Monday, March 20, 2017

Talent vs. Skill

My husband is a natural-born chef. Remember Remy the rat in the movie Ratatouille? The rat is my husband. This is a man that can make tire rubber taste good. I'm not kidding.

I, however, am not a natural-born chef. I'm a pretty good cook though. The differences between my skills and his abilities almost put a wedge between us because I, the homemaker, was also the main meal-maker in the house- and it galled me every time he came home and 'tweaked' my dinner as I prepared it.

Every. Single. Time.

He'd come home and taste my soups, then add a little of this or that. The problem was he'd never tell me what he'd added, and what he did always improved the dish quite a bit. It drove me crazy- and I'll be honest here- it made me feel like I wasn't good enough.

It was even worse when he tried to teach me.

Not only was I an unwilling student, he was not a natural-born teacher. Arguments would ensue and feelings were hurt, and at one point I stopped cooking altogether. Why bother, when he was just going to 'fix' it anyway?

This was getting us nowhere. Pride was getting in the way, as was stubbornness- on both our parts. Pride goeth before a fall, and we were cannon-balling ourselves right into the chicken soup stock.

Then God intervened.
We began talking with each other and praying together about the situation. 

I have a talent for teaching. Not a great one, but enough to help my husband understand how to teach me to cook. I had to put my hurt pride aside and really watch what he was doing (especially because he doesn't measure!), then when I gained confidence, I tried my own tweaks before he came home.

Eventually I learned to ask him for help when the flavor wasn't what I wanted. Oh, that was so hard to do! But the soup wouldn't get eaten if it didn't taste right, and my hatred of food waste was greater than my pride, so I asked- then paid close attention when he showed me what to add.

Miracles of miracles, sometimes I got it just right. I knew I'd done a good job when he went back for seconds!

Eventually I learned enough that he didn't have to tweak things as often, and I had no problem asking him for help if it needed tweaking. We've learned what our talents are in the kitchen, and have taught each other what skills we could. I'm still a better bread maker and candy creator than he is, and he does soup and desserts like nobodies business. He's still learning my pie crust rolling skills- he still has trouble getting a rounded, even crust, but he's getting better with practice. 

We can even joke with each other when cooking now!

It's so easy to envy others their talents. I know I'll never be a great chef, and I've accepted that now. God showed me that not everyone will be good at everything, and that's okay
God wants me to be a writer, not a famous chef- He's given the 'cheffing' talent to my husband. And my husband knows that whenever he creates a talk for his Men's Fellowship group, he can always come to me for editing and rewrites!

It took us a long time to get to this point. It wasn't easy! Prayer, a humbling of our hearts, and a willingness to learn helped us to be a better team in the kitchen- and outside of it. 

Discover your talents through prayer. Learn what skills you can, and understand that not everyone can be the best at everything. Talent (or natural ability) is not the same as a skill- don't envy someone else for their gift! God has enough for us to do without envy getting in the way. 

Be the awesome you that you are, and let His light shine through your talents!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Rich Mans Reflections

There once was a very rich man who stored his hoarded gold in sacks. He enjoyed looking at his gold, but found the sacks cumbersome. He sought a builder to make him a secure storage room.

Many builders came, hoping for the favor of the rich man, but none shared his vision for the storage room. Then one builder got his attention.
"Sir, I can not only build you a fantastic room, it will magically increase your fortune tenfold!"
The rich man didn't believe him at first, but since he was also a greedy man, it didn't take long for him to be convinced. "Build the room first, and then if it's true, I will give you all of the gold I have now." 
Elated, the builder agreed and went to work.

A few days later, the builder returned. " I'm finished Sir! The gold is securely inside. Would you like to see it?"
"Yes!" the rich man said, following the builder to his new treasure room.
The builder gave him the keys to the lock, and when the rich man opened the door, the room shone with ten times the gold he'd had! "This is wonderful! The rich man exclaimed. "You may take the amount I used to have- my servants will count the coins as you take them out. Excited, he went to tell his friends of his newly found fortune.

