PLOT TWIST!

When I am teaching my students about making predictions and inferences while reading, I remind them that they have to ‘update’ their thoughts as they gain new information. One of my favorite picture books to use in teaching this concept is Suddenly by Colin McNaughton  . This book is the opposite of predictable. When the

suddenly

reader tries to guess what’s going to happen next (the pig will walk out of the school house into the wolf’s clutches), something far less predictable happens (the pig returns to his school desk for money and leaves out the back door instead.) On every page, the reader is flummoxed when the plot takes a completely unexpected twist (the wolf crashed into a wall instead  of nabbing the pig at the supermarket!).

I love thinking about this in the realm of God’s work in our lives. And the Bible has so many examples of plot twists! We think we’re the only ones who get our hearts set on something and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t work out…but then get happy again when something better occurs. Well, that emotional roller coaster has been ridden for centuries!

Genesis 15-18, Matthew 1-God shows Abram the countless stars in the night sky and promises that Abram’s descendants will outnumber them. {Wow! Amazing! Thrilling!}  PLOT TWIST: Abram is nearly 100, and Sarai his wife isn’t too far behind. {Wait, what? That’s crazy! And darn near impossible!} PLOT TWIST: God did it anyway…and Jesus was born from that infinite number of Abram’s descendants.

Daniel 1-3–Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were  wholesome, Godly young men who prayed daily and didn’t defile themselves in Babylon, the land of his captivity. They were promoted in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. {Yay! Young Jewish men take a stand and are making positive influences! Hooray!} PLOT TWIST: King Neb threatened them with death via fiery furnace if they didn’t bow and worship the idol he made. And then he did it! He put them in a flaming furnace!!! {Whaaaaaa? That’s seriously messed up! } PLOT TWIST: God sent an angel to keep them company in the furnace…aaaaaaand when they came out, ‘the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics[f] were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.’ (NRSV)  {Boom! Not even the smell of smoke on their clothes…and Neb had tried to extinguish their faith. } Not only that, the king made a decree guaranteeing the security of these guys.

Daniel 6-– As Daniel’s life continued, he remained honorable and trustworthy, so he continued in the service of the upcoming rulers of Babylon. In fact, he was about to be promoted into a place of great power. {So great! A Godly young man rising in the government…the world needs more of that! What an example!} PLOT TWIST: Daniel’s colleagues weren’t so fond of him, and they manipulated the king into decreeing Daniel’s daily prayers illegal. The punishment for praying to anyone except the king was being thrown to the lions. And the ignorant king went along with it.  {Whaaaaaaaaaa??? Seriously? Daniel’s the good guy…how can the king agree to such nonsense?} PLOT TWIST:  God closed the mouths of the lions…until the king’s advisors came along the next morning. The king realized the error of his ways and reinstated Daniel…and his scheming sidekicks were lion breakfast.

Acts 9–Saul was a dreaded Christian-killer. Daily, he sought worshipers of Christ to imprison and stone to death. {That’s terrible! What a ruthless, horrible man!} PLOT TWIST:  On his way to capture worshipers in Damascus, God spoke to him from heaven, questioned his motives, and blinded him for three days. {Yeah! There ya go! Get him, God!} PLOT TWIST: When Saul regained his sight, he gained a new identity…Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, that was largely responsible for the spread of the Gospel to Europe and Asia.  {Well, I did NOT see that coming! What a miracle! You sure did ‘get him’, God!}

And there are so many more! Reading through Joseph’s life is a tale of twisted truths and flat out lies until it’s relieving resolution.  The death of Lazarus was heartbreaking to his sisters, until they saw that Jesus could untwist Lazarus’s burial clothes and restore him to his life’s story. Zaccheus was a stinker of a little man, until Jesus untwisted those purse strings and heart strings and changed the plot of that tax collector’s story.  In the glowing stories of Ruth  and Esther , these brave women were writing their own versions of ‘herstory’, following the paths that they believed that God had planned for them, when their plots were severely twisted. Death, immigration, and conspiracy wound around the secure cords of their lives and snapped the comfort right off. But then, God restored the story. He gave them back their lives…in abundance.

