I am so blessed and lemme tell you why. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine being married. Now, not only am I married, but I’m married to a Godly, praying man who not only recognizes when I need prayer, but follows through with it. I think all of us know how difficult that can be. So, I am happily spoiled in a way that I never thought I could or would appreciate. And I could almost write it off as being a not-so-blessed, but-more-of-a-typical happening, but as soon as I begin to take it for granted, I feel another hand. A smaller, 5-year-old hand gently touches my back. There are no words spoken because I know she is listening to her daddy pray. She not only hears the power that those words hold, but sees them as I miraculously (yes, I said miraculously) regain strength and energy into my body. Maybe to some it wouldn’t mean much. Maybe you picture Benny Hinn yelling and people dropping to the floor. I don’t know what you think about miracles. And I’ll be really honest, I don’t care. (Yup, said that too.) I know that I literally go from being too weary to walk or lift my head because my muscles give out to being able to continue on, whether that continuation leads to putting breakfast on the table (ok, it’s the coffee table—the kids eat in front of the TV sometimes. Ok, a lot. I’m letting it go.) or heading to work to do what I love. That’s real. That’s true. That’s what I choose to think on today. And that’s why I’m blessed beyond measure.
Exult: “show or feel elation or jubilation, especially as the result of a success.”
Is this you? Is this me? It’s not at 6:30am, I can divulge that much to you. I used to work in a factory. And when I think about “exulting” I think of him. He was a man who was different. He was different because when he came in, not only did he bring a smile to everyone’s face, but people were drawn to him. It was amazing to experience. I would watch as workers just wanted to be near him because he laughed, he sang, he danced, he even jumped up and down. He was a light in a dark place. He showed joy as he stocked the vending machine. Did you imagine him having a “more sophisticated” job? He was the one who stocked the candy bars and chips. I don’t know if this was his ultimate goal or not, but he let his light shine where he was. He wasn’t waiting for the day when he “made it” to get excited about life.He was amazingly exultant right where he was and he changed lives because of it. I looked forward to seeing him because he always had something good to say.
As I get older, I realize it’s more difficult to hold on to and talk about the good stuff. The “bad doesn’t outweigh the good”, as my wise father would say, but it’s so much easier to gripe, isn’t it? We are so blessed and yet most days if not all, it’s a struggle to make the gratitude flow. *Instantly I’m reminded of yesterday when the “blessed truck” (read “bless-ed” as per Methodist church circa 1988-this is better than referring to it as a mule-ish barnyard animal) pulled out in front of me. It wasn’t thankfulness that I was safe flowing out of my mouth at that point. Keep in mind I’m waaaaaaaaaay better than I used to be (see above: I worked in a factory. My mouth was an issue Jesus Himself had to tweak.)
My point is that it is work to think on and speak the positive. We are supposed to be that light. There are quite a few I would imagine that would shout and honk and yell not-so-creative names out the window at the blessed truck, but we are not them. We are jubilant! We are holy and righteous and good! We have to adjust our mindsets daily at the very least. I’m recognizing mine needs adjusted a wee bit more than that. Maybe hourly. Kids have a tendency to stomp out my good mood like a finished cigarette. Elation is work, but it’s worth it. We are unbelievably blessed. So plaster on a smile and fake it til ya make it if you have to, but God says to rejoice in his name all day long and exult in His righteousness. (Psalm 89:16) It’s only through Him that we can see the awesome.
Anyone else get tired of those stupid to-do lists? Mine were everywhere. I’d have scraps of paper, notebooks upon notebooks, grocery lists, superstore lists, get-done-today- lists, didn’t-get-done- yesterday-lists, weekly lists…I had lists of lists! It almost got to a point where I needed to make lists of my lists to keep track of them all. *Note: I did not do that. I was not only stressed because I had so much to do, but also because I couldn’t figure out what to do first, then I couldn’t figure out where that stupid list went! I literally spent the time I could have been doing the task, looking for the list. Why? Because I love to cross things off. Just saying it brings a smile to my scary morning face. There is something about it: a visual reminder of just how productive you are. Your task is complete! TA-DA! Until…
I realized I was never finished with my tasks. My list was ever-changing and continuous. Once I got 5 things done, I’d add more. Then more, until I was so discouraged I couldn’t see straight. Where oh where was my stopping point? Where was the ribbon at the finish line if there was no finish line?? Wait, am I even running the right race?
