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?

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.




Monday, January 30, 2017

The Master Plan

For years I'd been wandering, wondering where God would put me. I prayed but didn't listen for an answer, and would follow any lead that I thought God sent me. It didn't matter what came down the pike, because I thought God sent me an answer to prayer.

*BUZZ!* Wrong answer!

Oh, I was really good at making plans. I had plans, back-up plans, and back-up, back-up plans. I had a binder filled with plans of the great ideas I was going to do, and everything I was going to accomplish. 

With all this frenzied planning going on, I was too busy to hear God laughing.

Was His laughter mocking me? No. He was laughing because my plans aren't His plans. You see, I had a Master Plan, but I forgot to plan with the Master

No wonder He was laughing when I kept revising plans over and over- and failed over and over. The look on my face must have been priceless!

It's like us watching our kids try something new and quite impossible. "Okay Mom, watch me lift a car like Superman!" And we smile as our toddlers try to lift the family mini-van. They're so cute when they try, but you know they'll come running up afterwards, asking why they couldn't do it. Your chuckles aren't mean- you just wish they had talked to you first.

So there stood God, grinning as I tried plan after plan. Only when I failed a plethora of times did I come to Him, finally willing to listen.

God did and does have a plan for me. Oh, He won't tell me all of it, but He gives bits and pieces when I need them. I'm not the best student either, so sometimes I need to go back and ask Him again-"Are You sure this is where You want me?" 

I have to be patient and listen for His answer- Which is not easy sometimes.

I'm a planning master. When I'm 'in the zone' (or should I say 'in His zone') things run smoother than cocoa butter on a warm baby's butt. I love when that happens. But when my plans take me off track? Let's just say it's a bumpier ride than a jeep with no shocks going up a mountain of cobblestones.

Maybe you're like me and make plans until you're exhausted. Maybe you've even heard Him laugh as you tried to lift your mini-van. Just remember that you can always go back to Him and ask why things didn't work out as you planned- the answer might just be because He was left out of the planning process!

If you get an answer right away- great! If you don't, just step back, take a deep breath, and pray. But more importantly, listen. He's there for you. He just might need a minute to stop chuckling!


Monday, January 23, 2017

Give vs. Get

I love Youtube.

Oftentimes I look for clean comedians because I love stand-up; I love the jokes, but hate the language that most comedians use. Yesterday I looked for Christian comedians, and found one of my favorites, Michael Jr.

Michael is one of my favorites because he likes to play with words just like I do. It's so easy to mess with the English language! But then he adds some awesome revelations that blow me out of the water. Yesterday was one of those times.

I'd been having trouble when going to church. People seem to ignore me, or not have time to talk when I start up a conversation. Sundays are the only times I get any face-to-face-time with other Christians. But lately I'd been feeling disgruntled, unappreciated, and unacknowledged. 

Acknowledgement is important to me. I run the bread ministry- everyone takes bread home with them every week, without a single word of thanks. I also sing before communion services, and again as they pass out the elements each week. My husband is a deacon and works diligently for the church, and my kids do a lot concerning clean-up and helping in other ministries. We attend church each week, and everyone loves my husband and kids.

So why won't anyone talk to me

I sequestered my grumpy self on the couch on Saturday, deciding to watch a little clean comedy. But I received much more than laughter.

Michael Jr. spoke about Giving vs. Getting when you walk into a room. "Go into the room with your mind on giving instead of getting and see what happens" was the essence of his lesson. This blew my mind because I'd been going into church with the exact opposite attitude for months- after all weren't me and my family doing enough in church?

*BUZZ* wrong answer!

Fine. So I took a deep breath, cleared my negative thoughts, and went to church the next day with this new mind-set. 

I gave smiles to everyone. I gave questions, asking how someone was doing, then gave my ears to listen to what they had to say. I gave thanks and appreciation to those who helped me with my ministries. I gave a testimonial in church giving thanks to God for getting me started as a self-published author.

And in so giving, I got a lot back.

People asked me about my gimpy knee and how I was doing. They asked to see my books (I brought the sample proofs I ordered, though that was not my intention to show them off- my pastor asked to see them last week- I wasn't intending to do a testimony about the books either!), people hugged me, and congratulated me. For the first time in a long time, I'd felt like I was part of the church- not just a worker bee in a hive.

Now if I can just behave myself and keep that mind-set to 'Give' and get rid of the 'Get', I'll be able to bless a lot more people and not get grumpy about it.