When he returned with his friends, the builder had long gone with his carefully counted share. The rich man unlocked the door and flung it open to show his friends...an empty room! "What is this?!?" The no-longer-rich man exclaimed. "The room was ten times full of the gold he took!"

One of his friends tossed a single gold coin into the room, and the carefully placed mirrors reflected ten coins after it landed. "Alas my friend, those who seek quick and easy riches wind up with empty pockets!"

There are a few lessons in my story. 

One, the rich man wasn't happy with what he had. We've all been there, me included! But God tells us to be content with the blessings we receive. Sometimes we just lose track and start focusing on what everyone else has instead of the blessings we have. The best way to conquer this is to thank God each day for the big and little things He gives us- no matter how small!

Two, get-anything-quick schemes rarely (if ever) work. You need to invest time in your treasures, whether they be money, relationships, raising children, or building a career. Time is needed to learn, build skill, and know the ropes in order to be successful- no matter whether you're a CEO or a stay-at-home mom.

Three, be careful what you promise. If it seems too good to be true, don't make promises. If you say you'll do something, do it. Pray for wisdom to know when and where to make promises, otherwise you might be taken advantage of- or be so overwhelmed fulfilling promises you miss God's call!

Be grateful. Share what you have. Keep your promises. Be wise. These are all things that make Gods smile! What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Building a Rock-Solid Foundation

Several years ago, I wrote a post called Modern Family Structure- Building On Sand (the link is below). It was a post about the basic family structure breaking down, being nearly destroyed by modern-day whims. But what my post didn't cover was how to build a firmer family foundation.

Here are some tips to get you started.

It starts with having a stable relationship with your spouse. Why bring children into a chaotic environment? The world is crazy enough! Friendship and respect are key for a rock-solid foundation- not the physical aspects of marriage- sex is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Be the cake. Talk to each other. Work out issues instead of letting them fester. Apologize and forgive. Then you can have all of the icing you want!

Give your little cupcakes a steady support system to rely on when they enter this world. The best scenario is to have one parent stay home to raise the children (and let's face it- biblically speaking, it's usually the mother. See Proverbs 31: 10-31); this takes a lot of sacrifice, but in the end, your kids will be raised by you, with your set of ethics and standards- not the daycare or babysitters' mindset. Besides, this will also protect your kids from dangerous outside influences, potential abuse, and unsavory attentions.

Does that make Mom a slave? Nope. In fact, Proverbs tells us just the opposite! She runs that house like a boss; she buys land and makes clothing for her family and servants. I always joke with my husband that this means I can have a cleaning lady (though he has yet to hire one. Sigh.) A proverbs 31 Mom also works out of her home, selling goods that she made with her own two hands. I don't think God had computers in mind when this was written, but there's no reason Mom can't work out of her home via the internet! As long as the work is done after the kids are taken care of, or during school hours.

It's not easy, but it can be done. I know. I did it. And I'm not one of those soccer-mom Type-A people. I'm a type-B- as in 'Be in Bed and sleep late' kind of people. 

Who said God doesn't perform miracles anymore?

As for Dad, He's the main breadwinner (and yes, he can work out of the home too!) and he's the one to lead the family in God's will. He teaches the boys to be honorable men (and to play rough and teach them that mud won't kill them despite Mom's protests), and he teaches the girls to be respectable young ladies. 

How? By showing his love and respect for his wife in front of them. Kids need to see parents pray, and yes, argue- and apologize to each other when the argument is over! Children need to learn how to biblically deal with conflict. Children also need to know that there will be struggles (especially if one parent is bringing in income), but with God, anything is possible. Parents show God's glory by living their lives to please Him.

The hardest part is consistency. You need to train kids constantly- the lessons just change as they grow. Kids need chores to do, discipline, and a set of rules to live by so by the time they move out, they will be ready to take on the world and it's skewed ideals. Parents need to be on the same page when it comes to training as well- one parent can't be lenient and other too tough, and any 'bending' of the rules should be discussed first. 

