Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Always Changing

"My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer."  Psalm 45:1

The kids read Psalm 45 aloud today at the beginning of our school day.  We read through the New Testament in 2011, and when January came along, we decided to start reading through the Psalms.  I love starting our school days with verses full of joy and praise.   This verse jumped out at me right off the bat this morning- the part about the heart overflowing is just so spot on.  My heart is overflowing, each and every day, and just when it seems like there's no more room in there, I am reminded of something else and my heart swells to near bursting.  God is just so wonderful.  

We've been very, very busy these past weeks.  January was such a calm and relaxing month for us, but February has been quite the whirlwind!  It seems like we've been moving from moment to moment with little time in between to catch our breath.  The blogging has suffered this month because of it, but be assured it's not because of a lack of things to say, thoughts to dwell on, or moments of joy that should be shared.  In fact, I've often crafted little short blog posts in my head, and have simply not found the time to sit and put words to keyboard.  

But last night as I sat at dance, as I do three evenings a week, I was thinking about how I really wanted to sit down and blog about something, and then the perfect verse popped up just a few moments ago, and I just had to do it.  The kids are off doing their reading assignments for the day, so hopefully I can accomplish something here while that is going on.  My routine at the dance studio has pretty much been the same ever since we started going there nearly six years ago.  While class is going on, I bring a book and sit and get my reading in while classes are going on.  I've loved doing that, because I honestly don't have as much time these days to just get absorbed in a book- but when I'm sitting there for a few hours while the kids dance I can get a whole lot of reading done.  It's wonderful.  But last night, as I sat there, simply holding my book, I reflected on how I haven't been getting as much reading done as of late.  On the one hand, that's kind of saddening to me, because I love to read!  But on the other hand, it shows to me exactly how God is stretching me and molding me.

Because the reason I'm not getting my reading done is not because I'm so focused on the kids dance classes, but because in the last few months I've actually set the books down and started chatting with those around me.  I know, I know, that seems like such a normal thing, but for me, well, I'm just a quiet person.  I'm not chatty- when talking, I like to just get right to the point and not waste words.  And yet, here I have been, chatting it up with the other parents around me so much more than I used to.  Oh, I've talked with people here and there in the past, I'm not completely void of social skills, but it's always been a few things here and there, and then I'd dive right back into whatever book I've got with me.  It's very interesting, and I'll tell you what totally struck me about the verse I posted up above today is the line that says "my tongue is the pen of the ready writer".  Because 95% of the time, in my conversations with people at the studio, I find myself in the role of the encourager.  Something is going on with their lives, their kids, something with dance, etc, that the person I'm speaking with is wrestling with or is concerned about, and I've been spending a lot of time encouraging those around me.

Sadly, I don't hear near enough about that.  I find most often that when people are complaining or voicing concerns, most often what is on the other end of the conversation is commiseration.  So many people out there are sad, concerned, depressed, and just feeling negative about various things in life.  By speaking words of encouragement to someone who needs it, I am using the pen that my tongue actually is and I am writing words of joy, encouragement and strength into their lives and minds.  I've literally seen the stress in another mom's eyes melt away as I've shared bits of encouragement here and there.  It's remarkable how simple words can make such a difference in another person's life.  And as Christians, I don't think we do near enough of it.  I think all too often we're too quick to want to engage someone in conversation for the express purpose of getting them saved that we get caught up in their issues ourselves and find ourselves commiserating or affirming the negative feelings instead of encouraging and exhorting.  

The Bible clearly tells us to exhort one another, to encourage one another, 

"Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)

Now, I realize that these particular verses, and many others in the Bible are speaking to us as a church- we're being given directions on how to behave towards one another as a body.  While I definitely agree that we need to be building each other up- how much more important for us to build up someone who maybe doesn't know Jesus as their personal savior?  Because I'll tell you exactly how this will play out.  As these people hear encouragement over and over from someone, over time they're going to start to get curious, and one day they're going to want to know how exactly it is that someone can be so positive all the time.  And that right there is the opening worth waiting for- the moment to introduce them to Jesus, the one who makes everything positive and wonderful.  That's where we get to share with them our faith in a God who takes care of all things, no matter how dire it may seem on the outside.

