Monday, June 23, 2014

Ready to stop my why-ning

The past few weeks I have noticed a definite difference in my outlook on life. Just one short month ago, I was having a really tough time shaking off the doldrums. (Funny word, doldrums...sounds as depressing as it is.) 

Life hadn't been going the way I thought it would and I was stuck in the place of "Why-ning". No, I didn't say whining, although the two are very close both in sound and meaning. I said WHY-ning, where you constantly find yourself asking, "Why?" Why didn't I get that job that I thought was so right? Why are younger people moving forward in their careers so much faster than I am?  In a recent discussion with a friend, I also heard another familiar "why." Why aren't we at a place where we can retire? We thought we'd be better off by now! Oh, how many times have I heard myself ask that one!

Now, I don't think God minds us asking why, but when we get stuck in the why mode, it's like we being stuck in mud! It slows you down or stops you completely! All these "whys" tend to build and build and before you know it, you are living in the doldrums. Evidently the road to the doldrums is paved in muddy whys and they are EASY to get stuck in.

Somewhere in all this, however, I decided that God must have a reason why, whether I understood it or not. He knows what He has planned for me, plans for good and not for evil, plans for a hope and a future. I don't have to know exactly how He'll do things for that plan to come about. What I have to do is change my "why" to "what."

Instead of sitting in one place (or walking round and round that same old mountain of why,) I ask, "What is it You would have me do today where I am?" What can I do to make where I am a better place right now.

I noticed a difference the day I was walking out of class and saw a straw wrapper laying on the ground. I almost walked past it, but instead turned and picked it up. Such a small thing, but it made that tiny spot a little better for us all. I noticed I felt a little better, too. Maybe this was indeed the key.

Then I started thinking about the place I am in my career. No, it's not where I thought I'd be, but evidently it is where God wants me. (I have to admit, getting notes from a parent of a former student and from a former student DEFINITELY brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my lips. Being able to be in a class with instructors who imparted not only lessons but life helped a WHOLE lot, too!) Slowly, I started to let go of "why" and instead focused on "what" - what can I do where I am?

This past Sunday, as if the pastor was reading my mind, he talked about Jacob. Here, in a very small nutshell, are a few of the notes I took from his sermon. 

#1 - Jacob was not in a perfect place, but he made a difference. Anyone can make a difference.
#2 - Everyone SHOULD make a difference. (How do I want to be remembered?)
#3 - I can trust the promises of God because He does not lie.
#4 - I will be productive...well, if I shake off those muddy doldrums I will be.
#5 - I am meant to be a blessing where He places me.

There is a LOT more to the sermon including that I need to live my life for an audience of One - the Lord! Wherever I am, He is - therefore I make a difference! 

At one point, the pastor said something about the story of Jacob's ladder and it really struck me that it applies to my story as well. He said something along the lines of we need to let the story take us where it wants to take us and stop trying to make the story what we want it to be. Same thing in my life. I am so much happier when I stop trying to MAKE my story what I think it should be and simply live each day where God has placed me with joy.

I am reminded of the story of Moses at the burning bush when God asked him, "What is in your hand?" It's not "What will be in your hand," or "What can you dream is in your hand," or even "What can you believe for to be in your hand." It's simply use what I've put in your hand. 

I'll be honest. I'm still working on this, especially when I see someone else much younger than me moving into careers I thought were the ones I was to have...but then I'm not looking at what is in my hand, I'm looking at what I think should be there. The thing is, now I know the cure. I'll replace my "Why-ning" with "What-ing." 

Each morning I think I'll ask myself, "Now WHAT can I do today to make the world a brighter place for Him? (Hmmm, I just noticed how much what sounds like watt!) The more I think about it, the more I think I like WHAT a whole lot better than WHY...and what-ing feels a whole lot better than why-ning any day.

Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

Genesis 28: 10 - 22 (NIV)
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I could have my own reality show

I wrote this post over two years ago...not really sure why I never posted it. I rediscovered it today, so here are some past random thoughts from a morning run.

Since school has been out, I've had some time to catch up on what's on daytime tv and have discovered some shows called "The Real Housewives of...." Evidently there are a number of these shows in different locals, so I figure the next logical show would be set in south Mississippi and feature me!

I could SO do one of these shows. Let me present our many similarities and I'm sure you'll agree!

On these shows, the women all go out to eat at restaurants - so do I! Of course, my idea of "eating out" usually features a happy meal or on a splurge a $5 footlong, but it's eating out all the same!

These women all have a network of friends that laugh together...I have friends! We're usually laughing about the funny things our kids do or how hilarious it is to have extra month left at the end of your money. Each of these friends is truly beautiful and amazing in their own right.

On one of these shows, there is a Countess....hey, I've got that beat! I'm a daughter of THE King!

These women are always doing "charitable" work. They like to help others "less fortunate" than themselves. Gee, since less fortunate usually means less money I'm wondering why they haven't shown up at my house to help me out! Oh wait....we're talking about why I should have a show.

The women on these shows spend lots of money on things that they "need" for their lifestyle. They spend money on shoes, purses, new outfits, au pairs, wigs, get the picture. I, too, spend money on things we need to maintain the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed - electricity, gas, food, home hair color. They eat things like caviar and steak tartar...okay, so I don't eat fish eggs or raw steak, but I can scramble a mean chicken egg and I love burgers!

These women have children - I have children! Of course their children are quite extraordinary - they know their colors by the age of 4 and do all sorts of tricks for candy. My kids can be bribed, too. Oh, and they know their colors!

These women always seem to be having a conflict with one of their "group." Guess that part leaves me out...I find that my friends are always going out of their way to help me and we LOVE it when another friend succeeds.