Communication. Caring. Consistency. The three C's of family life. But the most important is the fourth C- Christ. Only through Him will we thrive as a Christian family in a world of chaos!


Monday, February 27, 2017

God's Dust Bunnies

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust- God took ashes and breathed, and lo, here we are cruising the Internet and drinking lattes. 

If you think deeply about it, we are God's little dust-bunnies.

Unlike those dust-bunnies under our couches, we were not only given life, but given free will- and a purpose. Dust-bunnies on a mission! 

(plays the 'Mission Impossible' theme song)

Some of us are busy bunnies, rolling all over the place like tumbleweeds in a tornado, doing anything and everything we can for God and His glory. Others are just like those couch bunnies- hiding under the furniture legs until someone drags us out with a duster. Usually it's God doing the dusting, or one of those 'Energizer' dust-bunnies running forth to help after hearing God's call. Either way, those resistant bunnies will be coming out from under that couch!

I'm one of those in-between bunnies- the ones with just enough Velcro to attach herself to the cushions, resisting the mops, brooms, and vacuums until God decides to pluck us off and put us where He wants us. Good thing God likes dust bunnies or I'd be in the Heavenly Dust Bin by now.

Recently, God has plucked me out of my comfort zone and sent me tumbling across His living room floor. I won't say yet what I'm working on, but it will be awesome when it's finished! (I'll tell you then- I promise!)

In the meantime God is happy plunking my gimpy dust-bunny butt in a desk chair to write, write, write! Thanks to some other motivational bunnies God sent me, I have a schedule and a few goals set so I can put to better use the time God gave me.

What kind of dust bunny are you? Do you let God blow you across the floor, or are you still peeking out from under the couch? Remember that the same breath that gave us life will also guide us as we tumble! Don't be afraid to let Him pluck you from the cushions- what He has planned for you is awesome!  


Monday, February 20, 2017

What's In Your Cup?

We've all heard the biblical term 'My cup runneth over'. Even secular people use it to define that life is good and everything is running smoothly. But have we thought about what having a 'full cup' really means, and what, exactly, is in our cup?

A cup overfull with blessings is a good thing. God wants us to have 'runneth over' cups, so we can share the overflow with others, hence filling their cups. In fact, the more we try to empty our cups of blessings, the more God wants to fill them!

But a cup that is full of hate, anger, and resentment is like a cup full of that gooey stuff from the coffee machine in the movie Monsters Inc.- kinda hard to fill a cup with blessings when it's already full of gunk.

My cup has both blessings and gunk in it. There are people I haven't forgiven (yet), people I need to ask to forgive me, as well as fear, anger, and resentment towards life situations. This gunk hinders more blessings from pouring in and taints the blessings already swimming around in there, so I'm better off cleaning out my cup and washing it before letting God fill it again. 

I've gotten so used to the gunk in my cup that I forget it's there- until God gives me a taste of His pure water- then I go back to my cup and wrinkle my nose at the gunk I didn't truly see before.

That's when the good stuff is supposed to happen.

Yet sometimes it doesn't. Forgiveness on either the giving or receiving end is hard, because God says to reconcile with the person- yes, you heard me, reconcile, as in go to that person and talk to them; It's the world that says forgiveness can be found in a room by yourself, but the biblical way is to go to the person and ask for forgiveness- or give it. It's in Matthew 5:23-24. In fact, God says to do it before you go to Him to ask for blessings.

Yikes!

I don't know about you, but I know some of the people I need to forgive (and ask forgiveness from) are not gracious people. One of the reasons I haven't asked them yet is because I expect confrontation or a snarky response! 
But that's also why my cup has gunk and why God can't fill it with His blessings as much as He'd like to. I'm my own hindrance.

What's in your spiritual cup? Is there more gunk than blessings? When the blessings overflow, do you share the runoff with others? Do you share the runoff with others who aren't in God's will yet? Ooh, that last one has to be the toughest!