As Christians we're often referred to as clay- we talk about God being the Master Potter and molding us and shaping us until we're perfect. 
"Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:  “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! "  Jeremiah 18:5,6

When I think about that I think that as the clay, we'll probably never really be finished being molded.  There's always something new that God would have us do.  It makes me wonder sometimes, what I might look like 20 years from now.  How different could I be then if God is working on me each and every day?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Seed To The Sower

 "Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,"  2 Corinthians 9:10

I wonder if sometimes we don't ask God for different things because we think it's too small.   We'll pray for Him to heal someone of cancer, but when we have a cold, we just let it run it's course, thinking it's just a cold.  We'll pray for the finances to pay a big bill, or several big bills, but we don't pray when there is a small something that we could need.  Or maybe we don't pray about a situation, because we just don't think it's something worthy enough for God to bother with.   I've been learning about that a bit this week, as I took a few small things before God, and asked Him about them.  I've been sidelined with a nasty viral infection this week, so while its been running its course, I've had more time than normal to just think and take my thoughts to God.

One of the small things I finally took to Him was my daughter's math for school.  See what I said above about trivial things?  She's such a smart girl when it comes to math, and I've been struggling with which direction to take her in math.  At the beginning of the school year I found a math program that was inexpensive, and she enjoyed doing, but it wasn't the one we both really wanted her to do- the one we wanted cost big bucks and just wasn't going to happen.  She finished that first book, so I ordered her a second one, and in the last few weeks wound down to the end of that book too.  So we were at a crossroads.  By all accounts, she was ready to begin tackling Pre-Algebra.  But, the main program I wanted was prohibitively expensive.  The inexpensive program would work, I thought, but I was concerned about it being thorough enough.  And then there was the issue of starting at the beginning of any Pre-Algebra program.  They all begin with a serious review- of all the things Abigail has been working hard on these last months.  She didn't need review, she needed to move ahead.

So I went to God with it.  I did.  As I looked at various programs, and tried to see if I could find a thorough, inexpensive program, I kinda gave up.  I went back and looked at the cost of the expensive one, and pretty much just laid it all on Him.  I asked Him to help us find the funds to be able to purchase this program or to help me find a great alternative.  Well, Monday night because I wasn't feeling well, Andy took the kids to dance while I sprawled out on the couch and watched random TV.  I had prepared for the rest of the school week and was thinking about Abigail's math.  After this week, I was tapped out, I had nothing else on hand that would work for her.  As I thought on that, a website literally dropped into my head- along with the idea to go check it out.  I know better about random ideas- they don't just come from nowhere, so I did what any sensible person would do and grabbed the laptop and looked it up.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:9

The website was the perfect solution!  Not only does it provide excellent and thorough instruction of Pre-Algebra subjects, as well as practice material, it is completely free.  There is absolutely no cost to us to use the materials on this website for Abigail's math studies.  It's such a remarkable answer to prayer!  What I was expecting was the money to come in to buy the program we wanted, but this website is even better, because we can skip any and all review, and just move on to completely new subjects.  And when she's completely all the pre-algebra, we'll move right on into algebra.  I'm so excited, and so thrilled to know that God even cares about what my daughter is learning in math.  He knows her so well, that He knew that she would thoroughly enjoy the lectures and the practice problems as well.  

The second answer to prayer this week is more related to being a sower and needing some seed, because that's exactly what I needed this week.  I've scratched my head this week trying to figure out where I can come up with just a few dollars to pick up a few things that I've been needing at church.  Some cleaning and hospitality supplies that I'm running low on and would like to have stocked up for a conference next week.  There's just been no extra money laying around, and I was thinking about different things I could maybe list online for sale even, I just couldn't think of where to get this extra little bit of money.  So I've spent time talking to God about it, and pointing out that I just need this little bit of money to help take care of His house, and to take care of our guests next week that come for the conference.  Pretty much though, I was asking for God to show me wisdom- show me where I could find a way to make up this little bit of money I needed.  

