Crows…

black crow bird

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…I’m a country girl.

…I’ve heard crows before.

…but never like this.

My girl Nala and I were on our front porch, enjoying the heat and humidity of a lovely afternoon.  There was a crow, a lone crow, perched in the top of a dead tree.  With no provocation from any other birds, the crow just sat there, crowing.  And crowing.  And crowing.

I’m not talking about an occasional squawk.  Nope, I’m talking about a full-blown conversation…with itself.

Squawk, squawk, squawk.  Squawk-squawk-squawk-squawk-squawk-squawk.

On and on and on.

In fact, this crow squawked so much that, on one occasion, it sounded “choked up” as it tried to continue its banter.

It made me chuckle, I must say.  I even asked said crow, “Did you get a little choked up there, buddy?”

Country humor.

Finally, crow decided it had squawked enough here, and flew to another location, where I heard it squawking again.

Evidently this crow had a lot to say and didn’t care who heard it as long as someone heard it.

Ever been there???

My squawky friend made me stop and think for a minute (or two).

How many times have I been so determined to say what I felt I needed to say that I didn’t take a breath to avoid being “choked up?”

How often have I pushed my agenda without the slightest thought to how someone else might be feeling at that moment?

How many times have I come to God with my complaints, needs, issues–and in turn not given Him any time to speak His truths to me?

OUCH!

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Ephesians 4:2– “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Take a look at Proverbs 15:18: “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”  And I couldn’t do quarreling without a reference from Proverbs 27:15– “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm…”

(I just love those Proverbs about a quarrelsome wife…and no, I am not one…much…anymore…)

Mr. Crow and I have a lot in common.  As someone who has lived a few years, I am sometimes put in a place where advice could be given.  Sometimes it’s easy to give a piece of wisdom.  Other times, emotions get in the way, and that wisdom may come off as squawking.  When I feel really passionate about something, oh yeah, the squawking can definitely come out.

And when I squawk, my message might be lost in the delivery.

And oh, what missed opportunities I have had because I couldn’t take a minute, sit quietly, and breathe.

Quarrels could have been avoided with the gentle answer instead of a squawking one.

Time has a way of helping us see things differently.  Looking back on myself, I definitely see a squawky teen, a squawky young adult–but then I see a bit of a change.  When Jesus became my Savior, my squawking became less–eventually.  Old habits die hard, and I had a lot to say about a lot of stuff–Jesus took those things and gentled them up a bit.  I still lost my temper with people, squawked when no one was listening, and complained to God more than I listened.

Maybe you are in that stage of life now.  Your kids make you crazy, your man makes you crazy, people in general make you crazy.  I have been there, my friend.  I did a lot of squawking in those years–and now, I hate that I raised my voice and lost my mind at times.  If I had only taken our verse, Proverbs 15:1, and hung it on my bathroom mirror–maybe my answers would have been different to those people.

Perhaps you find yourself with teens, and you feel like every interaction with them is a quarrel in the making.  Mom, you be the example of Proverbs 15:18–slow down, take a breath, don’t say the first thing that comes in your mind (believe me–DON’T!).  Remember that the loud, rebellious child in front of you needs you, needs you calm.  Emotion feeds emotion, and you have the power to either diffuse a situation or ignite it.  Choose the former–your relationship with your child will be better for it if you both learn to communicate without anger or loud voices.

Or, could this be you–your kids are grown and on their own.  BUT Mom, they still need you.  They still need that guidance that only you, as their mother, can give them.  Remember what I said earlier about the message getting lost in the delivery?  Perhaps that truth can be applied so completely here.  Our young adult children are out discovering new things for themselves–we may have already done the things they are doing now.  Maybe you know that road doesn’t lead to anything good.  Or, it could be that you want to save them from making a serious mistake–one that could cause them regret later.  It is in those situations that our Mom emotions can be the strongest, and our squawking can be the loudest.  Remember Ephesians 4:2?  Humble, gentle, patient, loving.  Our adult kids may need that from us most of all.  It’s at this stage of our kids’ lives that we think our hands are off.  They are, but our hearts never are.  Gently, patiently, lovingly, guide your kids–and have the courage to give them and their situations to God over and over.  We never stop being a mom, but our ways of relating to our kids has to change as our relationships with them grow.

And for the man in your life.  Oh, how I love the one God has given me.  But we do not live in Perfectland, and sometimes he annoys me.  But always, in the back of my mind, are the verses in Proverbs that refer to the quarrelsome wife–there are actually 5 that reference that kind of wife.  I don’t want to be that wife.  Neither do you.  Let me say that again–NEITHER DO YOU! Step back and think about what may happen if you pursue this topic that annoys you.  Will you be that gentle one who gives a soft answer or will you be the quarrelsome wife in Proverbs 27:15?  Yes, there are times for arguments–for “sharing of ideas!”  But not every day.  Take a step back before you start squawking, squawking, squawking, squawking.  Ask God to fill you with His Spirit to gently navigate your situation.  You, your marriage, and your relationship to Christ will benefit from a breath so you don’t get “choked up.”

In other words, don’t be like a crow… caa, caa, caa, caa, caa!  Nobody listens to that…

 

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Outside…

“…my desire to be on the inside only compromised who I was meant to be.” Being on the outside can be tough…

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Sheep…

agriculture animals country countryside

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…it was dark…

…someone was coming up our driveway…

…what we heard was something we had never heard before…

…and we weren’t sure what to do with it…

Our neighbors had two sheep (not “sheeps” as my second graders would say!) that were being “trained” to show at a local county fair.  We had seen them as we drove by, running around in the fence.  We thought nothing of them really.  They were just sheep.

