Monday, March 31, 2014

Do I REALLY Want To Be a Millionaire?

We are inundated with hype from every crevice of our lives to find ways to make more money. Ads on our media devices, the games we play, the TV, videos, movies and even the music we listen to often portray that money equals happiness. Or at least to be happy whiling away on a beach in Tahiti.

To be honest, I wanted that for myself and my family too! 

"If we only had" was a subconscious mantra I had whispered in my mind since I've been on my own, because as a teen I was in the lap of upper middle-class luxury; of course I didn't know any better, but it was hard to see past the in-ground pool, a full bank account and getting my own car.

Life was good back then (at least financially) and every day since I've been striving to get back to that ideal life. But is that really the true happiness I was looking for, or was I looking through money-tinted glasses?

Did I really want to be a millionaire? Would having money falling out of my pockets bring me the contentment and happiness I want? My initial response is "YES!!" Why wouldn't I be happy? Everything would be paid off, we could finally go on a real vacation (we haven't been on one since our honeymoon seventeen years ago- camping doesn't count dear), and I could burn myself to a crisp on that beach in Tahiti. 

Initially it would be fantastic- my husband could stop working. Debts would be over and done with. No mortgage; we could renovate and even buy a second house (or a third) for family members so they wouldn't have to pay rent anymore. I could get that gigantic fridge with the french doors, build a greenhouse, and even hire a cleaning lady so I'd never have to clean house again. Ahh...

But what would happen to our family after the shiny wore off? How would we spend our time? Would we get lazy and stop wanting to work on anything, including ministry? My husband probably wouldn't stop (he's a ministryaholic), but I probably would step back from life just to spend my days reading books (or playing computer games) and getting my feet rubbed by my new masseuse. Selfish, I know, but that's just the way I go when I don't have goals.

If I had to answer the question "Do you really want to be a millionaire?" my answer would still be yes (surprise!)- but with stipulations. Most of it would have to be used to improve the lives of others. And by most of it, I'm talking at least ninety percent. I just want enough left over to pay living expenses, afford a few luxuries like a second car, but not so much that I feel I can stop working or doing ministry. I want enough that we don't have to work for anyone else, but can fully focus on the gifts God gave us, so we can do great things in ministry. That's where my true joy lies.

It's good to want things. But when the wants are all taken care of, there's a lack of desire. I never want that to happen to us. So I'd rather do without the financial windfall if it will keep me from doing His will. Hoo boy, that was hard to say! My greedy little heart wants to hold onto every scrap of fundage we have, but I know better than to indulge. The second I do there will be no joy, no contentment, no happiness. True happiness is being able to help someone else in need, even if you can only do a little. 

God doesn't give a rat's butt about how much we give, but that we give what we can fully and happily. That's why he praised the woman who gave her last coin versus the rich man who gave more, but begrudgingly. After all, who wants to accept a gift shoved at you from a grumpy person?

You don't need to be a millionaire to be happy. I just wish I took this to heart years ago- I'd have a lot less wrinkles.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Poorly Rich, or Richly Poor?

God has a great way of smacking me upside the head when I stop focusing on Him.

The past few months have been rough. I've been griping (both internally and externally) about all the issues we've been having and trying to find a way to fix everything. I know God was with me, but I never consulted Him except to ask to get us out of this mess- Not asking if there was a reason behind the mess in the first place.

Instead of my eyes seeing what was in front of me, I kept worrying for the future. Let's just say I was looking at a full fridge and wondering what I was going to eat next week. 

We didn't seem to have a lot, and that always makes me sad. I have a fear of not having enough for my husband and kids. And I hate having nothing to offer people in need.

Then my husband received two phone calls yesterday.

The first call was a family friend that had no place to sleep for the next few days. We had the perfect sleeping couch ever made; all that we needed was a few pillows and a blanket make it sleep-worthy. We had that.

The second call was a man and his wife who hadn't eaten in three days. They had gas to cook with, but no food to eat. All of a sudden my fridge seemed pretty full- full enough to share.

We invited them over for dinner. I made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and we sat them down with as much as they could eat, with plenty of bread and butter. And all they did was talk about how good God was. It was awesome.

They didn't have electricity but they did have a cooler with ice, so I was able to give them the entire pot of soup along with several loaves of bread, a pound of butter (gotta have bread and butter with the soup after all), and a few other things they could have at room temperature or wouldn't spoil in an ice-filled cooler. They left our home with enough food for a few days. They left me with a new perspective.