In this instance, God worked a little more directly than that, as last night someone pressed into my hands actual money.  Enough to purchase everything I need.  I am so excited about this! Last night I had a hard time falling asleep because I kept thinking about being a gardener, and I was thinking about how when I have seeds, I sow them into the ground expecting a harvest.  I don't hoard my seeds, and I don't take my seeds and do something with them other than plant them- wasting them.  I'm sure this thoughtful person knew that Andy has not been working, and thought they'd give me a little something to bless me.  Well, being a gardener, the absolute best thing I can do with this seed that has been given to me is sow it, and there's no better place to sow it than His House.  As soon as I saw that money, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it- there were no thoughts of treating myself to something new or nice. No thoughts of taking my family out for a movie (though that would be wicked fun) or other some fun adventure.  I just thought about how generous and special this anonymous person was, and felt like a gardener- that I needed to sow this seed properly.  God saw fit to put me on someone's heart so that they would give me seed.  I can't wait to sow it!

So what small thing have you not been asking God for? Because to God, there is no such thing as a small thing.  If it matters to you, it matters to him!  He's a good Father who loves His children and cares about what they care about.  I thought of that this morning during prayer time with the kids.  We've been praying heartily for their dance costumes to come in for their first competition next week.  It may seem like a silly thing to be praying, but it's very important to my kids- they're genuinely concerned about their costumes not coming in.  So of course we pray for these costumes to come in- I'm a good mom, and if my kids are concerned, I'm concerned.  I have no doubt that God will see to their concerns and will see that they have their costumes. God cares about what my kids care for. He loves them so much.  And He loves you so much too!  So go ahead and ask Him today.  He provides seed for the sower and bread for food- He can provide the smallest desire, but sometimes He just wants to hear you ask for it.  Go ahead, ask!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Pass It On

"She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard"   Proverbs 31:16

This morning I felt inspired to turn to the passage in the Bible about  my favorite woman.  Every single time I read about the Proverbs 31 woman, I take something away from it.  But today, as I read through it, and felt encouraged in my daily duties as a housewife and mom, I noticed that something was missing.  There was one particular task that was left out of her list of exceptional achievements.  What struck me that was missing was that it never mentioned how she taught anyone what she was doing.  It never mentions once that she taught her daughters the ways of managing a household.  It never mentions that when she's sewing garments for her family, that she's teaching others to do the same.  And when she considered the field above and bought it, it never says a word about her teaching others how to do the same.  I found this very interesting.

Because that's exactly what I've been thinking about for some time.  I've often thought about teaching other people various abilities that I could pass on, but that teaching never really goes any farther than my own kids.  I remember last spring, thinking about my gardening and future salsa-making, and thinking that I should offer to teach people how to make their own salsa.  Time really ran away from me last year, though. I was making batches of salsa in my sleep sometimes, just to get it done.  I've thought in the past about teaching cooking classes, about passing on how to make simple meals homemade and from scratch.   Most recently, just this week I've been thinking a lot on the coming gardening season.  I'm in the planning stages for my gardens this year, and I thought about how it would be wonderful to pass on the love of gardening and get others to try their hand at planting a few seeds.  I wondered how I would go about doing such a thing, but then I've also wondered if I really know enough about gardening to help someone else get going.  I still have plenty of failures in that regard.

But you know, I don't think that any of those thoughts that I've had to pass on what I know have been completely futile and useless.  I do think that there will be a time in the future when those thoughts will come to fruition.

