Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Plans- Useful or Useless?

What is the most useful, yet useless thing we do as human beings?

Plan stuff.

Plans can be great things; we can plan vacations, plan short-term goals, and plan events with friends and family. Plans help us stay on track, organize our lives and save us tons of time.

However, we can get so mired in plans that we cease to be productive. This is one of my many foibles, because I love making plans. In fact, I'd rather write plans than do them!

Useful plans for our family involve the finances- the household budget, debts, and making sure the Internet stays connected. Trips and visits are also well planned, and most times run smoothly. 

The plans that usually fall under the 'useless' category in my house entail things like the family chores, scheduling my day, and life goals. Any of these plans get rewritten so many times I could provide enough confetti for Mardi Gras for the next century. I had to stop writing these plans down before I became personally responsible for global deforestation. 
Family chores get done when they have to because our schedules are so wonky and are always changing. The same thing goes for my day, and though I can loosely plan to get a few things done, nothing is ever set in stone. When work calls, I drop what I'm doing and go- that's just the way it works here.

As for our life goals, Those have changed so much over the years, that it's not worth the effort to make long term career or life goals. We had grandiose plans for opening a B&B, a restaurant, a fabric/craft shop, or a cafe. Each was planned out as much as possible, only to wind up in the recycle bin the second God decided to point us in a different direction. To be honest though, I think what He has planned for us is going to involve preparing food and being creative!

Now I'm not saying don't make chore schedules or write out life goals. I'm just saying that doesn't work for us. You might be having similar issues with another part of your life; some plans work, and some seem like a waste of good ink. You need to find those out for yourself.

God has other ideas for us than what I wrote down. Have you ever watched that scene in Even Almighty when the businessman says he has all these plans, and God just laughs and laughs? Oh yeah- I make God laugh on a daily basis, because He knows where I'm going and I only think I know. 

In general, plans are a good thing, but try not to get upset when God throws a monkey wrench into the works. That's just His way of saying I have something better for you. And His life plans are more awesome than any plans we can make!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Life in a Wheel World

You never know when you'll find a diamond in the fertilizer.

Since I messed up my knees, walking has become problematic- even with a cane.

Stores have become daunting experiences. I tried walking amidst the aisles of the mega stores I usually frequent, only to find myself out of commission for the next few days because my knees retaliated. Even the cane wasn't much help.

I almost stopped going to stores altogether because it just wasn't worth the down-time.

Then I noticed those little motorized carts plugged into the wall. Was I allowed to use them? Yes- I was. Reprieve! 

Once I learned how not to run over anybody, grocery shopping had become fun once more- even more fun because the cart had a little horn- I'd tap it, and announce "Watch the tram car please!" 
If you've ever been to the Jersey shore, you know exactly what this means. If not, there was a little tram shuttle that would go up and down the shore boardwalk, and if people were in it's path, the driver would announce "Watch the tram car please!" And people would scurry out of the way. People took delight when I did this in my local Sam's Club- and yes, they instinctively scooted out of my way!

I never cease to find the fun in everything I do. Immaturity is awesome.

Yesterday I had to bite the bullet and go into a craft store to get some items for my daughter's sixteenth birthday party. God tweaked my ear and told me to ask about shopping scooters. When I did, they said they didn't have anything motorized, but they did have a wheelchair with a front basket.

That was all I needed!

The gratefulness I felt was overwhelming. I was able to take my time. I could enjoy the craft store and do some exploring, since I hadn't been there for a very long time. And it was pain-free, since my legs were elevated. What joy!

God is indeed good. Not only was I able to get my errands done, but I didn't suffer much after-effect since I wasn't on my feet the entire time. 

I didn't have to depend on bringing a 'partner' to help me shop. Partners can be fun, but sometimes I just like meandering and finding things on my own instead of taking my husband or kids along.

My knees are still wonky, so please pray that this is something silly that can be remedied with elevated feet and my husband hand-feeding me chocolate and fruit.

