Last week we discussed our inability to appreciate God's gifts when they are right in front of our faces. My point last week was about His creations, and how we take for granted the extraordinary beauty of this universe He created for us.
Similarly, we often live our lives, oblivious of His daily blessings. We often lament on what we do not have, rather than rejoice with what we do. For example, my family has kind of (most definitely) outgrown the town home in which we live. We often complain about a lack of space, lack of storage, tiny yard...and the list goes on and on; when not all that many years ago, this home is exactly the home we prayed for. How often we do this! We pray, we get what we want, and so quickly forget how God answered that prayer! We are so quick to become greedy and ungrateful, when LOOK! Look what God has done!
Last week, most of us heard about Build-a-Bear, and the deal (steal) they offered. They were hosting an event called Pay Your Age, in which your children could pay their own age for almost any stuffed animal in the store. For my family that would have meant $10, $9, $5, and $3; a total of $27 for four different toys and a fun experience for my children.
Unfortunately, my children have a very naive mom, who couldn't possibly imagine that people would begin standing in line for these bears, hours before the stores even opened. Silly me, I thought we could roll through around 11am, after my son's soccer camp, and have some fun. But by 11am the local stores, which had only been open for all of ONE hour, closed down entry for anyone else. There were people in line all day, many people in line for hours and still turned away.
Upon seeing this information on the website, my friend and I promptly turned to plan B. We grabbed some prepackaged lunches, and took the kids to a local playground, where instead of standing in a line all day, they had hours of fun. I then went home later that day, and downloaded my complimentary $15 coupon from the Build-a-Bear website to use for a later date. Would that deal have been nice? Yes! Taking all four of my children there to create their own toys, on a normal day, is not in our budget. It would have turned an otherwise unaffordable event, into a great memory with my kids. I don't fault anyone who wanted to get there early and wait in line to do that.
But, we made memories anyway. We had fun anyway. It was a gorgeous day with great company, and lots of laughter. What I found sad to see later that day though, were the amount of people who took to Build-a-Bear's social media pages to complain. I would speculate that the likelihood of them ever offering up this deal again, is slim to none. Adults behaved in such ungrateful ways, when this store was just trying to do a nice thing.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.
~1 John 2:15-16
It is difficult sometimes, in such a busy world, to not want more, to not desire more for our lives, our children's lives. And God does tell us to ask Him for our heart's desires. But maybe, just maybe, we need to better align our heart with Jesus, so that our heart's desires align with God's will, and not our own. Let's practice thankfulness for all that we have, patience for that which we're waiting, and faith in a God who knows exactly what we need.
I missed you guys last week! I'm very sorry that I didn't have a Monday Message ready for you, but we had a lot going on in preparation of our vacation, and family time took precedence.
As we have just returned from vacation, and are trying to get our lives back in order, I have a very brief message for you today about appreciation and gratefulness.
For vacation last week we went to my hometown area of North Central Pennsylvania. There are so very many little known towns in the rolling hills of Northern PA, and Southern NY. The town I grew up in had a population of approximately 1,500 while I lived there. My graduating high school class had only 31 students...and it was a public school. We had one traffic light in the center of town, and at 11pm every night, it changed from the standard red, yellow, or green, to blinking yellow. The town is almost exactly 1 mile long, and not even that wide, as it sits in a narrow end of the valley. The back windows of my parents' house, where I grew up, look out to the mountains.
The thing about small towns like this, is that you rarely appreciate them while you're there. When you're a kid, even a kid with a good relationship with your parents, all you can think about it getting out of that town. All you want to do is grow up, and live somewhere where people don't know your whole story; somewhere you can change your story or follow your dreams. You take for granted all the people that were looking out for you. You fail to notice the rolling hills, and the beautiful sunsets. You quickly forget the shooting stars so easily seen from your back yard, without any street lights to dim them.
While we were driving through these rolling hills last week, I became aggravated with the sunset. I'd nursed a mild to moderate headache almost the whole week, and as we were driving, the sun seemed to refuse to go down. I felt as though it was never going to give up. I slammed down the visor in complaint and said, "I just need this sun to go down already!"
My husband, who is usually the more impatient one of the two of us (but does not have my sensitive blue eyes, I might add), calmly stated, in a very nonjudgmental way, the beauty of this earth we so often take for granted. It was a sobering moment, as I looked to the hills, and remembered that I don't get to see sunsets like that anymore. I took them for granted for the 19 years of my life I lived there, and I was still taking them for granted as an adult. But there it was, staring me in the face, the gloriousness of God's creation. He was so much as telling me, look what I've made for you, and I was whining about the sun in my eyes.
We don't have to live in these rural places to appreciate God's creation. It is all around us! From what He's made, to how He's cared for us, we often need to step back a moment and remind ourselves to marvel at the gifts He has given us.
I encourage you to take the time this week (and always!), to look around and appreciate all the things, big and small, that God has done in your lives and around you. From the setting sun to the depths of the earth, there is so much to be thankful for!
Last week, we talked about where our confidence should be placed; in man or in Jesus? This week, I'd like to elaborate more on how others can effect our own walk. Every now and then I have a conversation with someone who doesn't share my faith, about why they don't believe. Every now and then I also have a conversation with someone who does believe, but doesn't like church; their church or church people in general. And it is interesting how similar those conversations are.
More often than not the reasons come down to one simple fact. People have failed them.
Humans have a way of doing that. Church members, church volunteers, church staff, even pastors are human. They are held to a higher standard, and perhaps they should be, but they are still human. They will fail you. It's not a matter of when or if, but if you spend enough time there, it will happen. They might say or do something you don't agree with. Or they might have an opinion about something that offends you. They might even be having a bad day, and behave angrily in such a way that does not reflect God at all.
