Here am I'." 

P.S.  I do believe fasting is beneficial in many areas, and don't throw out the concept at all - but I also believe that God would rather our hearts than our hunger.  (Or something like that)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

At the Random Expresso Cafe

We gathered in the front office for a trial run on the new commercial espresso machine, sitting on overturned buckets, a couple of office chairs and the floor.  Eight people from three different families, giggling, catching up with each other and with what God has been doing in our lives.  

"Morality dictates something or other"  Somebody tried to quote.   We were talking about walking the talk, and how in our head we might know all the right answers, but when push comes to shove, what we do reflects what we believe in our heart.

The quote was supposed to say that a mans theology dictates his morality.  How I believe God to be, that's how I act.  If I believe Him to be all good and all love, then I'll end up treating even my enemies with kindness.

If I believe Him to be all powerful with my best interests at heart, then I'll end up not fretting the small stuff or the big stuff.

If I believe Him to be in control, then I'll kick back and enjoy the ride.

If I believe Him to be watching then I won't be doing that thing I know I shouldn't.

If I believe Him to be all knowing, then I'll trust Him with my future.

If I believe that He will provide, then I'll trust Him with my today.

It got me thinking this morning, even before I got out of bed, about what I believe.  If the things I do reflect on what I believe, then do the things I don't do also reflect on what I don't believe?   The burden I didn't carry, the person I didn't reach out to, the extra mile I didn't walk, does that reflect on my unbelief?

Perhaps staying up past eleven on a week night for coffee wasn't the brightest idea we've hatched yet, but the food for thought that stemmed from the discussion was well worth it.  For me, anyways.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Proven Proverbs

When I received the daily scripture text that my friend sends me every morning I had a strange feeling that today I would be able to put it into practice.   I pictured how it would go down.  And I fought it.

"Oh no, Lord!  Please!  I don't need to deal with this today!"

The verse was that one in Proverbs that says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up strife."

Claiming that for my verse of the day goes along with asking God to teach me patience or humility.  I put all of those into the "Not the brightest idea" category, and I thought my efforts of persuasion had paid off when the morning passed smoothly without a single angry person for me to softly diffuse with my awesome wisdom from Proverbs.

I've found that working from eight til five, Monday through Friday leaves little time to get to the bank, (where the operating hours are from nine to five) and have learned to use my lunch break to deposit my pay check.  That's where I was headed today, eating my lunch as I drove, when a utility truck started to merge right into my lane, right where I was.

I slammed on my brakes and swerved into the emergency lane, spilling my grapes all over my car.  Switching lanes I looked up to see the driver wave with a remorseful countenance and mouth "Sorry!" as I passed him, and suddenly I wasn't mad anymore.

I got to thinking about that soft answer...  If the driver had gently told me to calm down, I'd still be fuming as I typed this.   Or if he had smiled cheerfully and kept merging... or told me that it wasn't my fault that my car is smaller, or that I was in his blind spot...

I've used the proverbial soft answer before and seen it work, but never when I was at fault.  When I'm at fault, I tend to jump to defend my actions, to smooth out other peoples responses and do all I can to keep the fingers from pointing back at me.  Instead of humbling myself I tend to excuse myself.  Mostly because I'm trying my best to defuse the bomb that's about to go off.

But humbly apologizing seemed to work just fine.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Sunday School songs


"When mountains tower, rugged and high
Rise to the challenge, look to the sky
Trust in the Lord and start out to climb
Great things are done one step at a time."

"Little by little, inch by inch.
By the yard it is hard 
By the inch, what a cinch!
Never stare up the stairs, 
Just step up the steps!
Little by little, inch by inch."


This song came blasting in from my past to play through my head this morning as I contemplated the rest of my schedule for the week.

Today: crazy busy day at work.  Tomorrow: ride my bike to work, work, ride my bike home and attend family night.  Saturday: all day children's ministry thing starting at 7am.  Sunday: Church all day.  Monday: repeat.

I groaned and rolled over, covering my head with a blanket.  I'm never gonna make it!

The sweet Sunday school voices started singing again.  "Little by little, inch by inch!  By the yard it is hard, by the inch, what a cinch!"

Okay, okay.  

The first inch was to get out of bed, and the rest just came naturally after that.  Wash my face, fix my hair, make some toast, find my shoes...

No matter what huge mountain I'm trying to climb, the first step is always the hardest. Running a mile, apologizing to my sister, starting a diet, building a website... even doing the dinner dishes.  (I promise you, with our family, the dinner dishes are a literal mountain.)