In the meantime, Beep Beep! Watch the tram car, please!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Who Is the Craftsman?

I was listening to KLOVE radio the other day, and heard this little bit of wisdom:

'You're the project- not the Craftsman!'

Wow- my mind was blown! As a creative person, I completely understood what this meant, and it hit me right in the heart. How many times did I try to take the tools out of God's hands and try to work on...myself?

That's like a veterinarian doing his own kidney transplant- Yes, he might have an idea as to what to do, but he's better off getting someone to do it who knows exactly what he's doing. God knows where I need fixing and what to leave alone for the moment, so what business do I have taking over?

I'm the project- not the Craftsman!

Sometimes I like to tell God what to do when He's fixing me. "Wouldn't you rather do this instead of that?" I ask. And "I think this is more important than that- can't You work on this first?" Oh, He loves it when I interrupt with my nonsense! When I get particularly pesty, He usually tosses me into a situation to distract me so He can get His work done. I think that's why I get into trouble so much- I'm too busy telling the Craftsman how to do His job!

Let's think about this from a different perspective. You're good at something. Now, you're busy doing it, and the person for whom you're doing it comes in and starts telling you how to do it- yet they have no clue what the process is in making what you're creating. You know if you do it his way, he'll ruin said project. Wouldn't you get annoyed at that person and try to find something to distract him?

Oh yeah- God distracts me a lot.

He's the Craftsman. I'm not His apprentice, His hammer, or even His chisel. I'm the project He's perfecting. A very chatty, pesty project. But He still loves me. 

All I have to do is let Him finish His work!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Me? Evangelize?

Mark 16;15 says, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

A simple premise, right? Just go on out into that big, wide, angry world and tell people about God. I don't know about you, but just the thought of going out in public, standing at the corner of a busy street and becoming the Town Crier for Jesus scares the bejeebers out of me!

But is that what God really meant? For some Christians, yes. For those who are extroverts, those with a powerful voice, and those with charm and charisma, this is right up their spiritual alley. But for me? God blessed me with a big mouth, but gave me the stage presence of an incontinent chihuahua.

God said we need to evangelize. But He also gives options on how to evangelize. God didn't want to leave the introverts out- Even extroverted introverts like me!

Matthew 5: 15-16 states Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 
This is the perfect verse for introverts, because we can shine doing God's work, and people can see God through us. No trumpets or bullhorns required.

This is such an awesome way for to get people to come to God- because people by nature are curious (and nosy) and they can't help but wonder why you're so happy, calm, peaceful, and smiling though the chaos. It drives them crazy!

You are the lamp, and when they see God's light shining through you, people want to know how to get some of that light for themselves. And when that happens, people come to you instead of the other way around!

Evangelism doesn't always mean shouting to a gaggle of people on a crowded street corner or grabbing some random pedestrian and asking "Do you know Jesus?". It can mean quietly sitting down next to someone who is crying, troubled, or upset and asking if they need prayers. Some will refuse, most will say yes, and a few might even engage in conversation about God. You'd be surprised how many people you can touch by praying with them- and it's a lot easier for introverts to talk to one person than a crowd!

All we have to do is take a deep breath and approach people. Scary, I know, but once you start, it gets a lot easier. 

The best part is you never know when you have an opportunity to evangelize- even to other Christians! My husband and I attended a Retrocon (80's enthusiast convention) and saw a young man having a panic attack. We offered to pray for him, telling him my husband was a deacon at our church and we liked to pray for others. He looked bewildered and blurted "But I'm a Methodist!" 
After praying, he told us that his church didn't recognize deacons (though some Methodist churches do), and was surprised that we prayed with him, since we weren't the same sect of Christianity. We smiled. "We're all Christians- and I don't think God has a problem with His people praying for each other...right?" That made him grin and we had a good chuckle over it. After we made sure he was okay, we went on to enjoy the rest of the Retrocon.