Then, on the night mentioned above, those sheep entered our world.  They had gotten out of their enclosure, and had found their way into our pasture.  Thankfully, they had found their way here.  Who knows what might have happened to them had they been out all night unprotected.  Anyway, with relatively little effort, we became “sheep farmers” for the evening, as we closed up the gate.  They seemed perfectly happy inside our barn–and since we no longer had any animals in the pasture, they had the place all to themselves.  My man went out, turned on the light, and gave them some water–and that was the extent of our “care-taking.” The next morning, they were peeking their heads out of the barn, checking out their new surroundings.  Their owners came at some point and took them “baaa-ck” home, and thus ended our “sheep farming.”

(As an aside, those crazy sheep got out again.  They didn’t come to the safe shelter of our pasture.  Nope, they went out on an adventure that included an overnight stay somewhere in the wild.  Happily, they survived their journey, and were brought back safely to a different enclosure that they haven’t escaped from so far!)

Being a sheep farmer for 12 hours or so made me think about some things.  Those sheep left the “safety” of the pen in search of a grand adventure (go with me here…I’m not claiming to know how sheep think…just using my God-given talent of imagination!)  They were fortunate enough to find a new shelter for their first escape, but did not find such shelter on their second one.  So, they could have been easy prey for whatever predator out there loves the taste of sheep.  Didn’t happen, but it could have happened!

We can apply that lesson in sheep behavior to ourselves.  Using the handy-dandy search on Biblegateway.com, I found that “sheep” is used in the Bible 200 times.  That’s a lot of sheep!  Over half of the references deal with regular, escapee animal, sheep.  They were used as sacrifices in Old Testament times to atone, or pay the price, for the sins of the Israelite people.  Pretty straightforward.  But, then it starts to get interesting, and we need to listen up!

We humans are also referred to as “sheep” in both the Old and New Testament.  2 Samuel 24:17 is the first place I found humans called sheep.  Hear what King David said, “When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.” Remember that David was a shepherd–referring to those in his care as sheep would have seemed like a natural term for him.  The Psalms have 12 references of sheep; some are animals, some are humans.  David wrote many of those, so again, sheep would be a great word to describe the people of the nation.

Do a search of your own on Biblegateway.com, and take some time to look at those references.  You can see all the times we are “sheep.”

I want to focus our attention to a few verses to really hone in on our topic today.

You, my sweet, are a sheep (see our graphic). God created you.  He created me.  He created all of us.  This crazy, mixed up race we call humans was made by God, loved by God, and wanted by God.  He knew all the things you would do before He “knit (you) together in your mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).  The good things.  The not-so-good things.  The bad things.  The really bad things.  The things that you don’t want anyone else to know.  The things that you don’t want to think about again.  The things that make you smile from ear to ear.  The things that make you cry.  Those things darling, make you, you.  He knew, He knows, and He will always know everything about you–and He loves you the same.  As sheep, we all go day-to-day in search of safety and love, just like our little escapee neighbor sheep.  We look for it in different ways–food, exercise, work, sex, drinks, trips, shopping, relationships, education… We look in all the wrong places.  We don’t look to the One Who made us, the One to Whom we belong.  We think we can find safety on our own, without the help of our Creator.

You and I both know, if we’re honest, that we cannot truly find that safe shelter in the things I listed above.

Knowing we are created by God, you would think that we would seek Him out and follow His ways only…yes, I see you shaking your head.  Sweetheart, I haven’t done that either…astray2

All us little sheepies have tried our own thing.  We have ignored God, walked away from God, totally rejected God, cursed God, dishonored God…you name it, we’ve done it (as we are told in Isaiah 53:6). I personally couldn’t even begin to tell you all the ways this sheep has “gone astray.” Lots of ways before I became a believer, but I have also strayed after giving my heart and life to God.  You see, we sheep still believe, in some part of our soul, that we don’t need the help of our Shepherd.  We got this.  We don’t have to listen to the whispers, the screams, inside us as the Holy Spirit tries to guide.  Yep, we are smart sheepiesOrwe know that we shouldn’t do something.  We have read about it, heard sermons about it (and some were even from the pulpit instead of our parents or other well-meaning people!) And still it lures us to do it.  That’s when the sheep need a swift kick to the backside–and sometimes, that’s just what happens.  But not always.  Consequences of blatant, know-I’m-doing-wrong-but-do-it-anyway activities come in many ways.  Sometimes, I think it would be easier to get that kick.  Unfortunately, sheep don’t always listen to guidance or kicks…

Does that mean we are doomed to live life constantly in struggle with God?  Is there no hope for us sheep?  Are we going to spend this life always looking for a safe pasture, but never finding it?  No, thanks be to our gracious God.  He hasn’t left us outside the fence…

Matthew 18:12-14 paints a beautiful picture of our loving Savior.  Hear His words: “… If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will He not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if He finds it, truly I tell you, He is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”  You are one of the “little ones.”  If you are a believer in Christ, you were once the “one” for whom Jesus went out looking.  He left all the other “sheep” in search of YOU.  Can’t you see how special you are?  Think for a minute–there are 99 sheep in an enclosed pasture, safe from predators.  One has not been found, and our Shepherd leaves the ones He knows are safe, and goes out in search of that lone sheep.  No matter what you’ve done, or said, or thought, or imagined.  He comes in search of YOU.  If you haven’t made that step into the “enclosed pasture” of Jesus, He is still out looking for you.  He won’t give up until He finds you. John 10:16 says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Get in touch with me if you want more information on becoming a “safe sheep.”

