Tuesday, April 21, 2020

We See What We Look For

I've never seen such filthy bath water.
But my kids have never been so joyful and worn out at the end of the day.

I've never seen so much dirt tracked into my house.
But I've also never seen so many mud castles and bowls of dirt stew on the patio.

I've never cooked so many meals.
But we've never sat down to so many family dinners.

I've never seen such messy bedrooms. 
But I've never seen so many glorious blanket forts, LEGO buildings, and books all over the place.

I've never seen so much wild hair blowing in the wind. (No, this is actually a problem. Our entire family looks like we belong in Middle Earth. 😂)

They've never been so bored. 
But I've never seen so much ingenuity and creativity.

We've never been so confused and overloaded by school work.
But I've never seen so much perseverance and hard work.

I've never seen so much chaos on the news.
But I've also never seen such clear skies and calmness in nature.

I've never heard so many political opinions. 
But I've also never heard so much laughter and singing in this house.

I've never seen such wild changes to workplaces.
But I've never seen so many kind, diligent workers with resilience.

I've never seen so many rules posted on storefront windows.
But I've also never seen so much adorable artwork covering the walls of our home. 

I've never seen so many churches closed.
But I've never seen so many people become the Church.

I've never seen so much fear.
I've also never seen so much faith.

We see what we focus on.

Yeah, it's a little crazy out there. And crazy seems to have a different meaning for lots of different people. Your view might not be the same as the person next to you. We all look out from different front porches. But we've all got a clear choice in front of us on how to react, even in the worst case scenarios.
Let's all try and pray through the hard parts, enjoy the good parts, and hope for the best possible end. 💜

(I would also not turn away any cleaning fairies who are willing to clean my bathtub right now.)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Pandemic Thoughts

The onset of this pandemic has changed our lives and shifted our perspectives in some very impactful ways. It’s brought many things to mind besides just health and sickness, flattening a curve, and remembering to wash our hands thoroughly. Obviously, those things are of utmost importance and what I'm about to say is certainly not to ignore the serious affect this sickness is having on people, especially those who are most at risk. But for myself, and so many others, a resounding topic from the walls of quarantine has been the discussion of what we’ve taken for granted. From fully packed grocery store shelves and open restaurants to normal work days and family gatherings, a new appreciation for the simple things is growing.

I miss my family and friends. My kids miss their cousins, classmates and teachers. They miss running up the street, grabbing a friend or two, and playing until dinner time. We miss church. We miss worship, fellowship, and youth group. We miss going out to eat. We miss hitting up the library on a rainy day and going out for frozen yogurt. We miss normal days where we didn’t have to think twice before we did basically anything to make sure it was in line with social distancing and stay home orders. It’s been a strange adjustment. People who know each other around town have to stop before greeting one another in a warm and physical way. The comfort of a hug and the feel of a firm handshake has been temporarily taken from us. Even a friendly conversation with a neighbor has become more difficult from the safety of social distance. Screaming at another person across the grass just isn't pleasant.

Let’s face it, we have taken so much for granted.
But a few weeks deep into the new pandemic way of life, where most of us have had some extra time to think about what we’re missing and how things have changed, I find myself looking my privilege in the face. It’s unpleasant. It’s eye opening. It involves some things people would prefer not to think about, like hunger and abuse. But it’s real.

When I look inside my cart and see a pared down grocery haul (only the essentials!), I roll my eyes because I didn’t even find everything I wanted. But to someone around the world, maybe even the person behind me in line, my half-filled cart holds more than they’ve ever been able to afford or have access to. Some people have struggled to acquire toilet paper and other toiletries since long before the idea became the subject of hilarious memes.

When I get frustrated with teaching my kids at home, I think about the essential working parents who are also (somehow) supposed to be teaching their kids at home. I think about the teachers who are helping me teach my kids, but also teaching their own kids. (No, seriously. How are they all doing this?!)

When I get irritated with my kids for being too noisy, bickering with each other, and eating all the food in the house, I wish they could just go back to school already. But then I’m reminded that somewhere out there is a parent wishing they could see their kid(s) more often; or a couple struggling with infertility who aches for noisy children in their home to break up the silence.

There are husbands, wives, and children whose time spent sheltering at home is an elevated version of a daily horror story, due to domestic abuse and neglect.

There are foster kids out there who adjust to a different normal every few weeks, sometimes on a day to day basis. Some of them carry around every single item they own in a trash bag from home to home, never knowing what kind of environment they will have to get used to that week or which school they will attend for the next few months before moving along again.

There are kids of ALL ages whose meals primarily come from school/daycare but they aren’t even able to take advantage of the lunch program right now because their parents, grandparents, or caregivers don’t have a way to get there. Some may not even know about it.

It’s easy to get irritated when the Wi-Fi signal is low and I can’t access social media or my child’s new virtual classroom, but then some people don’t have internet to work, learn, or keep them busy and connected to the world. Some don’t have running water and other basic necessities either. I’m not trying to be dramatic. I’m just being real and offering perspective. No one has it easy, I get that. But some people have it really really hard all the time, pandemic aside.