How often we get caught up in the plot twists that are happening to us right now. We miss the bigger story that God has written for our lives. In each of the Bible stories above, the people were ‘minding their own business’, doing what was daily expected of them, when disaster struck. I’m sure that they questioned what was happening…especially Saul and Zaccheus who had yet to develop a connection to their Heavenly Father. But those other saints, they must have had their questions. ‘But Father, I was doing what I thought was right?’ ‘Abba, wasn’t I doing what you told me to do?’ ‘Forgive me, Father, if I misread your directions. I thought I understood.’

Just like us. We question ourselves. We question God. We question others. But what we need to realize is that it’s just a plot twist. It’s not curtain drop. We’re not at the end of our story until we die. The Author and Finisher of our faith is thoughtfully considering each event that occurs to us…and how it will ultimately accomplish our perfection and His glory. Others will ‘read’ our story and note our unfailing faith…or our faith struggles and restorations. God wants our tales to reach audiences beyond ourselves. That’s why our story goes on…after the plot is twisted.

Lamentations 3:19-26

19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
    is wormwood and gall!
20 My soul continually thinks of it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

 

Lamentations 3v22-23 Vinyl Wall Decal 2

 

photo credit: wildeyedesigns.com

I know something you don’t know

In two days, my son will be getting four teeth pulled…and he doesn’t know it yet. We had this appointment scheduled a month ago,  but there was a miscommunication with the dentist, so we had to reschedule. The week leading up to that appointment was torturous for his anxiety-prone little mind. So, this time, we’re opting for telling him the day before, to eliminate stress…for all of us.

I feel as though I’m being a little bit dishonest by not telling him, but I know what he went through last time. I know that this is truly more comforting for him. He doesn’t need to lose sleep, work himself into a panic, or become as jumpy as a late summer grasshopper. He hasn’t asked, so I’m not lying…and I won’t lie to him if he does ask.

Our family is in a waiting season currently. Several transitions are looming in our future, and we’re not sure which ones will affect us in what ways. Being in this place of uncertainty has driven me deeper into Bible study and prayer, for which I am thankful. I am confident that my faith has deepened in this time.

That said, having this ‘omniscient’ perspective on Brady’s upcoming surgery has given me a new understanding of God’s timing. He doesn’t reveal his upcoming plans to us completely to protect us from overreacting, overthinking, or overdoing.

Though He was leading them out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites balked when they saw the plan God had involved the Red Sea…and they wanted to return to Egypt. (Exodus 14)

While Moses was on the mountain, receiving guidelines from God Almighty about living in peaceful community, the awaiting Israelites grew impatient…and built a fake god to worship. (Exodus 32)

The fall of Jericho wasn’t enough to convince Achan that God was in control of the future of Israel. He had to take some of the spoils of the battle as treasures, which was in direct defiance to God. (Joshua 7)

Eve couldn’t trust that God’s plan was infallible, so she chose to listen to evil guidance. (Genesis 3)

Lot’s wife wistfully looked back at the debauchery of Sodom and Gomorrah rather than following God’s gracious exit strategy. (Genesis 19)

Even the Pharisees couldn’t imagine the forest of God’s mercy for the planting of their self-righteousness. (Matthew 16)

This is not a crowd I want to hang out with. I don’t want to be listed with these of little faith. I want to learn from them, but not repeat their haste and misdirection. Knowing that God has something better ahead than what I can see now needs to give me the faith to hold on until He demonstrates his plan.

My faith, tiny and tired though it may be, is the ‘substance’, the shred, the sliver of light that directs me to the things I hope for…says Hebrews 11:1. He’s not showing me all of the plan right now because I might mess it up in haste to make it happen faster. I could greedily snatch unnecessary treasures…or sample forbidden fruit…or stroll toward unhealthy decadence… If I knew what was ahead, I might avoid it, change it, or rush it.

I am not God. I am not omniscient. And anytime I try to be, I detract and delay His good work in my life…and even for the lives of those that I love.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.                ~Psalm 5:3

Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God.

                                                            ~Psalm 38:15

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.                ~Psalm 27:13, 14

 

daff

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried,                                                             but you’ve actually been planted.”                                                                                                                 ~Christine Caine

 

 

 

Relinquishing the key to my heart

A few months ago, I stepped down from children’s ministry leader at my church because I was completely burnt out. I had felt it coming on, but I had tried to run from it…I slowed down in my commitments, reduced the number of projects, repeated some old but good activities, but my spirit was weary. The flesh was still willing, but the spirit was weak…so I knew it was time.