The same is true for us sheep that, after being inside the safe pasture, still manage to “jump the fence” and “escape.” We all stray…if you believe there is one person on earth that hasn’t done something sinful since becoming a believer, I can honestly tell you that is a lie from our enemy.  The ONLY sinless one was Jesus.  All the rest of us sheep make mistakes, we don’t live perfect sinless lives.  We try, yes..but we don’t fully succeed.  But we know the Shepherd–“My sheep listen to My (Jesus) voice; I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).  He guides us, He protects us, He shows us the way.  All the time.  Our Shepherd Savior isn’t looking for perfection–He just wants us to do our best to be sheep who listen to His voice and follow His lead.  

Can you do that?

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of being in a safe pasture, fenced in through the protection of the Shepherd, still free to wander in the surety of a grace-filled field.  Sounds like a great place to live…

…and I’ll pray to not to jump the fence…

Clouds…

…there were only clouds visible in the sky…
…no blue sky anywhere…
…just the kind of day that makes you want to stay in bed…
but we can’t do that, can we?

I don’t consider myself to be one that is affected by the weather outside. Sunny days, rainy days, cloudy days, snowy days (well I really like those snow days!)…none of them really change my mood (except that aforementioned snow day! Educators everywhere become suddenly gleeful on those days!!)

Anyway… on one such cloudy day, I found myself studying the sky.
We live in the flight path to a large airport, so we have the sights and sounds of airplanes each day–but thankfully we live quite a distance away, so the planes aren’t right up above our heads.
(Sorry, I’m quite distracted today…)

Back to the clouds.   As I looked up into that cloud-covered sky, I started thinking about how obstructed my view of blue was.  I do enjoy looking up at that blue sky, and I miss it when I can’t see it.  Even though it’s hidden from my view right now, I know it will be part of my view again soon.  It’s just temporarily out of sight.

On such a cloud-filled day, those planes that usually sparkle in the sunlight are also nowhere to be seen.  I do know they are there, though, because I hear them through the clouds.  Like invisible winds or faceless animated voices on the other end of a telephone line.  There, but not see-able.

Allowing your mind to wander can be a beautiful thing.  Taking the time to observe your surroundings also can cast such a glow of wonder to your view.  Sitting here, my view is pretty much the same as normal.  My sweet Nala is laying asleep nearby.  My man is out working in the shop.  The bees and bugs are buzzing around me.  The heat pump kicks on to deliver cool to our home.  Nature continues to cycle.  BUT, my view is different.  From this vantage point of being under the cover of the clouds, my vision is a bit clearer.

Biblegateway.com says that “clouds” is used sixty-three times in Scripture.  Taking a look at those references, most of them point to how the clouds are filled with rain, or how the Lord is veiled in clouds.  Today, both of those have meaning to me.  Our part of the country has had a very dry summer–thankfully we had rain last week, and are supposed to have more this week.  The promise of literal rain from these heavy clouds is a wonderful thing.  The idea of our Lord being hidden in the clouds is also fascinating.  He uses them as “chariots” on which to ride (Psalm 18:9, Psalm 68:4, Psalm 104:3, Jeremiah 4:13), as deliverers of rain (Judges 5:4, I Kings 18:45, Job 36:28), or as a backdrop to display a promise (Genesis 9:13-16).

But this use of clouds is the one most interesting to me today.  When Jesus returns to the earth (and HE WILL, my sweet!), He will come in the clouds.  Take a look at Mark 13:26–“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” This verse is found in the chapter where Jesus was telling the disciples about what will happen during the end times.  Revelation 1:7 also tells of His coming:  “Look, He (Jesus) is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” So shall it be! Amen.”  My sweet, Jesus Christ is coming again.  We know from Mark 13 that NO ONE can predict His coming–so stay away from those end-time predictor people, they know nothing.  We must be vigilant.  We must be ready.  Our verse from Revelation says that the people of the earth will mourn when they see Him…because they have not given their lives over to the Lordship of our Lord Jesus.  Jesus will come on the clouds–at the appointed time.  Who knows, my sweet, it may be today!

So as you look at those clouds overhead, whether you have a blanket of them or a spraying of them across a blue sky, keep our talk today in mind.  We cannot see our God–but just like those airplanes flying above the cloud cover, we know He is there because of His guidance we hear through His word, through the soft whispers in our souls.  We know He is coming again, using the clouds as His chariot as He returns to earth to gather His chosen people.  If we are alive when Jesus returns, we will meet Him in the clouds–I love the visual I Thessalonians 4:17 creates:  “…we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”  Take a moment–doesn’t that just excite your soul, and make you look at those clouds with anticipation?

My friend, this study on clouds has completely changed my ideals on them.  Seeing them before as obstacles to the beautiful blue, I now see them as holding potential promise.  The promise of literal rain that our dry land so desperately needs.  The promise of the coming Savior that our land so desperately needs.  Either way is a win-win.

We look to the clouds with renewed excitement for Your return.

Come on the clouds, Lord Jesus.  Come…

 

Grumbling…

I usually start my writing with a confession, so here goes another…

…I am not a gardener.

I mean I am seriously not.

I do not enjoy weeding, I do not find it relaxing, I do not like to mulch, Sam I am (sorry, Dr. Seuss humor).

My man and I have recently had the opportunity to weed and mulch some very large areas.  Neither of us are chomping at the bit to do such tasks.

But, the need for such jobs arose, and we went to work.

Usually I have pictures that I can show you of before and after the event.  This time, however, I have none.