Yes, there's still gunk in my cup. But I've had a taste of God's water, and I want more. But I have to want it more than the gunk in my cup- all I have to do is forgive, be forgiven, and let go of the fear and anger I've gotten used to. Only then can God let the blessings runneth over!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hospitality Gift

My husband and I are hospitality oriented. I'm a more homey, welcome-to-my-fridge type, while my husband is more the let-me-be-your-butler-for-the-evening type. But there are ups and downs to having this gift.

We love making others happy. Seeing someone who is clearly enjoying themselves is the best part of serving. We like feeding people our homemade goodies, but we also like the anticipation of hosting an event. We might have to make five-hundred hand-made meatballs, but we are grinning our faces off as we make them, knowing people will like them at the first taste. We like decorating and preparing for guests as well as serving them!
And guess what? There is no greater compliment to me than someone who is clearly exhausted who falls asleep on my couch! That tells me they feel safe and comfortable enough in my home to do so!

We miss a lot of events. Whether it's a community or church event, hospitality people are in the thick of it. We are there setting up, decorating, preparing and serving food, breaking down and cleaning up afterwards. Most of us are doing at least two items on this list, most times more. Who has time to listen to the speaker or engage in great conversations when there's people who need a place to sit and eat? Most of us forget to get something to eat ourselves, and wind up falling over after the event because there weren't enough 'leftovers' for the volunteers. 

No, I'm not kidding.

I saw this happen at the many churches I visited. When it happened at my church, I made sure to state that feeding the helpers first is key to keeping everyone going- not to mention it will attract more helpers! Once fed (before the crowd comes in), people will be much more congenial when serving others. It took a while for them to get used to the idea- it went against the 'serving others first' mindset- but when I explained that eating first is a better blessing to the attendees than being served by grumpy, starving, and fainting servers. They relented- and never looked back.

Hospitality conventions don't exist. Why, do you ask? Ever try to serve those who love to serve? You can't. We're too busy trying to help. "Sit down while I get you something..." "No, you sit down and let me get you something..." "No, you.." "No, you!" 

99.99% of the time we are the party hosts. Why? Two reasons. One, we love serving people in our home, and the second the evening is over and everyone goes home, we can just go upstairs and collapse. Two, no one invites us anywhere because they're afraid we'll judge them on their hospitality skills and lack of homemade everything-must-be-from-scratch foods. 
Yes, people told us this! 
For the record, we don't judge anything that we're eating for free, and it's nice to have take-out or store-bought instead of home-cooked meals once in a while.

We have trouble not helping. The host tells us to relax, but we see the chips are low or the Stove Master looks a little overwhelmed and we want to help. No, we need to help- and they won't let us. This is exactly what we do when we have guests, but when the slipper is on the other foot, it drives us crazy not to be able to do something. Anything

On the opposite side of that particular coin...

We are never guests at a party. Oh, we might get invited, but either we volunteer to come early and help with the event, or we're asked to help at the last minute, 'because we're so good at it'. The former is self-imposed, so it's our own fault for asking, but the latter can be quite problematic when we need some down time to be fed instead of being the feeders.

We bring too much. Hospitality people try to think of everything when it comes to potlucks. We don't just make enough potato salad for the ten people you invited, we make enough to feed twenty-five, just in case someone invites a friend or you get raided. We also bring enough plasticware, napkins, and plates (just in case you run out) and we keep a plethora of dressings and condiments in the trunk in case the host forgot to buy something. 
This usually sparks us to have a party at our house the next day because we have a lot of extra potato salad and party goods!

These are the triumphs and perils of being hospitality oriented. If you see many of these happening in  your life, you're one of us, if not, that's okay, I'm sure you know at least a few people around you who are. Be kind to them- they are a tired bunch! 
Perhaps I should write a book called The Care and Feeding of the Hospitality Oriented, but it might not be out in print for a while. I have to make dinner for my family and at least five next-door neighbors for the next month or two!

 might even make extra. Party, anyone?