Finally, I've noticed that these women have real "connections" with influential people. These women delight in introducing others to the important people they know on a first name basis! They eat with them, drop their name at almost every opportunity, and generally make sure you know about their "connection". Hey, I have connections! Did I mention I am a daughter of THE KING?!? But I have to admit there is a difference. I'm afraid I don't do everything in my power to introduce others to my Father. I wonder, if I had my own reality show would anyone even know who my Father is? In my reality show, would the difference show or would the producers/editors find the clips that make me look just like everyone else?

There was once a saying, "If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?" I hope so....but maybe I'd just look like everyone else.

I don't want a reality show....I just want to live in such a way that I stand out in the crowd. Moses stood out - he positively "glowed" after being with the King. Peter stood out - remember the servant girl who pointed him out in the crowd? Paul stood out WHEREVER he went, even when he wasn't trying!

I have been given so much more than any reality star could ever hope for...and I want the world to see. 

Hmmm. As I go into my day today, I wonder will anyone ask for my autograph? 

Matthew 5:16

The Message (MSG)
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

1 Peter 2:12

The Message (MSG)
11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Manna and stuff....

God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration. I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it will turn out to be twice as much as their daily ration.”...
11-12 God spoke to Moses, “I’ve listened to the complaints of the Israelites. Now tell them: ‘At dusk you will eat meat and at dawn you’ll eat your fill of bread; and you’ll realize that I am God, your God.’”... So Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat. And these are God’s instructions: ‘Gather enough for each person, about two quarts per person; gather enough for everyone in your tent.’”
17-18 The People of Israel went to work and started gathering, some more, some less, but when they measured out what they had gathered, those who gathered more had no extra and those who gathered less weren’t short—each person had gathered as much as was needed.
19 Moses said to them, “Don’t leave any of it until morning.”
20 But they didn’t listen to Moses. A few of the men kept back some of it until morning. It got wormy and smelled bad....
Exodus 16

It's summer - the favorite time of year for teachers. Finally we can let our hair down, spend some time with our own families, and....clean our house! Yes, you heard right. Almost without fail, the last week of school I hear teachers say something along the lines of "Now I can clean my house!"

Now lest you think all teachers are slobs, we are not! We just spend the entire school year taking care of our own children, teaching, grading, planning, etc. etc. etc. until the days fly past us and the clutter builds around us. That is why, despite a month long workshop, I am thrilled to be able to spend a little time letting go of the clutter that surrounds me.

The other day as I prepared to do a little "clutter tossing," I got to thinking about the children of Israel and manna. That's how my mind works - crazy connections that make no sense at first but eventually help me see things in a light that is crystal clear!

I was thinking about why I have so much "stuff" in my house. Some of it has collected because I put it down to "deal with it later" and then forgot about it, but some of it has collected because of a lack of trust in God. Seriously? Yep...and I realized it when I made the manna connection.

How often have I kept something because "I might need it later"? Or, it's still good...too good to throw away. So I keep it till I might need it. Over time all the "stuff" I've kept piles up and the thing I kept till I might need it - well, even if I needed it I can't find it! I wind up going out and purchasing another simply because I couldn't find the first one. Oh, and about 95% of the other stuff I keep until I might need it - it never even is thought of again. 

Then there is the part I've tried to ignore....the stuff I kept simply "goes bad" and starts to stink up my life! It weighs me down and holds me back from the life God has for me. Some literally goes bad - things do have a shelf life you know, and some goes bad because it is just no longer useful for the life I now lead. For example, as a teacher I have lots of "cool lesson stuff" that I may need one day. As I packed up my classroom to move to another grade level next year, I realize how much of my "cool stuff" never got used because it was out of date, or more likely, available in some form on computer! I could find in seconds what would take me hours to find hunting through old files! And a lot of times, the stuff on the internet is updated and WAY better than the paper copies that are collecting dust and (yuck) bugs!

And in all of this, it's a bit like I'm not trusting God to provide what I will need when I need it. 


If God gave it to me in the first place, won't He provide again when I need it? Instead of holding on to things that I might "need" later, wouldn't it be better to simply give the extra to someone else that can use it now and leave my space free for whatever blessings God wants to give me today? (Oh, and the whole holding on to it till I find someone who needs it - that doesn't really work. Sometimes we discover others don't need/want our manna. Take it to an organization that helps distribute to those who need or throw it away! Either way, don't hold on to it too long cause it will start to "smell!")

God will provide for our needs DAILY and holding on to things just in case is actually showing a lack of faith - at least for me it is. God did give instructions to keep some on the 6th day, so that the people could rest on the 7th, but if I am honest with myself, I'm NOT holding on to the things God tells me to...I'm trying to act like God and decide for myself!

I recently started re-reading a book by Peter Walsh called "It's All Too Much" and then this morning an article from Prevention magazine came in my email. In it, Peter is quoted as saying, "Too much stuff sucks the life out of families." To re-energize the family unit, Walsh turns to this fundamental question: Does the stuff you own give you joy and pleasure? "Does it help you create the life you want?" If it does, hold on to it, but set some limits—you can't own everything," he says. "It's all about treating your space with honor and respect." One of Walsh's favorite sayings is, "Clutter is decisions delayed." 

So, I'm starting my summer with a new way of looking at cleaning. Instead of just trying to organize my "stuff" I'm working on letting go, freeing my hands, my heart, and my home for whatever new thing God has in store for me and my family. You can't organize clutter, you can only hold on to it or let it go. I've got that stupid song from "Frozen" stuck in my head. Oh well, at least I'll be singing as I move forward! Happy summer my friends!

Below are links to the article, which I highly recommend reading; and for those who haven't heard it enough, the song from Frozen! 

Prevention article