"Trust in the Lord and start out to climb.  Great things are done one step at a time."

I don't know why that particular song popped into my head on this particular morning, but it was just the one I needed to hear. 

And I just remembered.  Monday is a holiday, so there will be at least a 24 hour reprieve before the craziness starts over again.  =)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Discerning a difference.

We girls gathered around my sisters kitchen with the windows open and the sunlight streaming in.  The kids ran in and out, giggling, laughing and just enjoying the day.  The coffee pot and tea kettle were full and the creamy chocolate mousse pie half gone.

We chatted and laughed.  Told stories and debated favorite authors.  Caught up with our sisters and friends.  Eight grown girls and nine munchkins in a 400 square foot house, but being as we all liked each other nobody noticed.

Somewhere between jiggling my niece on my knee to make her laugh and cleaning the kitchen afterwards our friend made a comment that has stuck with me ever since.   I don't even remember the context, but what she said was, "Condemnation is from Satan, but conviction comes from the Holy Spirit."

I wasn't sure about that at first, which is probably why I even remember the comment, but since then my reticular activating system has been tuned to notice a spirit of defeat that Satan has been wielding unchecked in my life.

Conviction tells me that I've done wrong.  Condemnation tells me that I can't do right.

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."  Romans 8:1 NLT
Take that, Satan.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It made me think.

The comment was an innocent one, meaningless and silly and totally fitting with the flow of conversation around the dinner table.  We were discussing match-making and set-ups when my younger sister turned to me and declared, "My friend and I decided that the reason we pressure you to get married more than our older sister is that you're useless to us."

Even typed out is looks harsher than it sounded or was meant, but it stuck with me.  Maybe because it fit with what the Lord has been showing me, and maybe because it held more truth than my sister imagined when she announced it.

My older sister called me out a week or so ago, in the nicest way possible.  She shared a sliver of what she'd been dealing with and told me, "Merrie, may you never have to bear a burden alone or be without a shoulder to cry on.

My heart wrenched in two at that moment.   My sister had been carrying a burden too heavy, and I wasn't there to help.  I knew I'd brushed her off more than once, not having the time or the energy to get involved.

For the past eight months my life has been all about me.  "You girls need to be quiet because I have to go to sleep, because I have to get up early so that I can go to work to bring home my paycheck."

(Okay, who am I kidding?  My life has been all about me for the past 22 years)

My one job in life, my calling, is to love.  With all my heart, mind, soul and strength.  To love the Lord, and to love these people He created.  To treat the least of these as if they were Jesus Christ in the flesh, because in reality - they are.

Instead I've become so self-serving and focused on my own interests that I've lost sight of Him.

No more.  I want to be like Aaron, lifting up his brother's arms through the thick of the battle to ensure his brother's success.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The shape of our lives

Yesterday the oldest sister and the littlest sister switched places.  Just for the day.  Our baby sister (who isn't really a baby anymore at eight years old) with her sparkling eyes, bouncy curls and sunny personality had been overheard telling people she "hated being the youngest of 14 kids"

When questioned why she would hate it, she always replied, "Cause everybody bosses me, and I don't get to boss anybody!"

EDIT: (We thought this dynamic might change when we got chickens, because at least she got to boss them, but when the chickens started dying, well....)

So for that reason, the youngest and the oldest traded jobs.  With (much) assistance, the youngest was sent to the office to do the payroll for the family business, was assigned to plan the menu, arrange the household chores and prepare the dinner.   We all thought it would be appropriate to balk and complain when asked to help, but the giggles and grins were hard to hide.

By the end of the day the littlest was frustrated and overtired.  I asked her what she thought about being the youngest of 14 now, and she hesitated before telling me that she thought it was okay.

"Then why are you crying?"

"Nobody knows who I am now!" she wailed, burying her head in my shoulder.

"Of course we know who you are!  You wanna know why you're frustrated?"

The curls bobbed up and down, indicating an affirmative answer.

"Well, you know that toy that our little nephew has with the different shaped holes, and the blocks that fit in it?"

She recognized the toy, even though my description was lacking.

"Do you ever notice how hard he tries to fit the wrong blocks into the holes, and how frustrated it makes him?  God made you the shape of who you are for a reason, and trying to fit your shape into another shaped hole is only going to make you frustrated!"

I'm not sure if she got the analogy, but I sure did.  I try so hard to be someone I'm not.  Today I'm going to be thankful for who I am.  Life works better that way.