So, I changed it up. I read this verse, Acts 20:24 (NIV) says:
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace”that simply lets us know:
1. It’s not about me. (Much to Hollywood’s dismay.)
2. We just have to finish the race.
3. We just have to testify to how good our God is.
I give God the very first moments of my day. (Ok, maybe it’s shared just a little with Folgers) and remind myself of all that He’s done and the only thing I absolutely have to do today are things that show how amazing our Creator is. In everything we do, we can testify to God’s grace…whether it’s washing those dishes (yes, the ones with the gunk still on ‘em from 3 nights ago) or going to work. Don’t let the enemy of your soul stress you out. Life is good! Life is simple! You don’t have to do more. You can literally do less and let God do the changing of the lives!
It’s not about how much we get done or even the tasks themselves, although my kids’ room is a beast of its own, but more about why and for Whom we do them. Our attitude toward the tasks is important because we do more than simply check them off, we do everything for the One Who made us. It’s all about Him, not us. So quit chasing that to-do list around the house and breathe…you are doing enough. You are enough. Testify to God’s grace through what you do, no matter what it may be, and you’re running the right race.
Within this health-filled journey of mine (you know the one to become not the healthiest person on the planet, but more so the one who gets up and doesn’t have to take a nap after a shower?) I got to thinking how we pray and wait. We pray and wait. We pray and wait. That may have even been more praying that what some of us do. Eek!
I have been on this journey for 8 years. 3 years longer than the 5 year-mark I thought I couldn’t handle at the time. They, “they” being various doctors, told me I might recover in 5 years, as that had happened to other people, somewhere, sometime before. I remember thinking, 5 YEARS? How could anyone make it 5 years with these symptoms?? I’m here today to let you know, you can do it. Hurrah, hurrah. I truly wasn’t trying to be a cheerleader (although I am very encouraging to others…I took a test once that let me know hospitality and exhortation were my top 2 gifts! I had no idea what the 2nd was, but now that I know, I consistently remind others that I am an “exhorter!”)
Without this journey, I would have no idea how to take care of myself. I’m still learning to do this, but the whole “His temple” thang wasn’t exactly a concept I paid attention to when I was downing 12 packs of beer and pack after pack of nicotine sticks. So, as I was making a pot of nutrient-rich soup (my husband will take one look at it and blankly state: “That’s all you.”) this morning, I thought about how we eliminate the toxins, but then fail to build ourselves back up. God freed me from the addictions to chemical-laden junk, but I wasn’t aware of how depleted my body was of what it truly needed to function. He took away my craving for the bad, but I’m the one who has to take responsibility for the damage done. (Did anyone else cringe at the “r-word”? I know I did.) Plain and simple, there are consequences for our actions. I’m thankful that He allows me to be me, learning at my own pace, and quite frankly, puts up with my frustrations along the way.
I am very flawed, but I don’t dwell on it. He reminds me that I am pure, holy, loved, blameless, and then loved some more. He says in His Word that if we ask for wisdom, we get it. I’ve found that I have trouble trusting those “words of wisdom” I receive. He says we know His voice, right? I’ve talked to so many who don’t know if it’s His voice or not. I always tell them where I started: I would think it was God. Then weight the options. Do I want to do this? No. (Usually God takes us out of our comfy zone.) Would the enemy of my precious soul want me to do this? No. Does it go along with Scripture? Yes.
That last one kinda stumped me for quite some time. I’d ask myself these questions, and then shrug my shoulders on the Scripture one, as if there was no way to know. There is a way to find out. The only answer to this is to dig into the Scriptures. Open up your Bible. Pray. Meaning, ask God for help in understanding (*because if you’re anything like me, I could read 1/2 a book and not know what 3/4 of it said some days.) Then read. Read anywhere you want or do a specific Bible study. God will lead you in this as well. Then pray again. In doing so, we get to know the One Who created each of us. Who better to talk with about our issues? Lord knows I gots some issues. God says we’ll know His voice, but only if we practice listening for it and to it. There is nothing more comforting than knowing full well that we know full well. But it takes practice.