The main reason I don’t have any is because I didn’t know I was going to be led to write about it–my God is so surprising…

So let me ask you… how do you approach tasks that you don’t really want to do?  Are you a go-getter, eager to accomplish what is placed in front of you?  Are you a procrastinator, finding any reason at all not to do what is in front of you?  Are you an Eeyore, knowing you have to do it, but only do it with the minimal amount of enthusiasm necessary to finish what’s in front of you?  Are you a grumbler, intent on finding a problem or reason to complain about what’s in front of you?  

I hate to admit it, but I found myself in the last category with this particular task.  Sorry all you gardener fanatics; I cannot share your enthusiasm.

I did not, however, share my grumbler attitude with anyone.  That’s probably one of the greatest gifts you can give if you find yourself as a grumbler–keep it to yourself.  Typically, grumblers turn other people into grumblers.  And, generally speaking, grumblers aren’t usually the most fun people to be around either.

As I was pulling weeds in the hot North Carolina sun, my gracious Lord did some work on my hot, parched soul.  I should have expected it–He seems to do a lot of speaking to me when I’m working outside.  Anyway, He started reframing my experience.  A few posts ago, we discussed how to rename circumstances in order to see them from a different perspective.  Take a look at “Unkind…renamed” if you’d like to read or re-read about that.  You see, my sweet, what I found myself doing was not a project at my own home (if that was the case, the weeds would still be there…I told you, I’m not a gardener!)  This project was for others, in this case, for people that we love very much.  They are unable to complete these tasks, and since my man and I are available and able,  we were asked to do the job.  

With that as background, the first thing my Lord reminded me of will not seem like a surprise:  Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…”  That is so hard.  Especially when we don’t really want to do what we are doing.  My friend, there have been MANY circumstances when living out this verse was difficult.  Yes, even in times when service to others was the reason behind the task…

I’m not afraid to admit it. I hope we’re still friends.

Think of your own life and the times when grumbling was the easiest emotion to have.  I’ll give you a few that just popped in my brain–and not because they have happened to me or anything…

  • finishing someone’s work because they left before it was completed
  • filling in for someone because they were unable to attend
  • changing clothes because your child spit up on you…again
  • running to the grocery store because you forgot an important ingredient…again
  • cleaning up a mess because the mess-makers didn’t
  • organizing an area knowing that someone else will disorganize it…again
  • folding someone else’s laundry
  • running an errand
  • helping out in a ministry at church (ouch!)
  • calling a family member
  • making a trip to see someone/attend an event

We have lots of opportunities to be grumblers, don’t we?  And really, I’ve just scratched the surface…

It takes a God-sized movement in my life to turn my grumblings into gratitudes…and leave it to Him to do just that in the hot sun on a regular July day.

My God started reminding me of the real reason I was involved–to serve another person.  It had absolutely NOTHING to do with me or my comforts or my wants or MY anything!  As a Christ-follower, I am to serve others in any way that I am called.  Hear the words of 1 Peter 4: 10–“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  In that moment, in this job, my man and I had a few gifts to share:  time, health, strength.  Giving those over to the work that God had placed in front of us as service put that experience in a whole new light.  As we were working, sweating, getting stung by various flying bugs; we were doing what He had purposed for us to do.  Even though it wasn’t our choice, it wasn’t our favorite, it wasn’t our plan…it was His.

So today, what is something you will be doing that may make you feel grumbly?  How can you reframe your experience so that, instead of grumbling, you can show gratitude for the work God has placed in front of you?  Believe me friend when I say, I never would have thought that I needed a “grumbling adjustment”, but God met me in the weeds and the mulch and turned my attitude around.  He can and will do the same for you.  The next time you feel a case of the “grumblies” coming on, ask God to show you how to have a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity.  Ask Him to show you how your task could be used as service for another. I know that I now have a renewed vision for service, and am anxious to see where God will place me next with His plans.

…I just hope it doesn’t have anything to do with weeds

 

 

Interrupted…

We interrupt this blueberry season…

Let me tell you about this blueberry season.  I was chugging along, picking delicious berries as they ripened to just the right sweetness.  Taking my time.  Exercising patience.  Having time alone with my Father among the bushes.  Yep, everything was going well…

…to bring you the attack of the mean, big, brown birds!

I don’t know what kind of birds these are.  I don’t care what type of birds these are.

All I know is they have put a whole other level of aggravation into my perfectly peaceful life (well, mostly peaceful.  OK– sometimes peaceful!)

I had seen the birds in the bushes earlier, and thought they made a cool sight.  Imagine a LOT of birds in blueberry bushes, flying and fluttering from branch to branch, from bush to bush.  The bushes were shaking from the sheer number of birds.  I told my man about it, and I hated that he hadn’t had the opportunity to see that in action.

How little did I know…

Later that evening we went outside for a walk.  I went over to one of our many bushes, tested the berries for a picking, enjoyed the peace…

…then my man stopped my peace by saying, “Look under the bushes!  The ground is blue!”

When I looked over to where he was standing, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Take a look at what I saw…and that’s under only ONE bush!

Needless to say, my peaceful, enjoying the berries, time was over!

We went back in the house, came out with big bowls, and picked the ground for blueberries until it was too dark to see.

Never in my life would I have imagined writing that last sentence…you don’t pick the ground for berries, you pick the bushes!

We went back out the next morning, picking the ground and the bushes for berries.  We spent four hours in the hot North Carolina sun trying to save the bounty that we had been given.  Oh, and while we were out there, we also played bird shoo-ers as those mean, big, brown birds tried to land in the bushes and create more chaos on the ground!  I am not a fan!