I could go on. I could really lay out how good some of us truly have it. And it’s not to make anyone feel bad or negate what they’re going through right now. Like I said, we are all struggling with stuff and facing our own hardships. And the current state of the world certainly seems to magnify those difficult parts. But the simple truth is that there are people throughout this entire world, and even right in our own neighborhoods, communities and schools, who are forced to stare into the face of what they lack every single day and in much more powerful, life changing ways than us. And in times like this, it’s a whole lot worse for them.

Can I change the world by simply wishing things were better for everyone? No, I cannot. But I can bring attention to their struggles. I can research more volunteer opportunities and outreach programs in my area, get involved, and encourage others to do the same.  I may not be able to do anything huge, but I can do small things that cause ripples and change lives. There are numerous opportunities in my community (and yours!) to take advantage of. There’s always something more I could be doing. And I can certainly begin by keeping my complaining to a minimum. Because someone always has it worse than me. That’s an unpopular opinion but an undeniable fact, when you really take the time to think about what other people are going through.

I know that soon enough, this will all be over and we’ll adjust to yet another new normal. We’ll definitely make jokes about social distance and that one time when we weren’t allowed to leave the house. But we’ll also talk about how we overcame a difficult time in our country together -- a scary time of sickness, death, and economic hardship. We’ll talk about how excited we were to hug people and go out to eat again. We'll handle a common cold or a stuffy nose with new attitudes and grateful hearts, I'm sure. We’ll reschedule all of our events, catch up, and eat lots of birthday cake together. There will be normal shopping trips, new haircuts, and a general appreciation for the world around us.
But I also hope we come out of this with some extra compassion, empathy, and a drive to make positive changes in the lives of people whose return to normal didn’t look like ours or change at all. We can do that, too, right?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Obedience > Sacrifice

Obedience opens the door to a life full of abundance and peace. Disobedience leads to a path of destruction.

That's true obedience, okay? Not Saul's version of it. He was told to destroy the Amalekites. Proper destroy. Not save the cows and capture the king. 😒

“But I did obey the Lord ,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”  But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord , he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:20‭-‬23

Did anyone else hear Samuel saying "God saw everything and you're out, bro."

Really though, lots of valuable life lessons in this story:

  • Just because you look the part doesn't mean you're a good fit. Prove yourself as a good leader. Be obedient and teachable.
  • Stop lying and don't make excuses. God wants full obedience. Not partial obedience, littered with excuses.
  • Stop trying to talk up what you're doing if it's clearly in violation of what God says.
  • Depend on the Lord. He'll guide you, if you'll just stop trying to go your own way.
  • Your way is wrong, if it goes against God. Get on board with that. Quick.
  • Jealousy is ugly, sinful, and destructive. We're all equipped for our own specific, God given purpose. Just do that and stop getting caught up with what everyone else is doing.
  • You don't know better than God.

Read all about Saul, the first king of Israel, in 1 Samuel 9-31.

Friday, April 10, 2020

We Will Serve The Lord

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. • Psalms 127:1

This time last year, we were a few months into building our home. Our contractor told us that the drywall would be going up soon, so we hurried to the homesite with permanent markers and covered the wooden framing with God's Word. We wrote scriptures all over the house and we prayed. 

We prayed for protection in our home; for health and happiness inside it. We prayed for Godly provision and contentment in our hearts. We prayed for restful sleep, traveling mercies, and so much more.
I remember everything we wrote and where we put it. Sometimes I walk by and run my hands along the walls and smile, thinking of the beautiful, life giving words that sit just under the messy drywall and paint.

We love that we were able to take advantage of this opportunity in our new build. But the truth is, you don't need to cover the frame of your home with Bible verses to bless it and ask for God's hand in your life. He's already in your home and He's listening every time you pray. 

Seek the Lord. Pray for His guidance in all you do. Double check with Him about all the things. He is listening. He wants to grant you the desires of your heart, according to His divine and perfect will. It can sometimes be difficult for us to trust God, especially when things aren't going well. But He wants the best for us and will provide our every need if we just give Him control.

"Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan." • John Bunyan

Be Pruned

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. • John 15:2

Pruning is one of the things I dislike most about caring for plants. I don't like hacking away at vines and branches, even if I know they are hindering growth. And don't get me started on flowering plants. I utterly despise deadheading. Seeing those blooms drop to the ground, even if they're looking brown and sad, is terrible for me.

Pruning feels mean; uncomfortable. The plant always looks bare and awkward. With every snip and every cut, I feel like apologizing. But I know it will help. In time, this will pay off.

Soon enough -- the leaves get a little spring in their step. They stand a bit taller. They grow bigger and more full. The flowers begin blooming again, in multiples more plentiful than what I cut off. All the discomfort the plant experienced seems to fade as new growth comes in, making it healthier than ever.

Pruning. A necessary discomfort that always pays off.

That's what God does to us. He makes us uncomfortable. He cuts things out of our lives. He changes our scenery and makes us feel awkward for awhile, a little sad. But if we lean into what He's doing, trust the process, and pray for strength to go with whatever He's doing, we will always reap the benefits. Always.

Friends, I pray that you feel pruned. 🍊
I pray that you feel more fruitful with every choice you make, every action you take, everything that you've been through.
I pray that your decisions are Holy Spirit led, bringing you a sense of joy and accomplishment as the results of His work unfold.
I pray that the Lord is cutting away every branch that isn't helping you to bear fruit in this life.
And I pray that you have the strength to go with it and trust God through all the adversity and discomfort. 🦋