But I LOVED children’s ministry. I loved the kids, sharing God with them, researching projects, planning activities,  mingling with parents…the whole shebang! I loved it all. Children’s ministry introduced me to some of my dearest friends. It led me to blogging and a myriad of websites of kidmin ideas. It fulfilled a vision for me. What’s a girl to do when she feels like it’s time to take a break from what she loves?

Pray about it. And fast…the spiritual fast, not the quick one.

And so I did. I used my Lenten fast this year to seek God’s direction about my role in my church’s children’s ministry. And he showed me. He reminded me through parents and children that I had done well during my time. But through a series of serious trials within my family, he reminded me that my family was my first responsibility.

I wrestled with God about this, until he started making it more painful for me to stay involved. Stories like Jonah’s refusal to listen to God, Zacharias laughing at the angel’s news, Egypt’s suffering from plagues because of Pharoah’s hard heart, and even Adam and Eve’s defiance kept popping up in my devotions. Anddddd, verses about rest and peace were becoming more prevalent, too.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28, 29)

And that’s when it hit me. My pride was my problem. I didn’t want to let go because I wanted to continue to be in charge. I loved what I was doing. I didn’t want someone else to do it…I wanted my energy to come back. But fatherly God said to me, ‘What do you do when you are tired?’ And finally I relinquished. It was time to rest.

It has been awkward, admittedly, stepping out of leadership and being ‘anonymous’ again. Saying ‘no, I really can’t right now’ instead of ‘well of course I’ll do it’. I haven’t liked slowing down, but I have needed to do it. For my sake, my family’s sake, and for the sake of others that God wants to use in my place.

It’s been about three months since I had ‘the talk’ with our associate pastor about bowing out of my kidmin job…and almost a year since I started to run from slowing down. I’m happy to report that I still have zeal but it’s been tempered. I excited for what God is working on for my future. And I know that I will be prepared for that challenge…whatever it is.

Here’s the key to the supply room at church, my happy place for the past 5 years. *sigh* I love that it says ‘Do not duplicate’ because it’s place in my life can never be duplicated…and whoever receives it next will truly never be the same again.

Thank you, Father, for being the God of rest and the God of action. The God of then, now, and not yet. Thank you for memories made and futures promised. And thank you above all for being with us through it all. Amen. FullSizeRender(1)

 

 

About EVERYTHING

“Do we pray about everything?!” he asked in whispered desperation during a church prayer one Sunday. I shushed him but smiled and contemplated his inquiry.

IMG_5339

After that prayer was complete, I perused the bulletin  and made a mental tally.

-Gathering, Announcements, Prayer of Centering (at the very beginning of the service)

-Sharing of Joys and Concerns (after the beginning)

-Apostle’s Creed and Prayer of Affirmation (before Scripture reading)

-Congregational Prayer (after the children’s moment)

-Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer (before offering)

-Scripture Reading and Prayer (before sermon)

-Prayer of Commission (after sermon)

-Benediction (prior to leaving)

Our service is NOT four hours long. It’s the standard one hour service. But after considering the order of worship, I realized that a third of that time is occupied in prayer. Prayers of the pastor, prayers of the people, silent prayer, meditation after prayer, prayers before action, prayers after action…

I reconsidered my son’s question–Do we pray about everything?!

Why is so much of our church service used for prayer? We pray before we start, we pray just after we start. We pray for those who are ill and absent, and we pray when the Word is shared with children who are present. We pray before we hear the Word and after we hear the Word. As we began with prayer, we end with prayer before we re-enter the world from our worship experience. Every activity we attempt, we bathe in prayer. We approach God with our intentions and ask His direction. We return to Him later to request his blessing. We plead for answers, we ask for patience while waiting, we praise Him for the outcome. We turn all our actions over to His divine plan.

Church is the holiest place we encounter all week. If we this often in THIS place, then how much more often should we pray throughout our week? Before we get out of bed, while we’re drinking the morning joe, on the way to work, before we enter work, throughout the workday and on the way home again. Before we enter challenging situations, in the midst of them, and after them.

I Thessalonians 5:17 advises that we “Pray continually”...and verse 18 goes on to say “…giving thanks to God in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Pray continually. All the time. About everything. Before, during, and after. Everything.

So, yes, son, we do pray about everything, as we well should.

