Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Morning Stroll

As I sit outside this morning I looked up to see a male and female mallard walking across one of the bridges in my courtyard.  It was an adorable scene that begged me to jump up, grab my phone and photograph it to share on facebook.  In this social media crazed world, which I truly enjoy participating in, our first thought is to share it with others.  And there really is something great about that.  About being able to share our lives with others, to be able to see and experience things with friends near and far.  Really, I want to be clear, I love social media.

But in that moment, as I was about to jump up and capture it for all to see I stopped.  Because the down side of becoming a reporter for the world is that sometimes we completely miss experiencing the moment for ourselves.  So I continued sitting still and watching these two companions come across the bridge, walk across the grass, pause on a path near a second bridge to enjoy the view.  They weren't in a hurry, seemed to have nowhere to be but here in this moment, in this place, together.  And for a few minutes I got to join them, share in their contented morning stroll and enjoy this place God put me today.  Eventually the waddled off out of my sight to carry on with their day and I had to get up and begin my day.  But for a moment, I got to stop the crazy of life with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and just be present.

It was nice.  So, although I still don't have a picture, I decided to share it.  After I was done experiencing it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

God's Perfect Timing

Yesterday was Easter and it was sunny.  I have often noticed that no matter what stage of winter/spring we are having here in Minnesota, on Easter Sunday it is always sunny.  I think God does that on purpose.  Except last year, I specifically remember thinking, "Um God, Hello, it is Easter, where is your sun?"  But this year not only was it sunny but it was also WARM, which we really have not had for a long time.  6 months really.  Seriously, we have not had warm weather for 6 MONTHS.  But yesterday it was glorious, 70 degrees, beautiful blue skies.  I did not wear a coat, stood outside talking to friends while the kids did an easter egg hunt after church, sat on my parents deck after lunch, sat on my own patio until well past dinner time dragging myself in to feed the family.  Glorious.  If only every day the weather was that perfect...

This morning as I was writing out my prayer I thanked God for bringing the good weather in his perfect timing.  But then I thought about that.  While bringing perfect weather on Easter Sunday is perfect timing, couldn't we have had a nice ramp up to perfectly timed perfect weather?  While I truly believe that God makes everything perfect in his perfect timing, it just got me thinking about the wait before the perfect timing.  Because I think that a month ago the timing would have been pretty perfect too.

This was a LONG winter.  And that isn't to say that throughout the winter I didn't know spring would come, it always does.  Frankly, knowing spring would eventually come was what got me through winter.  But did knowing it would come in God's perfect timing make it any easier?  Make me long for the warmth any less?

Maybe it is just me but somehow when I think of the phrase, "All in God's perfect timing" I feel like the underlying message is:  Therefore stop being unhappy where you are at, stop wishing for something you don't have, stop thinking about the future, stop...just stop.  So as I think about spring coming in God's perfect timing this year and look back on how miserable I have felt about the weather the last couple months I immediately feel guilty for not being content and trusting in God's perfect timing.

But then I wonder.  Does knowing God works all things out in his perfect timing, in his perfect way, mean I am not allowed to be miserable in a miserable situation?  Does it mean I am not allowed to want for the better?  For warm weather, for improved relationships, for financial security?  Why do I think that because God takes care of everything I am not allowed to desire.  When it is ridiculously cold and miserable outside am I not allowed to experience that?

I don't think that is right at all.  We are called to be content in all situations but lately I have been learning that a desire for better does not automatically mean I am discontent.  I can work to improve my life without being discontent with where it is right now.  Or I can work to improve my life while being discontentment with where I am right now.  Two vastly different experiences will follow.  Somehow this truth seems so simple and obvious that I should have figured it out long before I was in my 40's.  Yet I continue to learn and grow...all in God's perfect timing.  So while I did have a couple days this winter of despairing discontentment over the weather, overall I was content to just walk through each day knowing God would work it out in his perfect timing.  Whether I liked that particular timing or not.

Photo: I have been dreaming of doing this since we move in last fall. If you need me for the next few months you can find me here.

If you need me for the next few months you can find me here, feeling content, enjoying the blessing of warm weather and soaking up the joy of spring and summer to contentedly get me through another cold and miserable winter next year.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phil 4:12-13
"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  Is 40:31

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crazy Busy but Wonderful

When I was a homemaker I read a lot of books on planning, time management, organization, leadership, etc.  At the time it was because I was running a household, helping John run a small business, helping with church ministry, raising children.  I thought I was busy and needed to get control over these areas of my life so I could stay on top of everything. And really, I did.  If I hadn't had a plan it would have been a mess.

But now that I am working and running a household, starting a small business and raising a daughter, while my husband is in school full time and working I really need those books.  I have read even more books and web sites the past couple years on time management and organization from a working perspective.  And I am trying to figure out our life and how to plan so everything still gets done.

It is a juggling act.  I am slowly figuring out what is important and what can wait.  I am re-discovering the importance of a to-do list in keeping me on track.  However, what I have not figured out is how to re-arrange the schedule when something comes up.  I realize now how much margin I had in my life when I was a homemaker compared to now.  This week was a good but full week.  I had meetings, appointments, time with friends, time for paperwork and time to run a couple errands all scheduled in.

Then I got sick.

