Colorful Attitude

IMG_2278Tears fell, leaving streaks of dirt across her face. My words were more than her young heart could bear.

“I hate to say it Kay, but you’ve grown out of that pink shirt.”

I don’t know what was more overwhelming for her, the pile of clothes and toys surrounding her, or the uncertainty of change. With arms folded and brows furrowed, she stared at me with defiance, as if it was my fault – for feeding her.

Going through closets and drawers, preparing for our spring garage sale, Makayla was hit hard with this new reality. I took into account the fact that it was the end of the day. She was a little tired and probably hungry too. Letting go of that garment sent her over the edge.

A lot of times I find myself in the same place. God tells me it is time to clean out the closet and drawers of my heart. One by one, He will very gently reveal the places I have grown out of. I often times park myself in the middle of the overwhelming mess, and with arms folded, I wrestle with the idea of letting the “good things” go.

Later that evening, Makayla’s daddy surprised her with a new shirt, similar in style and color, but this one was in her size. She bubbled with joy!

Something I am learning in this season of my life, is that any time our Heavenly Father asks us to surrender something, it is always for our good. Anything that becomes more important to us than our relationship with Him simply must be stripped away.

Idols come in many styles, shapes and colors. As an adult, the things I hold on to tend to be more complicated than a pink shirt. Is God asking you to give something comfortable and familiar up my friend? He is a tender Father, and His ways can be always be trusted.

It’s okay to pout a little, He know how much it hurts.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. ~ Ezekiel 36:26
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True Ministry

Scar GraphicPraise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. – 1 Corinthians 1:3-5

I’ve got a chicken pox scar on my right forearm, just below my elbow. I was about six when the ailment visited Third Street. All of the kids in the neighborhood ended up getting them. Better early than late.

I have other scars too. Right next to my right knuckle I acquired a beauty while riding my new ten speed bike. I never rode over a garden hose again. Then there is the scar on my right shin, making it’s debut when I accidentally stepped into a hole that held a sprinkler head. Ouch. These injuries are vivid and memorable, not something I would choose to revisit, but definitely a part of my story. I think about the scars I incurred later in life, such as surgical scars … and let’s not forget the team of emotional scars I’ve picked up along the way.

I once read that if a wound does not properly heal, that it will never turn into a scar. It stays open, bloody, painful and sore. When it comes to our emotional wounds, they can stick around for decades if they haven’t been properly cared for. It is not easy dressing some of those wounds. Nobody likes to hurt, but pain is a part of the healing process. In order to get past some of the garbage, we often times have to wade knee deep through it.

While some of the emotional wounds of my past make their way to the surface every now and then, bringing what feels like an incurable ache, if I take those hurts to God He promises to have a remedy. As painful as each of those circumstances were, I would not change them for the world. They are a part of who I am, a part of my story. And by God’s grace, I can use my scars to help somebody else who is suffering the same kind of injury. This is ministry at its purest.

What kind of scars do you hold? Do you loath them, or have you learned to embrace the ugly things?

God’s work in the world is so much greater than anything we can wrap our minds around. The scars on Jesus’ hands and feet tell us a lot about pain.

It has the potential to bring Him glory.

Heavenly Treasures

There are a few precious things in this world that I think are from Heaven itself. Little things that warm the soul, things God gave us to enjoy. Oftentimes, we find these things – or experience them – when we need the most. Sometimes though, they are just a boost to an already great day. Either way, it humbles me that our Heavenly Father placed such treasures here for us.

Some of these treasures include:

The way new baby’s head smells. It gets me every time and this sweet fragrance is likely the reason that my husband and I will be welcoming our seventh little bundle of joy in a month’s time. Even when I try to talk my ovaries down (18 to life man, stay with me!) it doesn’t work. Hand me a baby and it won’t be long before I’ve convinced my better half that we need just one more.

Another of these precious things is puppy breath. Melts me every single time. It’s nearly as intoxicating as the smell of a baby’s sweet head, and comes with a lengthy commitment, too. I can give you all the reasons we don’t need a puppy, and why we shouldn’t get a puppy, and how getting a puppy is a really bad idea, but if you hand me that puppy I’ll cave every single time. It’s that sweet puppy breath and I cannot resist it.puppy breath

(Meet Hellion, our not-little-for-long Great Dane.)

The sun, faithfully rising in the east. No matter how hard yesterday was, no matter how rough the day ended, no matter how dark the night may have seemed, the sun peeks up in the east, giving us another day to work on. Another day to forgive and be forgiven, to love and be loved, another day to live and serve and glorify our Maker. I’m not a morning person, so I miss more sunrises than I catch, but I seem to always catch one when I need it the most.

The look on my husband’s face when he’s proud of me or doing something to help me is another of these wondrous gifts. Sometimes the way he looks at me makes me feel like the most special girl on earth and my heart skips a beat. I swell up inside with the reality of our life together and our hope for the future. He makes me feel like I can accomplish anything – even when I feel the most tired and the most run down. My husband himself is a gift I’m thankful for, but there is a look he gives me from time to time that just makes me swoon.

These little things in life that make me feel warm on the inside and give me hope for another, courage for another obstacle, enthusiasm for another day, always remind me of our Creator. I can’t help but praise Him and thank Him for giving us such precious little gifts.