Image result for praying

Photo credit: http://www.karipatterson.com/long-view-short-prayers/

 

You’re doing it right when…

When I was 16, I served as a camp counselor at a Christian camp in the mountains of Virginia. I was so excited about the opportunity to do something so cool with my summer vacation! Until, mom and dad dropped me off at camp and left. Then, reality set in and anxiety cranked up. I became a bit of a nervous wreck…and stayed that way for 9 weeks.

Throughout that time, I listened to stories from the missionaries who were staying at camp that summer, stories of God’s faithfulness and protection on the mission fields. Africa, Australia, South America…bazillions of miles away from home. Butterflies fluttered in my tummy whenever the missionaries talked about their ‘call’ because I worried God was going to call me farther away than I already was…and that 90 minute distance from my mama was far enough!

During college, I remember telling my mom that I just couldn’t wait to get married and have kids because I just felt like I had so much love in my heart that just wanted to be used. Mom promised me that if God put that there, He was going to use it…at the right time. And the worry that maybe He was going to send me and my full heart to a galaxy far, far away resurfaced.

Well, I did get married, and I did have kids, and I have shared my love with them, and God has just filled my heart with more love to give away. So I started working with my church to find more ways to share more love.

Enter Jason Stanley. He came to our church four years ago as the associate pastor. We had our first talks on the playground and in the nursery. Unbeknownst to me, these two locations were pretty much setting the stage for my ministry work with Jason.

Over the next four years, he allowed me to experiment with different activities with the kids at church, delegated jobs for me to do in children’s ministry, and supported me in writing/creating curriculum for children’s worship. I took piles of old curriculum and compiled them into reusable, two year rotations of Sunday School lessons so our church could save some money. We collaborated on ideas to minister to young families, including Parents’ Night Out events and Family Mission Nights. We solidified annual church events for kids…Advent activities, Easter Egg Hunt, Vacation Bible School. We introduced new traditions…Blessing of the Backpacks when school starts, Family Thank You Meal in November, Project Sundays each month to share God’s love with various needy populations. My heart has overflown with love and outreach and ministry and love…finally. I have found my ‘calling’ in children’s ministry.

IMG_0010      IMG_0006     IMG_4495

Sad to say, Jason has recently moved. He gave me four months notice, during which I agonized about his departure. We had worked so well together to create this well-oiled machine of children’s ministry…I didn’t want to see it fall apart. But slowly during those months of knowing he was leaving but still working with him, I realized, I was no longer afraid of ministry. I didn’t want my friend to leave, but my 20 year fear that God was going to call me to be a missionary away from my family was resolved. God wanted me to be a ‘missionary’ right where I was…in my church…because through children and family ministry, I was spreading His name and His love to so many.

You’re doing ministry right when you lead people to a deeper relationship with God. It doesn’t have to be in Africa, though some people can’t wait for their opportunity to go there. It doesn’t have to be as a full-time pastor, though God certainly needs those willing souls. When you can open the eyes of fellow believers to see God at work …and then empower them to be a part of that work...you’re doing it right. That’s what Jesus did. He lead his disciples to know God, to comprehend His love and grace, and then to go tell others about it so they could live in it as well.

My last interaction with Jason at church was during the exciting chaos of VBS. I nostalgically considered how appropriate it was that our final activity together wasn’t having good-bye coffee or best wishes dinner, but rather it was up to our elbows in ministry. Loving God and loving others via graham crackers and foam shapes.

I hate walking into the church office and seeing Jason’s office empty, but my heart is still full of love to share. My list of mission projects is endless. And God’s work still goes on.

IMG_0013(3)             IMG_0012          IMG_0102

Well done, good and faithful servant Jason. You’re doing it right.

IMG_0009

Kindling

It was a small piece of wood…probably 4 inches in diameter, 2 inches thick…but it was my hero this morning.

Here in central Virginia, it started snowing last night around 6 and has continued throughout the day. Our woodpile was covered with a tarp, thank goodness and husband. However, our kindling pile was buried under several inches of heavy, wet winter precipitation this morning. If you’ve ever started a fire before, you know the dire need for dry scraps of wood, especially if the logs you’re going to toss on are pretty cold and maybe a slightly damp.