God provides for the sparrows each day. He provides for the squirrels, the deer, and even the stray cats that visit my yard each day. So why wouldn't He provide for me, my family and our friends and neighbors? And why didn't I see the full fridge before those phone calls?

I was poorly rich. After yesterday I can now say that I'm richly poor- and yes, my fridge is full- no matter how much food is or isn't in there- because God provides and helps me provide for others. 

God is awesome!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Too Many Pickles

Yesterday I collapsed on the couch, exhausted. My husband was too tired to collapse with me, and instead crawled upstairs to take a nap. Yesterday was Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. Supposed to be.

If you're chuckling, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're in ministry, Sundays are not a day of rest- not fully. In fact, this week was so chock-full of things to do- appointments, duties, and errands, I think I forgot to breathe- but I must have at some point, because here I am, making this post.
Either that, or someone needs to call Guinness to tell them I broke the "No-oxygen-for-a-week-but-still-alive" record.

My husband and I definitely had too many pickles on our plates this week.

His schedule included working overtime, church meetings, community meetings, and ministry. Mine included housework, cooking, kids, writing, crafting, shopping, more housework, community meetings and ministry. For most of the week, I couldn't get out of the house, and he couldn't stay in the house. 

I think I got a glimpse of him three days ago, but much like those Bigfoot sightings, I wasn't quick enough to get a picture of him to prove it.

I hope we never have another week like that again. I woke up tired this morning.

Today I'm looking at my pickles to see how many I'm putting on my plate this week. Not too bad, but it could use some tweaking. With any luck I can help keep my husband from taking the entire pickle jar! What good does it do us to do so much without a break? Even God rested on the seventh day, after all. I don't think He had a single pickle on His plate. 

He was pickleless at least once. We need to learn to be pickleless too.

I learned a lot about myself this week. I also learned that I have limits, and if I go beyond those limits, I'm useless to my family and others for longer than I want to be. Maybe you've done this too and you know what I'm talking about.

It's true, you know...too many pickles really aren't good for you!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Christian Kitties

I never knew my cats were Christians!

After a bad day I slumped on the couch, wondering if I would ever get through the trials laid before me. After, all, how could I not worry? Nothing went right, and in many of the situations, I couldn't do anything to fix when was wrong. My sigh was deep and forlorn.

Then along came Boo-Boo and his littermate, Scootch. And they wanted my attention.

"What are you so worried about?" they seemed to say as rears arched under my scratches, tails quivering with delight as I hit all the good itchy spots. "Just relax, enjoy petting us, and take a nap in the sun. There is nothing to worry about, silly human! Our needs will be handled by someone bigger than us. Okay, you can stop now."
Then they both went off in search of a sunny spot for that nap. I considered joining them, but I didn't fit on the sill.

Maybe I should take my cues from the cats- they never worry about anything. Their needs (and scratches) are provided for by me, and my needs are provided for by God. So what am I worrying about anyway?

But that doesn't mean I'm going to sit back and do nothing. I'll do what I can and let God do the rest. Maybe that's why God gave these cats to this dog person in the first place. You can learn a totally new perspective on God.

As for my back scratches? That's why God gave me a husband!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Joy Comes With Purpose

As Anne of Green Gables would say (with much dramatic flourish), I was in "The Depths of Despair". 

Okay, so last week I wasn't completely in the depths, but I was extremely hormonal, cranky and grumpified. 

At first I thought it was the hormones, but it turned out to be a terrible lack of purpose. I'd lost focus (again), and took my eyes from where God wanted me to be. Where did He want me to be? Life changed so fast in the past few weeks that I'd lost my way. Again.

It was time to have a talk with The Big Guy. 

One thing I love about Him is I can talk to Him as if He's right in the room with me, having tea- or in my case, folding laundry. So I sat down, pulled up a basket, and laid out my issues in from of Him- like He didn't already know everything about me. 
He knows every little hair on my head- even the blonde ones. But talking aloud helped me, and He knows that too.

I'd spread myself too thin. I had my fingers in too many pies. And after talking with Him, I realized I was trying to do His job for Him. Eventually I stopped talking (and folding clothes) and sat back to listen. Really listen, not just the "let my mind wander and see what happens" kind of listening I usually do.

Well shucky-darn and slop the chickens, I received an answer! My problems were His, and He's got my back. Stop worrying and focus on this, this, and this. These things are your purpose.

Then something unexpected happened. I began to feel joy.

There's comfort in knowing what you're supposed to do, and that you don't have to take on the world by yourself. You also don't have to hide in the shadows either. I know my problems are still here- but I no longer have to worry about them. Because God's got my back. 

I have focus. I have purpose. And now I have joy!