"O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep."  Psalm 92:5

God gives us His thoughts sometimes, and I actually spent quite a bit of time yesterday thinking about gardening and teaching others how to do so.  And what do you think happened?  I got a brief little message on Facebook late last night from someone asking about gardening.  God couldn't have made it any more clear to me that this idea that's been rolling around in my head is a thought that He has shared with me.   I really think that in the years to come, home vegetable gardening is going to become a very important source of food for families all over the world.  Food prices are going up, and gardening is actually quite inexpensive- especially if you know people who already garden.  Gardeners love to share seeds, tips and fruits of their labor.  And with food safety in question all the time, it just doesn't get much safer than food grown in your own backyard.  I've been feeling an urgency in getting my gardens set up for the last few years, and that urgency has not gone away.  In fact, this year's gardens are already more about what I can grow in quantity, versus what I want to try growing.

So I'm thrilled at the idea of passing on gardening.  It's something that literally anyone can do- with a pot of dirt and a handful of seeds, a meal can be produced from the ground.

"The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing."  Psalm 34:10

God gave me this ability of being able to plant seeds in the ground and understand how to make them grow.  God gave me the desire to do so in the first place- He gave me a very good thing, and it is now my task to pass on that knowledge.  I'm really excited to do so.  It could be that I end up helping just one person.  It could be that I end up helping many.  No matter how many it is, what matters is that I follow the Lord's guidance and pass on what needs to be passed on.  

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"  Psalm 34:8

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Perpetual Spring?

"Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven."  Psalm 85:11

" Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert."  Isaiah 43:19

"For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations."  Isaiah 61:11

One of the areas that I've been taking care of at church has been a little display window when you first walk in the door at church.   I don't do anything major or exciting, just keep it clean and arrange different elements as the seasons dictate.  The first year I did it, I had a lot of fun changing it up with the seasons, yet trying to keep it classy and welcoming.  I loved my display classes in college, and this is a small way I can put that talent to use.  But last spring, I did a window that I thought turned out especially nice- basic, but nice.  When late summer came though, and I started thinking about changing it up, life happened, and I never got around to changing it.  Then fall arrived, and I had these ideas of fall leaves and pumpkins, and yet again, the change didn't happen.  Of course, Christmas came next, and I had ideas of evergreens and snowflakes- things that didn't necessarily need to be changed right after Christmas. 

That window is still holding the display I made for last spring.  It's not because I've been lazy about taking care of it either.  It was almost a puzzle for me, why was it that every time I thought about doing the window, something came up?  Well, this winter has been incredibly mild and warm.  We've had beautiful temperatures- yesterday it crept up close to 50, it was so warm and nice, and when I went out, I just was filled with such hope and excitement.  The exact same hope and excitement that I feel come the end of March when the spring thaw finally rolls around.  The winter doldrums really get to me by this time every year, and I'm just so tired of being cold.  This year, it seems the winter doldrums haven't even had a chance to make an appearance.  While I realize that spring may still not happen until the end of March, this mild weather just makes me think spring!  It fills my heart with joy and hope and has me eagerly looking forward to tomorrow.

Because that's what spring does for me.  Every year when spring rolls around I get so hopeful- the idea of new things springing forth from the ground and from the trees in the air just fills me so much with the goodness of God.  The idea of experiencing spring year round is awesome to me- because it tells me that God is preparing to do a new thing!  Just as every spring we watch the ground to see what flowers and plants are going to spring forth after a season of dormancy, I am also watching God, wondering what new things He has planned for His people in the days to come.

I love new.  I am not one of those people who is resistant to change- I love it, and I look forward to everything constantly changing.  I actually try very hard to never settle into routine or keeping things the same- every day is different.  When we rolled over into the new year from the old year, I was filled with anticipation at the things that could come in this new year.  Yet, as January marched on, it marched very slowly.  It seemed to me to be a very long month.  For me, this flip into February from January is almost more exciting than the year changing, and I can't wait to see what God has planned.  Here in the United States, and in a few other places around the world, we celebrate Valentines Day in the month of February- a holiday that is all about love.  Could this be the month that God unleashes His unrelenting love on His children?  I'm ready for it.

I'm waiting for it, and I have expectations for it.  I think I was meant to leave that spring window up as a reminder that the season of new-ness is upon us.