I brought in a few pieces of wood and began to look for paper to ball up as fire starter, and I sent the kids to get the bag of lint from the laundry room. For the better part of an hour, we sat in front of the fireplace, huffing and puffing like a family of big, bad, wolves, praying and mumbling and wishing. I tried squeezing balls of paper between the two logs; I tried shoving lint balls in the crevice as well. More huffing and puffing. More shifting of wood. Waiting, hoping, blowing, sighing. After gently shoving the logs closer together and stirring up the old ashes a bit, I saw the tip of a piece of wood sticking out. A circular slice of an old log that had somehow survived some recent fire. I pulled it out and rejoiced quietly, hoping THIS would be the single most magical lump of dry  kindling ever.

And it was!!!! That perfect little, previously hidden chunk of wonderfulness, slipped perfectly into place between the two desperate logs worked a bit of a miracle. It made the fire successfully burn as all my efforts had been unable to accomplish. Thanks be to God!

IMG_6850As I sat there, saying silent prayers of appreciation that God showed me that ideal missing piece, I thought of perfect timing and perfect placement. Those people who have showed up at the perfect time to be catalysts of change or encouragement. Those who have been in my life, doing their thing, their true purpose hidden until the time was right.  Pastors who dust off the ancient words of truth and bring them to light, sparking change. Friends and family who stay closely distant until a need surfaces for their enlightening words of life. Neighbors who have survived their own fires, to live to light another. Strangers who act in randomly kind ways, brightening up dark moments.

Catalysts of change. Kindling of kindness. We are all that, just biding our time beneath our own old ashes. We have lived through blazing heats and unspeakable droughts. We have seen destruction around us…but we have survived. Our job is not done yet. We have not been destroyed because other still need us. To be their light, to bring them heat, to share our warmth, to beat their chill, to spark them onward.

We are lumps of wonderfulness, waiting in our own ashes, to light the fire of others.

IMG_3556

 

I Peter 1:6-9

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Romans 8: 18, 28

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Further Inspiration:

Romans 8

James 3

 

 

 

 

It’s a Tangled life

In the movie “Tangled”, baby princess Rapunzel is taken from her palace home when she is an infant. An evil old woman named Gothel kidnaps her and her sun-drop magical gift.

Mother Gothel raises Rapunzel in a tower distant from all human connection. Rapunzel occupies her time with painting, playing with her chameleon Pascal, cleaning, painting some more, reading, cleaning, pottery, ventriloquy…waiting for her life to begin, as the lyrics go. She watches out the tower window and notices what happens to the world around her. Her favorite event is the annual light show that occurs in the sky from the nearby kingdom. After a few years, she realizes that the lights appear in the sky on the night of her birthday. Finally, she asks her ‘mother’ if she can go see the lights as a birthday gift.

Mother Gothel replies (in Disney song) with a list of all the terrors that are out in the world, thus hoping to burst Rapunzel’s bubble of hope about the outside world. “Ruffians, thugs, poison ivy, quicksand, cannibals, snakes, the plauge…” (artistically sung and choreographed, of course). And her scheme of discouragement works. Rapunzel changes her mind about wanting to leave the tower.

Enter Ryder Flynn, criminal extraordinaire. When Gothel left the tower to acquire supplies to mix more paint for Rapunzel, Ryder unexpectedly arrives, hiding from other thieves whom he has insulted. Through a series of events involving various (and humorous) whacks with Rapunzel’s frying pan, this ‘ruffian’ agrees to take her to see the castle lights, in exchange for the safe return of his satchel of loot.

Rapunzel struggles with her conscience as she begins her adventure out of the tower. “Mother would be so furious…this would kill her…this is sooooo fun…I’m a horrible daughter…I’m never going back…I’m a despicable human being…Best Day Ever!!!!’

Rapunzel’s experiences thus far remind me so much of my own life. Locked in a place that looked like home, seemed like home, had the ‘comforts’ of home for years. Told truths of safety and security. Encouraged to make the best of where I was, not to try anything risky. Warned of dangers known and unknown. Promised that ‘mother knows best’. And truthfully, isn’t that simple, uncomplicated life ideal? Isn’t safety desired?

Well, when I look at the life of Jesus, I see so much more. I see him mingling with questionable characters. I see him encouraging people to have faith in something bigger than they can earthly imagine. He says, ‘Step out and walk on the water.’ Walk around city walls and watch them fall. Hold up your arms and the sea will split, the sun will stand still. Love your enemies. Rejoice when persecuted. Pray and give and you’ll be rewarded. You’re watched and cared for more than anything else in creation, so don’t be afraid.