After another day of work picking the ground, we finally felt “caught up” from the bird fiasco.  We will still be bird shoo-ers every time we look out the window and see birds– open our front door, clap our hands, yell at the birds–stupid birds. Our beautiful bushes that held such promise of ripening berries are not a gentle hue of blue/purple anymore.  Yes, there are still berries on the bushes, and we believe that we will be able to pick from the bushes again.  But our perfectly peaceful, take-my-time-picking blueberry season has been…

…interrupted.

I don’t know about you, but when I have plans, I do not like an interruption.

My man and I are staying around here this summer for the first time in a few years.  Several events have necessitated that choice, and I was looking forward to a non-rushed blueberry season.  I could enjoy my time in the bushes, alone with God, talking about whatever concerns that came to mind, listening for His guidance in the situations.

So, not only did the birds interrupt my peaceful blueberry season, they interrupted my quiet time with God.

Not cool.

Plus, “catching up” outside did not equal “catching up inside .  I had to do something with all those berries. They couldn’t just sit in bowls on my counter.  We would need those bowls for the next day.  It took me two days to “catch up” with processing these berries.

This also did not enhance my bird experience…

How about you?  How do you respond when something comes along that interrupts your plans?  I know my blueberry/bird chaos is minor in nature when compared to the other things that interrupt our lives–but it still interrupted my life.  It still caused me to alter plans, and it threatened to steal my joy from blueberry farming.

Notice I said threatened…

When something happens that is unexpected, if my mind will let me, I try to look for God in it.  What can I learn from it?  How is He using this to speak to me?  Why is He allowing this to happen?  Who can benefit from this?  I don’t do this every time–because I’m not perfect, and sometimes unexpected stuff just makes me mad or saddens me–and it’s in those times that I need some breathing room to process…

In this situation, I was mostly mad.  And tired.  And sweaty, oh so very sweaty!

But in the next day of bird chaos, I had some time to let my brain go and let my heart take the lead.  In those moments, I thought of Matthew 6:26:  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  No, they definitely didn’t sow or tend these blueberry bushes.  They do need to eat, but do they have to cause all those berries to hit the ground, and create more work?

Then, Genesis 3:19 came to mind:  “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”  This “cleaning up of the ground” is part of God’s plan for we “earth dwellers.”  There will be times when we have to do the “unfun” stuff–weed, cut, prune, pick, scoop, and other things to “tend the earth.”  That’s what we are supposed to do–take care of the earth.  And that, in our case, includes providing food for mean, big, brown birds, and picking up the mess they create.

God, in His infinite wisdom, found a way to speak to my tired soul even in those moments of interruption.  He whispered truth into my heart.  He made me look at this unplanned situation differently.  Do I love those mean, big, brown, birds?  Absolutely not!  But, I do see them as a creature that God made–and see our blueberry chaos as His way to both feed the birds, and feed our hungry souls.  If we allow Him, He can help us see situations differently–it’s really up to us whether or not we listen to Him in those times when we just wonder “why.”

And in those moments of interruption, my Jesus spread the most healing of balms on my soul.  “Are you not much more valuable than they?”  (Matthew 6:26b)  Am I, (whiny, sweaty, stinky, bug-bitten) not more valuable than those birds?  Does He love me more than them?  His answer was sweet–and one that I needed to hear.  He loves me, and you, my sweetheart, more than those birds.  Situations come and go, but His love never changes.  Let that soak in, soothe over, your tired body and soul.

God always loves.  Even when we complain, even when we cry, even when we sweat, even when we curse, even when we…

…are interrupted.

 

Timing…

I came to a realization today…

I am a berry farmer.             

Definitely a not-for-profit berry farmer, more of a just-for-fun berry farmer.

As I was walking the bushes, looking for the ripest and sweetest, this thought came to mind:

Wouldn’t it be great if all these berries ripened at about the same time?  Then I wouldn’t have to come out in the heat of the morning to check them.  I could just pick most today, come out and pick the rest tomorrow, and everything would be just great…

…yep, that’s what I thought as I walked in 80 degree temps at 8:00 am. The joys of living in the south…

Anyway, as I was thinking these things, a thought came to mind.  It’s funny how my Lord uses these times to remind me of His truths, not the ones I construct in my head: Isaiah 55:9 (take a look right…)

As much as I would love to not have to walk the bushes every other day, this is all part of God’s plan for the earth.  What would I do if all the berries ripened at the same time?  I would lose my mind trying to pick them all and prep them all for storage!  God’s ways are higher than my poor attempts at wisdom and problem solving.  His timing is perfect.

But then, my God took me deeper, as He so often does.

You see, my sweet, I want to do big things for God.  I mean really big things.  I think all believers have the desire to do something great to further His kingdom.  Everyone’s “big things” look different, and that’s what makes those “big dreams” so awesome!

I’ve been struggling recently with a situation.  Someone else is getting to do a “big thing” that I really feel called to do.  When I watch her do her thing, there is a part of me that says, “Why not me?  Why can’t I be doing that right now?  I believe I’m called to do it, and my affinity for this is huge.  Why not me?”

Can anyone relate?  Oh please say yes…

It’s in these “poor pitiful me” moments that I am reminded of a Bible study my girls and I did recently.  In the book “Why Her?”, Nicki Koziarz touches on the very feelings I’m having (yes, if I’ve already done the study, why am I having these thoughts?  I wonder that myself…)  One of the truths that she gleans from the story of Rachel and Leah in Genesis chapters 29 through 33 is, “You haven’t done anything wrong.  It’s just not yours.”