I am not really that sick, just a cold, but I wanted to be sure I slept well Tuesday night so I took some nyquil before bed.  I forget how sensitive I am to drugs, I should not have done that.  While I was sickest Wednesday I could have pressed forward, I have been much sicker and worked, but I couldn't push out of my nyquil fog.  I slept until after 1pm and it was another couple hours and some food before I finally was able to get in the shower so I could meet clients at 5pm.  I might have tried to run my errands after that meeting but we were having one of those not so unusual April snow storms and all I wanted to do was get back home.

The problem is I literally do not have another free moment to run errands again until Saturday.  And while we have food and John can wait 2 more days to shave his head, I had planned to buy Easter cards to send my son and daughter-in-law so they received them before Easter.  I could have sent them on Thursday and possibly still gotten them on time but Saturday...Definitely will be a late Easter gift.

Now this is hardly an end of the world problem.  I suppose if it was I would have stayed out in the snow storm wednesday night and got it done.  But what it reminds me of is how little margin I have in my life right now.

One day at a time as I slowly begin to get organized and make a plan I am seeing how all those books on being an organized homemaker, all those classes on time management I took when I had lots of time to manage are now so relevant and helpful in my life as I learn to find that time and create a little margin.  I am thankful for the stage of my life where I had time to learn to organize my time.

And as I am praying for revival in my family, starting with me, I love how even something like managing your time is a topic God has addressed.  Yesterday I was reading in Prov 16 (on April 16, get it?):

"To man belong the plans of the heart but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue." v1"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." v3"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."v9"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." 15:22 (from the 15th reading.)

As I sit down this weekend to finally catch my breath, after running those set aside errands, and start making plans for next week, I am reminded to let the Lord look over my plans and continue walking forward with Him through this crazy busy but wonderful stage of life we are in.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jonah and Revival

The past few weeks we have had a sermon series on Jonah at church.  Excellent as always.  It is a fascinating book which includes a fantastical tale of a man living in a fish for 3 days and 3 nights.  A man called by God who runs away from that call.  A man who sees there is no way out, confesses his sin, is released from his fishy captivity and goes to fulfill God's call on his life.

When Jonah gets there I really don't imagine a ton of enthusiasm in his message.  Nineveh isn't a place of God.  It is filled with sinful people living sinful lives.  That is sort of the whole reason God is going to destroy it and the whole reason Jonah didn't want to go in the first place.  I sort of imagine him wandering the city square muttering under his breath, "the end is near, the end is near".  No call to repentance since he did not believe nor want God to save them.  He wandered over to the temple, preached his message with no engaging stories or convicting finger pointing.  Just your basic, "you are all a bunch of sinners and God is going to destroy you" message and then sitting back down.  He did this while waiting for God to do the deed.  I imagine he planned to smile smugly at their destruction, knowing they deserved it, God said so, and head back where he came from.

But this crazy thing happened.  The people heard him, believed, and turned to God.  Confessed their sins and begged for mercy.  And then!  THEN!  To Jonah's horror, God accepted their confession, forgave them and called off the destruction plan!  Can you imagine?

So Jonah had a little tantrum, God tried to give him an object lesson and the book is over.

And we tell this story to our children in Sunday School lessons and in little story books and in veggie tales movies.

I sort of relate to Jonah.  I mean God makes a very big deal of sending him to warn Nineveh of its destruction.  He goes around telling everyone God is going to destroy the city and then God makes him look like a fool by changing his mind!

I hate looking stupid.  Seriously hate it.  So while I can look at this overall story and see how ridiculous Jonah was being about the whole thing, if I step in and stand in his shoes, I get it.

This week I have been thinking about times in my life where I really felt like I was following God's call and in the end things didn't go they way I expected.  And I am standing there looking a little foolish and wondering what I did wrong.  Did I hear wrong?  Do I know God at all?  I shrink back to my corner hoping nobody noticed and vow not to make any bold statements again.  Who am I to know the mind of God?  I will just hang back and watch life play out, no need to be a player, just observe and lick my wounds.

But maybe, MAYBE, it wasn't that I heard God wrong but that circumstances changed.  Maybe I don't know God's full plan.

I suspect that God's message all along, what He sent Jonah to do, was a call to repentance.  While he was prepared to destroy Nineveh His ultimate goal was to bring them back into fellowship with Him.  And the people fully did so. If Jonah had a heart for the things of God rather than being more aware of his own desires and actions, he might have seen the truth and been able to rejoice with God and the people of Nineveh.  If he was really paying attention and looking at his life he might have even put on sackcloth of his own and fasted and prayed alongside the Ninevites.

I am reminded that God's plans are bigger than my plans.  He sees the whole picture, knows the hearts of an entire city.  I can only see my very limited and earthly view of things.  Will I be like Jonah and hold a grudge against people never letting them change or reach out to God?  Will I go sit in the desert and demand God bring them destruction?  Or will I join God in his work?  Rejoice when I see repentance and trust that His plans, His ways are far above my own.

I have been thinking about praying for revival this week.  And I was reminded of a story I first read in the book, "The Circle Maker" of a man who drew a circle on the ground, sat down inside and asked God to create a revival inside that circle.  Revival starts with us.  Any revival I want to see must start with me.  And it starts with confessing our sins and submitting ourselves to God's purposes.

That is what I am doing this week because while I may relate to Jonah, I don't want to be Jonah.

Care to join me?  Here are a couple great articles I found to help get me started:

How to Have a Personal Revival
Preparation for Personal Revival