You see, like Rapunzel, we were stolen from our original family. We have been told the lie that earthly goals and mankind’s dreams are the best we can do. ‘Mother knows best’ comes in the form of ‘they know best’, ‘the media knows the whole story’, ‘the Joneses are the ones to keep up with’…lies, lies, lies. Our Heavenly Father knows best. He speaks truth always. He tells us that it won’t be easy; we will be persecuted, times will be hard. But he is with us and has, from the dawn of time, has greater plans for us than our sheltered tower life can provide.

I love the lyrics to the song “I See the Light”…because it describes exactly how my life changed when I realized what I could do with God in my life.

All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I’ve been
Now I’m here blinking in the starlight
Now I’m here suddenly I see
Standing here it’s all so clear
I’m where I’m meant to be

And at last I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once everything looks different
Now that I see you.

It’s a Tangled life. Mixed messages, broken promises, twisted confusions… but it all gets straightened out when we acknowledge that God is greater than all the mess. He wants us to be brave enough to take that first (barefoot) step out of our comfort home to seek the adventure he has for us.

image from http://www.etsy.com

Scripture references:

Exodus 14 (Crossing the Red Sea)   Joshua 10 (Sun standing still)

Joshua 6 (Jericho’s walls fall)          Matthew 5-7 (Rejoice when persecuted)

Matthew 14 (Peter walks on water)

 

 

 

Nervous dogs shed

We adopted a dog from our local animal shelter about a month ago, and he’s great. Loveable, lazy, spoiled rotten…he’s our Dodger Dog. He’s settling in well now, playing a bit with the matron dog of the house Mia, and he’s relaxing in his worries about thunderstorms as well. (See previous post about his Stormophobia).

We were a little worried about him while we were on vacation last week, knowing he was still in his adjustment period. But  with a dog-loving neighbor kid checking on him and Mia to keep him company, we figured he’d be fine. And evIMG_5143[1]en though there were dreaded thunderstorms nearly every night we were gone, he was okay.

I noticed a strange phenomena when we returned home last night, though. His hair was all over everything. I noticed this because he had previously been virtually shed-free. Upon our arrival, I began to notice his little white hairs were on the couches (clearly, he took advantage of our absence…), in tumble weeds rolling down the hall, in piles bales in the kids’ rooms…everywhere! As I sucked up heap after heap with the vacuum, I realized that his panic during the storms and probably his anxiety from being left ‘alone’ must have come out through hair loss. I recalled a vet telling me that dogs’ dander comes out, as well as their hair, when they are nervous. Our vacation was too stressful for Dodger, and he let us know he missed us by leaving remnants of himself everywhere. Good thing we weren’t gone any longer…

IMG_5048[1]This anxiety-behavior cycle made me think about our own human responses to worry. Kids who are fretted will often wet the bed or retain bowel movements. They will display abnormal-for-them behaviors, such as hitting, feuding, or biting. They appear to be belligerent, but deep down, they’re scared. And don’t grown ups act out when they’re worried, too? Their responses are a little more cryptic, though. The snarky comment, the pity party, the passive-aggression…they’re disguises for anxiety. Anxiety that change may occur, worry that control may be lost, fear that some secret may be revealed. We adults may be taller, but we’re still so child-like inside. Scared, frightened, nervous kids wondering what’s going on around us.

So what’s your anxiety-behavior? Biting other people’s heads off? Hiding in your room? Throwing tantrums? Does it leave a bigger mess after it’s over… or a mess for someone else to clean up? Maybe it’s time to try a new response. Check out these possibilities instead…

Psalm 34

1 I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name.

For I cried to him and he answered me! He freed me from all my fears. Others too were radiant at what he did for them. Theirs was no downcast look of rejection! This poor man cried to the Lord—and the Lord heard him and saved him out of his troubles. For the Angel of the Lord guards and rescues all who reverence him.

Matthew 6

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32  Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Proverbs 3

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Dear me of tomorrow,

Dear me of tomorrow,

By this time tomorrow night, you may know the answer you’ve been waiting a week to hear…whether or not you got the job. They said they hoped to have a decision made by ‘next Friday’, which is tomorrow. Yet, as dubious as your feelings have been this week, you question whether or not the decision will actually be made by their deadline.