So thank you God, for letting Michael Jr.'s videos pop up on Youtube. And thank you Michael, for not only giving me a laugh, but helping me become a better, more giving Christian! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

What Do You Really Mean?

My mom taught me a poem when I was a kid:

A son is a son until he takes wife,
A daughter's a daughter the rest of her life.

Sweet, right? My mom was telling me that no matter what, we'd have a lasting girl-bond. Awesome.

But through the years of teenagerism, I forgot most of the poem. I was in my late teens when she asked me if I remembered it. So I recited:

A son is a son until he is wed,
A daughter's a daughter...until she is dead?

Okay, so it still rhymed, and the message was kind of the same, but alas, I had completely missed the mark. My mom was too shocked to reprimand me- or was she just laughing too hard?

Similar words, completely different interpretation.

Most people assume you meant things the way they themselves have interpreted it. I was a newcomer to a Bible reading group, and we were asked to read and talk about Acts 1. The leader asked what was the former book talked about in Acts 1:1, to which I promptly replied 'Theophilus'.

Well, the lady sitting next to me went into a tirade about how there's no book called Theophilus, and have I ever even read the bible before? She looked at me as if I was some kind of hell-bent renegade heathen ready to be roasted in Satan's flames.

The fact that I was new to church and hadn't read the bible before never even occurred to this lady. She was basing my answer on her interpretation that everyone in Bible study has already studied the bible. Go figure!

I misread the verse in Acts 1:1. He was talking to Theophilus, not talking about 'The unabridged, unpublished works called Theophilus'. But being a Bible noobie, I simply didn't know better. Too bad, too- despite the hard-to-pronounce title, it might have been an interesting book.

I'm not the only one who misunderstands the written word either...

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This is why writing humor comes naturally to me- there's just so much to misunderstand in the English language! One word could have a ton of different meanings- you just have to put the word in the proper perspective first.

Having a son with Aspergers helps me in this area too. I have to be concise with what I say, otherwise he gets mixed messages. Aspies also have a hard time reading body language, so I often have to exaggerate my gestures and expressions so he gets my point. 

Doing so has also helped in the humor department, because most humor is about exaggerations and over-emphasized expressions. People laugh harder when I tell a story in person! The gestures and expressions help to clarify the meaning of the story.

Hearing can also be misunderstood. Amazing Love has the chorus 'Yoooooou are myyyy King, Jesus yoooou are myyyy King' But when I was listening to it on the car radio (and quite distracted by driving) it sure sounded like 'You are mocking, Jesus you are mocking' Yikes!

(go ahead and take a minute to find that song and listen- I know you want to! I'll wait.)

The three factors of misunderstanding-  speech, sight, and hearing. All can be used to make things clear, or muddy them beyond comprehension. Even the Bible states that things will become more understood as the Second Coming approaches- and how many times have you heard of someone misinterpreting the Bible? More than you're willing to count, I bet.

Don't be afraid to ask someone to clarify something for you if it's misunderstood. Ask until you understand. If you're the one being asked, be kind in your tone, and patient with the one asking. And if you don't know the answer, lead them to someone who does- or at least will know more. You never know where a question about God will lead, whether you're asking or answering. But either way, you will be blessed!




Monday, January 9, 2017

Defining Purpose

It's a brand new year and most people do a life reboot- reevaluating goals, making new resolutions (and breaking them 2.3 seconds later), and making plans to do better this year.

Others decide to dig a little deeper and seek out purpose. But what is our purpose- especially for us Christians?

I came up with this to help me, and I'm sharing in hopes to help you.

PURPOSE:

P- Pray
U- Understand God's Word
R- Record key scriptures
P- Plan goals
O-Outline action steps
S- Set a realistic schedule for actions
E- Examine your progress

Before you do anything, pray. Pray for His help to find your purpose. Pray for change. Pray for the right changes. Pray for the energy to do what you need to do for God. Pray for guidance, pray for wisdom, and pray for using time wisely- including time to rest and read the bible.

Understanding God's Word isn't always easy. Digging deeper takes effort; it helps to have a study bible and the internet to help define what scriptures seem confusing.
Speaking as a word smith, when reading different renditions of the bible, some verses seem to say different things to me- but when I dug deeper, God's Word became much more clearly defined. For instance, when I first read the bible, I didn't understand why they used 'fear' a lot. But after digging, I realized 'fear' didn't always mean afraid- many times it meant respect! Big difference.