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dollar Dilemma

Ever notice that those TV evangelists are starting to sound more like Monster Truck Rally announcers?

Iiiiit's Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Now you, the faithful listener, can have unlimited cash flow! All you have to do is give me a dollar, and God promises He will give you back one-hundred fold- guaranteed! One dollar nets one-hundred dollars- and it's all guaranteed by God! 

Oh wow- all I have to do for unlimited money and blessings is to donate as much as I can to their church? That sounds awesome! After all, if I give a dollar, I get one-hundred dollars back! How incredible is that?

Remember folks, the more you give, the more you get back! Do it now! Send your money to....

Wait. The more I get, the more I get back...right? But why isn't that church giving away their money as well? Wouldn't the same rules apply to them?

Apparently not. They have upkeep, after all. Someone has to shine the silver cups and communion plates- and keep those one thousand windows shining and sparkly. 

But isn't that what tithing is for- upkeep of the church and staff? Why do they need the extra?

Perhaps to keep the preachers' three corvettes from falling into disrepair. 

I look at my handful of dollars. All of my liquid cash flow. It isn't much, but it keeps gas in my run-down little car. Does God want all of my money? Will He really give me one-hundred dollars for every dollar I give away?

God doesn't give a hoot for our money. He wants us. The giving of money is only one means of giving ourselves to Him, especially if we treasure that money more than our own worth. That's the only time God wants us to give up our worldly riches. Tithe is different; those monies are for the church expenses and upkeep of God's place of worship. It's the extras that they ask for that makes no sense.

As for that one-hundred fold payback, The bible never said it would be cash- he said it would be repaid one-hundred fold- meaning it will come back to you in a form that might not necessarily be monetary. Oh, He could send you money (and sometimes does), but He'll also send you other blessings! Remember finding that secret sale when you bought your favorite outfit? Or that break that got you a promotion? Or even that phone call from a friend that inspired you in an unexpected way? All of these are paybacks without price tags. One time I was gifted with a professional deli slicer!

Blessing others in turn blesses us. Many churches have forgotten that lesson. 

And there's nothing wrong with having money. It's what you do with it that counts.

Before I became a Christian, I had money. Not a ton mind you, but I was considered upper-middle class in my early twenties. I had no debt, money in the bank, and had a good job. But I was bereft of Spirit, as I didn't give to others as often as I could have. Not just monetary-wise, but time-wise as well. 

I became a Christian. I went through a lot of financial trials. To this day twenty-five years later, I'm still going through things financially. I panic when the bank balance drops too low. We live week to week and month to month. We have debt due to a dead car, bad windows in the house, and unexpected, uncovered funerals. God isn't trying to make me suffer, He's trying to teach me something. Depend on Me- not your stupid bank statement

The lesson is finally starting to sink in. 

If you had given me a million dollars twenty years ago, I'd have bought myself a house, a car, and gone on vacation. Any leftovers would go straight into the bank and stayed there. Not a bad plan, but a worldly one.
If someone handed me a million dollars now, once the debts were paid and some was invested so my husband could 'retire' from the factory, I would donate to renovate our church (we're only using 1/3 of the building right now- not enough seats and no kitchen), and use that renovated church kitchen to start community programs to teach low-budget cooking and feed the hungry. My husband could start full-time ministry, or start that dream cafe and do part-time ministry. The rest would go into the community itself, Helping people in need and supporting the local library and recreation center- possibly with a new playground.

Which seems like a better investment to glorify God?

I admit, I like money way too much. I can be very generous when money is plentiful and the bills are paid, but I think God wants me to see things His way- He wants me to give when I'm financially struggling. It's not a dollar dilemma, it's heart handling.

Don't fall for the hype that spouts guaranteed God money. God cherishes us. That's all He cares about. And His hundred fold blessings will be worth more than any monetary windfall we could ever get, because those blessings change us as people; He gets into our heads, our hearts, and our souls. He changes us so we can change others. He qualifies the called.

And that's something money just can't buy.