You’ve doubted your answers to the interview questions, especially #10. But you counter that doubt with the fact that you had your own thought-provoking questions for them. You’ve wondered if you came across strong enough to handle the job, and you counter that with ‘Bob knows me…he knows my capabilities…he’ll speak up for my strength’. You’ve hoped that they haven’t interviewed anyone else more qualified…and you’ve comforted yourself with the 16 years of experience you have under your belt. You’ve pondered if they really liked you, and then you remember that they sought you. You’ve questioned yourself many times ‘Am I making this opportunity out to be a ‘dream job’ when it really isn’t?’ But then you wisely compare it to your current job and the other one for which you interviewed just the day before this interview. You know this job. You’ve done this job before. This is a dream job…and it’s okay to want it.

Oh, me of tomorrow…I can’t wait to meet you. I want to jump up and down and hug you and cry with you and celebrate that phone call. I want to grab you by the shoulders and look you in the eyes and say ‘I knew it! I knew it was the perfect job for you!’ I want to call friends and say, ‘I got it! Praise God! I got it!’ and do a happy dance. I want to see the sparkle in your eye  that has been hidden for six years and that wry smile that is so perfect for this job. I want to start the organizing process of what goes to your new classroom and what stays home and what finally gets thrown away. And I want to start that with your sparkly eyes and your not-a-secret-anymore smile tomorrow night…after that call comes.

And, me of tomorrow, if that call doesn’t turn out to be what you so hope, then remember all the other times.  you’ve thought you had something pegged only to find out later that you were wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ll be here if that happens, just as I have been in the past. I’ll be here with a cup of tea, some tissues, probably some cookies, and some reassurance that it’s okay that it wasn’t meant to be. Because if it wasn’t meant to be, then something else is…something greater for you. And you’ll know that it’s all true and not just trite.

Precious me of tomorrow, you are an amazing person borne of amazing experiences, full of life and love to share with the right recipients. And just as you have waited for tomorrow to come, you can indeed wait for the perfect situation in which to find fulfillment. It will come. I promise. I know…because it always has before.

Love and admiration and patiently waiting,

The you of today

DSC_9840

The opposite of worry

I was obsessively fretting this morning. It’s a familiar feeling unfortunately. Distracted from everything I’m supposed to be doing. Picking apart one idea over and over. Wishing everyone would leave me alone so I could just worry.

What if? When? But if? Why? Could…? Should…? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

And then, God thumped me in the head. I was at school, in the middle of testing a student, but actually, I was looking out the window, lost in my thoughts. Suddenly, I little bird flew over and landed on the ground outside my window. It started picking the flowers/seeds off a little weed that was growing in the corner of the building. It sat there and ate and ate for several minutes…just as satisfied as it could be. I was fascinated. What I thought was a useless weed was a life source for that little fella.

I mentally rolled my eyes at the ‘God provides for the birds, so I know he’ll provide for me, so I should stop worrying…’ thought. But there it was, right in front of me. A happy little bird chomping away on his sustenance, not fluttering around in a distracted dither. Sure, the little fella had to look for the food, but it was there.

Then it occurred to me…the opposite of worry is action.  Worry is all in the head. I need to get out of my head and get to work. Instead of fretting, I need to focus on the tasks in front of me…finishing this school year and all its mounds of  paperwork, figuring out a birthday gift for my amazing husband, getting supplies ready for Kids Night Out at church. God has provided plenty for me, and I need to tend to what he’s given. He will continue to provide for me, and I’ll see those provisions when they are ready.

When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them a job…tend to the garden and the animals. He wanted them to be active and purposeful. He wanted them to be lively participants in their existence. When they got distracted by the nagging voice that made them worry and doubt, they got themselves in trouble. Eternal trouble. That’s what worry does...infinite damage.

God’s plan is for me to be doing what is in front of me while he takes care of what’s not in front of me yet. Tending to my flocks, gathering food, keeping my family clean, filling out my reports and eliminating my piles of end-of-year paperwork. Truly, this is all I can handle. I MUST leave the rest up to him.

Credit: digitalbirdphotography.com

Matthew 6:26-27, 31-34

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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?   31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

To read another example of how birds have shamed me, try I Know Why the Early Bird Sings.