Writing down scriptures that speak to you can be a huge help in getting you through tough times, or encourage you to move forward. Little notebooks are wonderful tools for this, and I have one filled with gems of wisdom when I get in a spiritual bind- which happens a lot.

Instead of making resolutions, plan goals instead. What does God want you to do? Where do you feel called? When can you take time to fulfill these goals? How can you glorify God in your plans? Once you find your purpose, God will help you fill in the blanks.

Having an outline helps you get to those goals. Start with your purpose and work towards your goal. If you have trouble planning from A to Z, work backwards from the goal, taking small steps until you're back to your purpose. It's better to work backwards from Z to A for me- but of course I'm weird. Do what works best for you. Just get those plans defined, steps written down, and get ready to take action!

If you're anything like me, you have an over-zealous streak that thinks you can do more than you actually can do, so you over-schedule yourself, then burn out a week later. Setting a realistic schedule for action steps will not only boost your confidence, but you'll gain a sense of purpose you might not have had before. 
Accomplishments on a regular basis feel good! So why schedule the joy and glory out of your true purpose by doing too much too fast? You can't grow a tree in a week (just try begging a tree to do so and see where it gets you), and people can't function properly if they work themselves to exhaustion. Work at your own true pace- so what if it takes two years instead of one for you to do something? The point is you'll be a lot farther in accomplishing your goals in a year than you are now! 

When you're in a lull or a rut, it helps to take a look back and see just how far you've come. Even if you're behind schedule (especially if you've overestimated your time and energy like I usually do), it helps to see just what you've accomplished in the time that's passed. Don't see it as 'I'm behind and have so much more to do!'- see it as 'Wow- I've gotten this much done! I should tweak my schedule, now that I know what my pace is.' and move forward. You're not running a race- and God is very, very patient. Ask me how I know.

So what is your purpose? What is God calling you to do? I hope this post helps you define what God has in store for you- because no matter what that purpose is, you will be awesome doing it!



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Bethday!

Yep- today is my birthday!

The bells don't just ring in the new year. they also let me know I'm getting just a wee bit older. This year is no different. However this is an important year for me.

Why?

It's a year to make changes. Big ones. Lifestyle changes both in the home, and in finances. I really feel like God's undercurrent last year will spout forth into awesomeness this year!

It's a year to grow spiritually. God put us here to bring others to Him, and to praise Him. Two things I haven't nearly done enough in 2016. In fact, I might've chased a few people away from Him to become hermits. Or lawyers. Or politicians.
Reading the bible more, talking more to others about God, and especially listening more to others before I open my big yap would be really good to do this year. God gave me a big mouth for a reason, but I haven't been using it the way He wants most of the time. Yikes!

It's a year for contemplation. 'Contemplation' meaning "ACK! Who's that fat old lady in the mirror? When did I stop being twenty-two?!?" Basically contemplating my thighs and overly rotund belly and buttocks. Also contemplating the need to lose a little fluff to help out my cranky ol' knee. Either that or stop looking in mirrors.

It's a year of realization. I now know there will be things I just cannot to physically anymore (so much for those ballerina lessons when I was two), but the trade off is that I don't have to give a flying fart what others think- at least not as much as I used to.

It's a year of being on the cusp. I'm on the cusp of a new biological decade. I'm on the cusp of being an oldie- I hear my favorite teen tunes on the oldies station, and notice parts of those songs being rewritten into 'new' music for my daughter to hear.
I'm on the cusp of being an empty nester, as my son will (hopefully) go to college next year, and my daughter two years after that.
I'm also on the cusp of becoming a regularly self-published author. Three journal/planners out, three more to come, with more coming out this year to help finance the art for my written works. And when my writing comes out (I hope to have at least one book out before Christmas this year), look out world- I'm on my way to drop-in-the-bucket stardom.

As of today, I'm forty-nine. The big 4-9. Almost fifty. Almost half a century, but no huge party- yet. I have to wait another year. Poop.

After a not-so-great last year, this year should be better just by comparison. For instance, my daughter took me out to breakfast with her own cat-sitting money (color me proud!), and afterwards my son comes in from school with something for me hidden in his coat- and unwrapped can of Boy-ar-dees beef ravioli that he slapped into my hand (color me astounded!)

I made sure to eat it for lunch, before he could. You can't leave anything out for more than a few days before he eats it. Still not sure of that's a teen thing or an Asperger thing. Probably both.

Yes folks, this should be a very interesting year!