Pretty awesome stuff.

Evangelism doesn't always have to be applied with a hammer. It can also be a fine chisel, chipping away at the walls built up by those friends or family who are with you each day. God doesn't take a head count- He just wants us to tell people about Him, and pray for others. 

It's not always easy, but the effects are astounding when we listen to Him!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Resisting Temptation

I try to be good. Really, I do! But when something is just too good to resist, you just gotta have it.

I guess that's why it's called a temptation, not a resistation. Sigh.

The funny thing is, most of us go where we're tempted the most. A few years back, I worked at a Joann Fabrics. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a fabric crafter and artist- okay, I'm a fabric addict who hasn't sewn in forever (due to time constraints, mom-clutter, book creation, and a sporadic job), and I love buying new fabric- after all, they call it a fabric 'stash' for a reason...right?

So I apply and get this job at Joanns eons ago. It was supposed to be for extra pocket money and to be out of the house a few hours a week. Let's call it Mom-sanity. But me in a fabric store is like an alcoholic in a liquor store- not the best idea.

Remnants were stashed and bought at the end of the shift. Sale fabrics were stuffed into shopping bags only to be brought home and fussed over before being shut in the stash cabinets. Yes, I said cabinets. Plural. Temptation bit me on the butt big-time, and my stash grew. So much for pocket money.

When I stopped working there a few months later, my stash had grown enough that my husband implemented a fabric 'fast'; until I started using those precious stored fabrics, I wasn't buying a single thread more. After looking at my stuffed sewing space (at the time), I had to begrudgingly agree. 

I've been on that fast for ten years! 

During my fabric fast, I discovered a loophole. Sometimes when crafting a new quilt, I didn't have enough yardage in my stash for the backing fabric. Only then was I let loose in Joanns to get a coordinating fabric so I could complete the project. Reprieve!

Now some of you might think that my husband is being too hard on me by not 'letting me' buy fabric. He isn't. In fact, when this whole fabric addiction happened, he was helping me! We were in Lancaster for our fifth anniversary (quilting hub of the universe and Fabric Central), and I wanted to make a quilt for my baby daughter (who is now fifteen). But there were so many fabrics to choose from! I strolled from aisle to aisle looking, feeling, pulling, and putting back bolts of fabric, sometimes with a shake of the head, but most times with a small sigh of 'I wish I had that'. 

What I didn't know was my husband was walking behind me and collecting the bolts of 'sighed upon' fabrics. By the time we got to the cutting counter, a significant stash was acquired. Then we went to two more stores and did the same thing. By the time we came home, I had enough fabric to last me a lifetime! 

And yes, I still have some of it! So don't blame him- he just knows me well, and as long as I'm using the fabric, I can get off of this fast anytime I want. But It's. So. Pretty. Too pretty to cut up!

My Precious....

Ahem. Okay, back to temptations.

I'm not good at resisting anything, no less a temptation. Oh, I can be good for a while, but eventually I'll crack and indulge (read: overindulge) and then regret everything the second it's gone (or stashed). My resistance is indeed, futile. At least in the long run.

Some things you have to resist. Drugs, alcohol, fabric- you know, things you can physically live without but can get hooked on. Other things, like food and breathing, must be done in order to survive- but you have to control it or you get too fat or thin (or in the case of breathing, pass out either from hyperventilation or lack of oxygen!)

I have to resist overeating. I should resist fabric stores. Big difference. Especially in my rumpus. Sigh.

Some things I just can't resist on my own. I need God's help. Prayer works, and sometimes fasting (how ironic is that?), but just talking to God about it before I eat or do something does wonders- and if you're having trouble like me- even if it isn't the same temptation- I would highly recommend doing the same!

Resisting temptations isn't easy. Especially when on your own. God give us the strength we need to resist and walk away from temptations. And nothing feels better than succeeding! 

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?