When I apply that to my situation, I take a step back.  The “big thing” I want to do isn’t going away just because “she’s” doing it.  It will still be there.  God’s not telling me “no” to the big thing.  He’s just saying not now.  Again, I put the truth of our verse to this thought.  His ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts take into account all the things mine haven’t…

…I have a very busy next few months… I wouldn’t be able to give my full attention to that big thing…  I have another opportunity that comes after the busy time that is the “big thing…”

Not now.  Not His timing.  It’s not right for me.

Because, just like the thorny wild raspberries, even though it may look like something I should have, it isn’t something God wants me to have.  And if He doesn’t want me to have it, I shouldn’t want it (another great truth from “Why Her!”)

So think about your “big thing.” What is it that you want to do for God? How are you progressing in it?  Have you even started trying to figure out what your “big thing” is?  Remember my sweet, everyone’s is different.  Just determining what it is can be a huge first step.

After you have done the work to find it out, pray about it.  And I’m not talking about mentioning it briefly in a prayer late at night–no, my dear.  I’m talking PRAY about it.  This thing God has planned for you is tremendous–no one else has the exact call that you do.  God has purposed something that only you can do through Him and His strength.  Don’t take it lightly or think you know it based on your own thoughts..remember our verse?  It can be applied here as well.  I honestly would never have thought my “big thing” would be my “big thing.”  But I know it is mine because I have, and continue to:

  • spend time in God’s presence;
  • listen to His voice;
  • find His truths within the confirmations;
  • look for opportunities to do this “big thing” and say yes when they arise;
  • pray about what He wants me to do.

Today, spend some quiet time with God.  Ask Him to show you through His Word, His whispers, His people, what your “big thing” is.  Then, keep on praying about it.  Ask God to give you opportunities to work in the big thing–in HIS timing, not your own.  Then, have the courage to take those steps and set out on the greatest adventure you’ll ever know–living fully in the purpose that you’ve been created to live!  Wow, I get excited just thinking about that for you…and for me!

Now, off I go to work on berries…that come at just the right time…HIS…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unkind…renamed…

…I had a day when I became “unkind”…

…and I make no apologies.

It was just a normal day…

But suddenly, it wasn’t just another day.  Suddenly I was dealing face-to-face with yet another untruth that had come around.

…about me.

I wish I could tell you that I went all humble and took the blame for something that I didn’t do in order to help the student “save face” in front of a parent.

…nope, didn’t do that.

I wish I could tell you that I spoke with kindness and compassion to the student who had obviously told the parent something that didn’t happen.

…nope, didn’t really do that either.

I wish I could tell you that everybody walked away from our encounter feeling encouraged and optimistic about life.

…well, I hope that happened for somebody.

My sweet, I have been in a battle this entire school year it seems.  This parent doesn’t like what I’m doing, that parent believes I am not the best teacher for their child.

Hey, I get it.  I can’t hope to be all chummy with everyone, but I can and do expect that everyone will have respect for me and what I am trying to do daily.

…yep, that doesn’t happen.

Instead, I get whispers behind my back, in social situations, through other teachers, in parent circles…very few of those people who have some sort of issue with me are willing to talk with me about it.

This day in question however, a parent did come to me.  I told the parent later that I appreciated the discussion…

…after I had been unkind.

I know, you are wondering what a teacher could possibly do that would be seen as unkind in her own eyes.  Well, be prepared to be shocked…

…I told the truth.

Yep, I didn’t sit and cower.  I refused to let myself and my reputation be manipulated by what was happening.  I stood up for myself… and even more importantly…

…I stood up for my Jesus.

Each day is an opportunity to shine Jesus’ light into my world.  And I try to do that–sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much…

So when I was accused of something that I did not do, it ruffled my feathers.

Let’s be honest, it made me mad.

I’m human like the rest of us, but I try to move out of the way so that God can do His thing in my life.  In that moment, I felt like my Jesus light was being blocked by yet another lie that had no place in my classroom.  I couldn’t let this stuff continue.

…but then, it got worse.

I heard another something that completely threw me for a loop.  What is happening?

In those moments, I truly questioned why I was in this classroom, in this position.  I mean, I believed that God had placed me here…so why have I had to battle this chatter outside these walls about me?  Surely, if God placed me here, He should protect me, right??

As I typed that, a verse came to mind… John 16:33–“I (Jesus) have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  In those moments when I was conversing/defending/disbelieving/admonishing, there was a peace that I cannot describe–even though I was upset about the situation, I had a peace knowing that I was doing the right thing.

My Jesus was there with me.

So as I listened, and explained, an overwhelming sense of “it’s OK” was present in my soul.  To be able to type that in the afterwards of the circumstance is a pure testament of the power of the Holy Spirit in the life, heart, and soul of a believer.  

Maybe I need to frame this encounter in a different manner.  I have just finished a fantastic book by Nicki Koziarz called “Why Her.”  In the accompanying Bible study, she talked about taking circumstances and “renaming” them–giving them a new name in order to change your perspective on them.  By the way, if you’re looking for a great book to read–I highly recommend this book and the Bible study–our group has enjoyed it and I believe it’s been life-transforming. Instead of seeing this as an unkind encounter, maybe I need to see it as another thumbprint of God in my life.  Let me explain.