How do you respond?
Because the thing is, you don't have any control over their behavior, and no matter how much you want them to be, they are not going to be perfect. You can only control your response. Are you going to let their humanness effect your life? Are you going to allow their mistakes to lessen your faith.
It's not about them. Your faith is not about anyone else. Yes, God places people throughout our lives to help us in our journey of faith. That is certain, but because of our humanness, and free will He does not control us. He knows our decisions, but does not dictate them. So when people act out of His will, when people make mistakes, when people hurt or disappoint us, that is not God. God did not fail you because a person hurt you.
And when we allow their actions to turn us away from Jesus, we are showing Jesus that our faith lies not with Him, but with man. Our relationship with Jesus is and should always be our own. Our friends, our families, even our church should not have such a stronghold on it, that when they stumble, we do too. When one person falls, we should not all collapse like dominoes, and yet, I have seen this exact thing happen within churches, time and time again.
Put your faith in Jesus, your trust in His Word, and then, when those people fall from the pedestal you've placed them on, instead of falling with them, you could lift them back up.
Friday was the last day of school for our children. It was only a half day, and I attended the awards ceremony which took up most of the day. One of the things they do, which I love so much, is in the last hour of their final day, the teachers each take their classes up to the alter and speak a blessing over each and every one of their students. As I sat there, and I watched children crying with the sadness of moving on from their beloved teachers, and teachers choking up and wiping away tears; one particular teacher sweetly sobbing as she led her class out of the chapel for the last time, I thought, how could I have ever worried about sending our children to school?
Let me backtrack just a little. When our oldest two children were 5 and 4, I began homeschooling them. I homeschooled them until they were 8 and 7, after having our fourth child. The homeschool schedule became difficult for me to keep, and I was struggling with serious back trouble after a very large baby. I was tired and stressed, and felt as though they weren't getting the best of me. As the thought of sending them to school crept into my mind, I was then filled with such a devastating guilt, that I would often cry over this decision. When I reached out to a couple of homeschool mom friends of mine, who were doing it with more children than I, I was left more discouraged than ever. There seemed to be this general idea that we were supposed to suffer, that it was for the greater good, that it was supposed to be hard. Don't get me wrong. It is hard. If it were easy, so many more families would do it. But I was made to feel like a failure, as though my friends, with 2 or 3 more children were tougher and stronger, and pushing through, and I was just giving up on what they felt was the best option.
They did not mean to make me feel this way. Of that I am certain. I believe that they were trying to encourage me to do what I had originally felt so called to do. But what I really needed to hear was, It's OK.
It's OK to need help. It's OK to change your mind. Sometimes, it's ok to quit.
You. Are. Enough.
Life is fluid. It doesn't always flow easily. There are sometimes steep drop offs, often jagged rocks, and turbulent waters, but it keeps moving. As we move through it, sometimes we need to adapt and adjust to the changing currents.
The thing about being enough is that we have to be able to recognize when we need to make changes, when we need to ask for help. Truth?
Sometimes we aren't enough.
What I needed to wrap my brain around, in that moment, was that I wasn't quitting on my children. I wasn't quitting because it was too hard, or because I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do it. I was adapting. I was changing the plan to better suit the needs of my children. I was asking for help. I was praying. And while a few of my friends didn't understand what I needed, God did.
And so, this little school that was randomly suggested by an acquaintance in passing, this school that wasn't even on our radar to contact, suddenly became one of the greatest decisions of our lives. It is a place where our children are literally loved to tears, a place of great growth and learning, a place where our children are learning how to walk with Jesus, a place that has afforded me the opportunity to coach my son in a sport we both love, a place we can trust with our children while I now have more freedom to grow a business from home and contribute to the income of this ever growing family. But listen, it is a place we never would have thought to look...on our own.
The enemy will tell you that you're not good enough. The enemy will tell you you're a quitter. The enemy wants you to feel like a failure, and if you're trying to do all the things on your own, he will feel victorious, and you will feel defeated. Because you aren't meant, on your own, to be enough. You weren't supposed to be. You were designed to need Jesus, and what He has to offer, is more than enough.
I tell my kids this all the time, be a good listener; when the fact is, I myself, am a horrible listener. I thrive on distractions, as though I intentionally seek them. In fact, when sitting down to write this message, I picked up my phone to turn on my worship music, and 20 minutes of social media scrolling later, I set the phone down, forgetting why I had picked it up to begin with. My poor children often try to tell me something while I'm in the middle of working, blogging, crocheting or counting stitches, making my grocery list, or budget planning. There is always something. There is always a reason for me to say, Not right now.
And how often are we giving the same distracted answer to God? How often are we ignoring Him because it might be inconvenient at the time? Or maybe just something we really don't want to do?
I am really talking to myself, soooo much, right now.
When we tell our children to be good listeners, what are we really requiring of them? We don't want them to just hear the words, we want them to heed our instruction. It is a call to action.
God will make Himself very clear in our hearts. He is not always going to be a booming voice from the Heavens, but if you ask for direction, open your Bible, and open your heart to hear His whispers, He will make clear to you what you should do. In some cases, the answer is simply to wait, but often, in day to day life, when opportunities arise to serve others, we can feel the tugging on our hearts, but we are busy, we have far too much on our plates, it's inconvenient, or we just plain and simply do not want to do it.
Do more than just pray. Do more than just listen. If anyone hears my voice AND opens the door, I will come in. To be a good listener is to be willing to act when called upon.
Open the door.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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