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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm all about mantras

Yesterday marked the passing of another year of my life.  Something about it always makes me nostalgic, reflective and very excited.

(Note: while I do get excited about birthday cake, that's not exactly what I was referring to here.)

It's a chance for me to examine my life, think about where I've been, where I am and where I'm going. The whole ghost of Christmases past, present and future thing only without the ghosts and without Christmas.

We sat around the dinner table after a succulent Mediterranean style dinner debating who got spanked the most as a child, revisiting the past.  I shared a funny anecdote from my day, dwelling on the present - and now, today, I'm looking forward to what God has in store for me.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you, and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

Verses like that are good for days like this.

If I've learned anything about aging, it's that you can't reverse it.  You always have the future, and you always have the past, but the present is just here for a couple of blinks.

...So walk on the clouds today. Laugh at the frustrating things. Smile at jerks. And always remember that letting people bring you down to their level is never worth it.

I wake up in the morning after all this reflection and celebration and expect to feel different.  I still feel excited, I feel older, (but that could be from staying up to late and eating junky food) and I feel inspired to make this next year - just like the last - the best of my life. In a way I am different, but mostly, I'm still me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm still learning.

That decision that was keeping me awake is still hanging in the air taunting me.  I've laid out a fleece before the Lord for direction, and I'm sure He's laughing at me as He tests my patience.

How much do you trust Me?
Not near enough.  The suspense is about to kill me, and He says, Wait a couple more days. 

So I'm waiting.  If I trusted Him enough I would lay my offering on the altar and walk away.  Instead I lay it down and circle around time and time again to see what He will do with it.

I know now that the decision is not mine to make.  I've done all I can and now it's up to Him to orchestrate the details and then make them known to me - but I keep checking back, wondering if I can figure out which way He's decided.

The thing about gifts is that once they're given, you have no say over what happens to them anymore.  If I've given my life to Christ, it's none of my concern how He chooses to use it.

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Not that sorrows are rolling in over my life or that the surface lies undisturbed by change, but whatever my lot, I'm learning that it's okay.  It's better than okay - it's good!