I have been thinking for a while that I needed to leave the classroom (for those who know me, you’re thinking–again!!).  But I truly love what I do, and I just couldn’t make that final decision.  After attending a Beth Moore (fabulous!) event, I really felt that God was opening the door wide to another adventure–your reading of this blog is part of it!  But I just couldn’t make that final decision, even though I know I heard Him telling me to move on.  Circumstances at work finally made the decision easier–as if God Himself was saying, “OK, you can’t take My subtle hint–here’s a swift kick to the rear!” I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but I usually experience “decision remorse” after I make a major change.  So I was wondering if I really should follow through on that resignation, or ask my principal to “hire me back”–see, if you ever wonder about your sanity, come read my blog–you’ll feel much better about your brain after reading the chaos that goes on in mine!!  ANYWAY, after this day and this experience, I have to believe that, instead of my brain being crazy, this is actually God showing me that I do not belong in that environment.  A sweet, wonderful, long-time friend of mine at work said something to me that absolutely clicked–she told me that “you (me) can’t let things like that bother you.  You let them hurt you…” I do care, it does hurt, I don’t need to be somewhere that my heart can’t handle.

Maybe that’s you today.  Perhaps you are somewhere your heart can’t handle.  If you are, spend some time in prayer asking Jesus to give you strength to make it through the day, survive the day.  Then, ask if you need to move on–and have the courage to do so if He says so.  I still waver, because I love where I work and what I do; but not enough to stay doing what I’m doing.

My heart can’t take it.

So instead of seeing this situation as “unkind,” I am choosing to see it a different way–renaming it as “Divinely appointed.” God knows my heart, and He knows that sometimes He has to be tough to get through this thick skull–and reach the very soul of me.  He has used that very unkind situation to open my eyes even further to the possibilities that lie outside the classroom.  Make no mistake–I’m sure that I will have “decision remorse” again and again because that’s how I am.  But, as I face these last weeks in a job I love, I hope to keep my eyes on Jesus and want only what He wants–not what I want.  It will not be easy–but nothing worth having ever is…

My sweet, I am praying that you are able to take those steps to either move out of a situation, or rename that situation so that your perspective can change.  When I started writing this, I had no idea that God would stir my heart in such a way as to cause me to redefine a very upsetting circumstance.  The original title of this writing was simply “unkind;” now you see it has a bit more to it…

Never put God in a box…

He has helped me rename, find a place of rest, and refocus on what is ahead.  Praying the same for you, my darling…

Cold…

it was one of those mornings…

…I didn’t want to get out of bed…because it’s cold...

…then I didn’t want to get out of the shower…because it’s cold…

…then I didn’t want to leave my house…because it’s cold…

You get the picture…

After I motivated myself out of bed, I started thinking about the things that make our hearts cold.

Disappointment, loss, rejection, fear, rebellion, separation, apathy, jealously, agony…

…Doesn’t sound like emotions we want, but does sound like how we feel at times.

Contemplating cold as I continued to shiver, the Lord brought this verse to mind:  Revelation 3:16–“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  In this verse, it sounds like it’s better to be cold–and I suppose it is because at least there are no pretenses when you are cold to the leadings of the Holy Spirit.  As a lukewarm Christian, which I believe at some point in our lives we all fall into that category, a lot of pretending is happening–pretending to be fully sold out to God, pretending to be fully involved in ministry, pretending to go to God for guidance…

…pretending.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent part of my life pretending, and I don’t want to be there anymore.

So, how do we battle those cold feelings within our soul?

I love how my God shows me things while I am writing.  Take a look at the verse He showed me:  Philippians 4:8–“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Remember our list of things that make our hearts cold?  If we could replace those cold thoughts with things that fall into the categories of the verse above, I believe the Lord will honor that effort and warm our hearts.

Sweetheart, I know that there are times in our lives when we just feel “cold.”  We’ve lost the fire that we had when we first believed in our Savior, or the passion we had when we first started in a ministry.  It happens.  Believe me, I know fully how it happens and how those feelings can become the normal.

I can also tell you how amazing it feels to give those feelings of apathy to God.  When we allow Him to “remove our hearts of stone” and give us a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26), we can know the passion that we once felt.  I wish I could tell you that, after giving those feelings to God, that they won’t return.  Unless we “think on these things” mentioned in Philippians 4:8, and “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” as we see in Colossians 3:2, our hearts will “default” to the ways it knows.

…Cold…

So, let’s do a “hard reset” and allow God to remove that heart of stone, and when He replaces it with a heart of flesh, let’s allow it to stay that way.  Stay away from those things that may harden our hearts again.  Make up our minds to stay “warm” or even, dare we say, “hot” to the things of God.  Fan the flames of love for and service to our God–find a ministry that we are passionate about–and put yourself in a place to actually be involved in it (not just think about getting involved–I’ve been there, too, my sweet!)  Make it a priority to find a local church that makes your soul happy; but don’t stop there.  Find a ministry within that church and make a difference for God.  I once heard a pastor say, “God didn’t save you to sit, but to serve.”  As Christians, we have the incredible opportunity and obligation to serve God–after all, Jesus came to serve others and to die for our sins, shouldn’t we find a way to serve Him in response to His unimaginable, un-repayable gift?

Aaahhhh… I believe our souls are getting warmer!

Maybe you aren’t sure where you should be serving or how you could use your gifts for the greater good?  Or maybe you aren’t even sure what those gifts are (been there too, my dear!).  There are lots of spiritual gift inventories available online that will give you insight into where your giftings may lie (Lifeway offers a simple to use survey.).  One that takes it a step further is the SHAPE survey–this one asks questions that help determine your spiritual gifts, but then also asks additional questions to help better determine your joys, passions, aptitude, personality, experiences.  This one is quite in-depth and may point you in the right direction.