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Pivot! Pivot! Adjusting Course to Focus on the Right Things

When I woke up this morning, the first thoughts that hit me were a jumble of negativity.  Too many bills.  Not enough income.  The kitchen faucet is leaking.  How do I turn off the water?  The knobs are stuck.  Should I replace just the faucet or the whole sink?  How many articles/blogs/chapters/words/minutes on the website do I HAVE to do today?  Will I ever get married?  (Yeah, I’ll throw that one in.  Just keepin’ it real.)

My next thought was a reminder that has become the basis of the habit I have been working hardest to form:  the enemy does not want us to worship him, he just wants to distract us from worshipping God.  That includes via our thoughts.

That bugger got me for a few minutes this morning.  But I remembered my reminder.  I took a deep breath, thanked God that I woke up, surrendered my day to Him, and told the enemy to screw himself.  Well, not in so many words.

After eventually making it to the computer, with those thoughts threatening again, I sat to perform the morning check emails ritual, before beginning the morning typing ritual, and the email of the day’s quote really hit me.  It was by Willie Nelson:  “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Talk about a tap on the shoulder.

Tap, tap:  What are you doing?
Getting through the day.
No you’re not, you’re letting the enemy distract you.  You’re focusing on the negative stuff.  That’s the wrong stuff.  Change it.
Bam.

When-you-want-to-give-up

I started thinking about when people are learning how to drive (and every day thereafter), as they are cruising down the street, do they look behind them?  To the sides?  Do they close their eyes?  No.  They look ahead.  Focus on where they want to go, and that’s the direction the vehicle goes.  In fact, I focused so well that in high school, when I looked at potholes in order to avoid them, I hit every one of them.  Every. Single. One.  My Drivers Ed teacher told me I was the only student he’d ever had that could hit every pothole there was.

At least I knew I could aim.

When I learned how to shoot, they didn’t tell me to look at the pretty clouds and pull the trigger.  NO.  They told me to look where I wanted to shoot and aim there.  Focus on the target.  Aim for center mass.  To be honest, that center mass thing doesn’t always happen, but that’s operator error.  The, um, sight alignment is off.  Yeah, that’s it.

Another thing that popped into my head even louder than the reminders to focus on the positive and remember who is really in charge, was “Pivot! Pivot!”  Who remembers this Friends episode?  To this day, I crack up when I think of this scene, but it humorously embodies the idea of today’s blog:

Ross screaming pivot!  Pivot!

Sometimes we have a plan, maybe even a sketch, and yet things don’t work out as we wanted.  Sometimes things really don’t work out the way we wanted.  Whether that’s the enemy trying to mess us up, or it’s God’s way of saying go in a different direction, we need to change our focus, to “pivot”.

Sometimes, even when we pivot, it still doesn’t work out and we get frustrated or depressed or angry or sad, or all of those things.  When that happens to me, I remember another quote I really like that I actually have been contemplating painting on my wall.  I couldn’t find credit for it so there are two versions, but it’s the same message:

“When you want to give up [feel like quitting], remember why you started.”

What are you trying to accomplish?  What are you aiming for?  What is your target goal?  How might you pivot?  Why are you doing whatever you are doing?  And focus on the positives:  you’re alive to try it again, family, friends, loved ones, tiny blessings like a close parking spot opening up, a friendly smile in the grocery store, a free piece of cheesecake because the restaurant lost your order (true story).

I can’t promise it won’t happen again tomorrow morning, or prevent the enemy from trying again—after all, his sole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy—but I’ve read the end of the Book.  We win.  If my thoughts get bombarded by nasty stuff again tomorrow—or even later today—I’ll do the same thing I always do and adjust.  I’ll just do a little “Pivot!”

A Painful Tug

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. – Ecclesiastes 3:1,2 

She stands tall and proud, a striking queen palm positioned a little too close to our swimming pool. Pieces of concrete patio start to lift. A sprinkler pipe breaks, sending a flood of water into the yard. The damage, though seemingly minimal, is costly. And as much as I cringe at the thought, I realize that it’s simply time to let her go.

My husband and I wrestle with whether or not to save her. But a $250.00 estimate pretty much makes the decision for us. Time to get the chainsaw out of the shed and start working to carve away at her branches.

SPRINGTIMEI thought about how God will sometimes ask me to uproot a beautifully planted tree along my spiritual journey. And at the time, I find it difficult to make any sense out of it. My tree can take many beautiful forms, like serving in church ministry, writing that book, or finally deciding to be intentionally hospitable. It looks great on the outside, moving gracefully as the wind catches its leaves. Providing shade from the sun, my tree creates life-giving oxygen and it offers a perch for wearied friends. What could be so bad about that?

But it is the underworking that often goes undetected. It is important for me to consider my heart while participating in these life-giving activities. Unresolved anger or a poor attitude has potential to cause harm. A tree that provided years of protection will suddenly become a dangerous detriment to God’s pool of Living Water. Is that because the tree has stopped fulfilling its tree-like duties? No. The tree is still a tree. But if I’m not careful to submit every branch to God, my own dreams can do more harm than good.

What has God asked you to uproot lately? Do you harbor a secret sin? Maybe you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, and you are starting to see the signs of broken communication. Perhaps the Lord may be asking you to make a career change and you’re finding that your life purpose has taken on a new meaning.

Wherever you are, take heart, my friend. If it is time to do away with a giant weed-looking tree in your life, take comfort in knowing that you won’t have to pull it alone. God’s Word is full of powerful promises.

It’s time to take hold of one, and tug.