Above all else, pray.  Ask God to show you what He wants you to do.  Pure and simple.  Don’t ask once and move on.  Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on listening, keep on.  There is no survey, no online tool that can EVER take the place of spending time in His presence in the present.

Because when we do that, my dear, our hearts can’t stay cold.  Our God just won’t let that continue.  Slowly, or even in a blink, He will warm our hearts, touch our souls, stir our brains, and motivate our bodies into action.  Lukewarm isn’t where we want to be…be willing to warm.

 

…now if only the warmth in my soul would radiate out to my cold hands and feet…

 

Snatched…

…it came out of nowhere…

…no warning…

…no time to stop it…

…we weren’t even aware…          

…all of a sudden…

…it happened…

…and then it was over.

Our chickens were all fine and dandy when I left for work.  I did not see them all, but I saw most of them doing their morning duty of hunting and pecking for some insect nourishment.  Everything was normal…

…until I got home.

My man told me that there had been a great impact to our egg production while I was away.  Four of our goofy chickens had disappeared.  This is all that remained of them–spread out in several places on our farm…

I couldn’t believe it.  We had never had a problem with predators before.  Sure, there are hawks, owls, coyotes, stray dogs, cats, etc…all around but we hadn’t had a mass disappearance like this occur.

Those four, silly chickens that had: followed me around, come when I didn’t call, “talked” with me, gave me such chuckles–had just been…

…snatched.

Now I live on a farm, so life and death is just part of the way things are.  I’m not losing my mind in sorrow over chickens.  They’re just chickens.  But the suddenness of their departure got me thinking…

Go with me to John 10.  Jesus is talking about His sheep, how they will recognize His voice, and follow what He says.

Check out the graphic to the left for verses 28 and 29 of John 10. These are truly comforting verses, but…

You see, my sweet, the snatching of my chickens made me think about how quickly we can be “snatched” out of our happy life.  Bad things happen, quickly, without warning. One day, you could be thinking your life is good.  Maybe you’ve recently been blessed with a “mountaintop” experience with our Lord.  As soon as your feet hit the valley lands, something unexpected may happen to “snatch” that feeling of communion with God.  You may find yourself doubting what you know you heard from your Savior.

That’s exactly what our enemy wants you to think…

I’ve been there, friend.  I’ve been there more times than I should be.  I seem to get all fired up about something and believe it’s what I should do…until the reality of life steps in and tries to move my focus onto something totally unrelated.

I’ve been there as recently as the last few weeks.  I’ve had something brought to my attention that completely threw me for a loop.  I mean a serious loop.  It hit me out of nowhere.  No warning.  No time to react.  No time to defend.  Just…BAM!

My enemy wanted to attack me–and I know why.  I’m a child of the King, and that’s reason enough right there.  But I had “changed my mind” about a few things, and my enemy didn’t like where I was headed.  So, he chose to hit me in one of my “safe” areas.  I wasn’t prepared.  I wasn’t watching.  Why would I be?  I had just experienced a major encounter with God…but my sweet, that doesn’t protect us.  If anything, it makes us a bigger target.

I didn’t sit in a corner and let my enemy have his way.  Oh no, not this warrior princess.  I informed those who needed to know about the situation, and left it in their hands.  Now granted, my enemy knows this still bothers me, and tries his best to stir me up (and sometimes I let him).  He has even in a backdoor kind of way tried to use this to sway me to not do the things my Lord and I had discussed.  Our enemy is cunning, and on our own, we can never hope to defeat him.

But take a look at our verses in John 10 again.  If we are children of the King, we are not on our own.  We have a secure resting place, and we cannot be snatched out of God’s hands.  We may feel like we are teetering on the edge of those mighty hands, but we will not fall.  During this time of trial, I have felt overwhelmed–but not crushed.  Knocked down, but not knocked out. My enemy wants nothing more than to snatch me out of my Savior’s hands–or cause me to step out of the plans that God has made known to me.  These verses in John 10 have been a healing balm to me as I walk through this time. I am safe in the hands of God.  This situation will not defeat me.  I will be victorious.

Look to the left.  These are the words that my Savior brings to mind every time this situation comes to mind…

Nothing can “snatch” me from the love of Jesus.  Nothing can make Jesus love me any less or any more.  No thing I can do, or think, or say, can remove me from His love.  No matter how many times I think about this situation, or talk about this situation, or turn my eyes toward this situation–even when I act like I didn’t hear His guidance through His Word and the words of others. The same is true for you, my sweet.  Nothing can move you from His love.  Nothing.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  To be in a relationship that can last forever.  Maybe you’ve never thought about this.  Maybe you’ve been looking for something, but you aren’t sure what.  Maybe you feel like something’s missing, but you’re not sure what.  My darling, it isn’t a “what.”  He is a “Who.”  My Jesus loves you the same as He loves me.  If you enter into a relationship with Him, nothing can snatch you out of His hand.  You are safe in His loving embrace forever.  If this is something you are interested in, or if this has spoken to the very depths of your soul, please get in touch with me.  Leave me a comment and I will get back with you.  Or, go to a local church and speak with someone there.  I know anyone at that church would be more than thrilled to talk with you about Jesus, and how a relationship with Him can truly change your life.

As you go on your way, turn your heart to God, and keep your eyes on the sky.  Rest in the love that never changes.  Find comfort in your position of safety in the hands of our Lord.  Breathe in the peace that comes from knowing that NOTHING can separate you from the love of Christ.

Open your heart to a world of possibilities with God, confident that you will never be…

snatched!