I’m over it. I’m over listening to everyone else. How they think God wants them to do this. Or that. But certainly not that. Why, oh why, would he ever want me to do that?? Ugh. Get over yourselves. No really. Get over it. I am and I did. This is a journey I had to get real on. And by getting real, I mean more than posting pics of my latest haircut or color, or (Gasp!) Me without makeup. I mean turning the tv and the phone off. Really. All the way off. I started a journey to find God that day, fully convinced I would, yet somewhat “meh” about it. I needed to get “un-meh” about God again, so here’s what I did. I am beginning a personalized Meditation (notice the “t” is not a “c”) Challenge. For 30 days, I will meditate.
Now, if you’re about to quit reading already:
1. Go ahead. I gotta tell ya, I really couldn’t care less at this point. I told you I was over it and that’s what I mean.
2. Meditation is Biblical. Look it up.
3. I don’t have a number 3.
I’ve tried to meditate before but mainly just made a grocery list in my head and got distracted by the ticking of the clock. This time I am more determined. I feel like life is lacking something. The spiritual war going on in my head and body is as real as fat-free ice cream. It’s there. We don’t want it to be, but it’s there.
The challenge consists of 30 days of repeating your mantra/Scripture/God-thought 30 times. 30 days, 30 times per day. Now, the Bible states that we’re supposed to renew our minds and this seemed like a good way to do it. I also liked that if you missed a day…guess what. You start over. None o’ that namby-pamby “it’s-ok, just-try-again-tomorrow”crap for me. I love a good challenge. At least I used to. I’m indifferent at this point. Possibly leaning toward disgusted as well. I’m at a place where I’m either going to head to Honduras to hug small children or set something on fire here. (Don’t worry, I set things on fire all the time. And all of the things belong to me.)
I’m somewhat disgusted that other human beings feel they have something to teach me. I’m not saying I know it all, but I AM saying I feel a lot smarter than some. And people trying to tell me what God thinks is especially sticking me like an itchy t-shirt tag. So, tom it begins.
Life gets rough sometimes. I’m sure that’s not a newsflash to most. Whether you have money or none, material things by the truckload or little, are full of health or on your deathbed, this life is not easy. It’s when the road we’re traveling gets extra bumpy that we can get to choose. We can choose to lose it or we choose to follow the advice we would give our best friend in crisis or a toddler when they fall: Get up. GET up! When we fall down, we get back up. Shake it off. (I apologize for any of you who know the song and now have it stuck in your head for the next 72 hours.) What has happened to you does not define you. What you do is not who you are. What you’ve been through is different than what you’re going through. And you’re doing JUST that: you’re going through it. This situation is not where you stop. This isn’t where your plane lands. It’s plowing right through. It may not be smooth-sailing, but you’re still sailing through. Now, 10 points for anyone who noticed I just referenced life to three different vehicles: a plane, a tractor, and a boat.)
When life gets rocky, we go to the Rock. We look to the One Who created us to recharge us and give us that peace that we simply can’t get anywhere else. Our hope, yes, we are still called to have hope in light of situations around us, is in Him. I personally don’t believe that means we have to wear a plastered grin on our weary face 24-7. The words we speak are meant to bring others up and show everyone that He is Who He has always been, not a mean, unjust Creator, but a loving and compassionate one that is tired of watching us try to do everything on our own. He is our tower, our strength, our shelter and so much more.
This world is not our home, but it is where we live right now. God’s yoke is easy and His burden light. Why do we feel so weighed down if this is the case? Because we’re trying to take on the world and change it to suit our liking. We want to mold and reform people into the way we want them to look. All spit-shined and polished so we can stand proud and say, “Look what I, er, I mean, God did!” Eek. Can we let God work in His own timing and in the way He wants to so badly? Can we “judge not, lest (we) be judged”? It’s not about us, it’s all about Him and His glory. If we’re struggling to find that place we can run and not grow weary, maybe it’s because that hiding place we seek is behind us. Perhaps we don’t have to look up, we need to look behind us and see God, our Father, calling us back to Him. Have you left the Rock that you used to run to? It’s really easy to find your way back. The path isn’t hidden at all. It’s the one in plain sight that you’ve traveled before. We know what to do. Turn back to His face, grab ahold of His hand, and let Him lead you into rest and peace. That peace is unexplainable and we’re called to show the world that peace in the face of terror, ugliness, hateful acts, and crime.
Leave me alone, I grumble under my breath. Get out of my way, I say in the most polite way possible. STOP talking to me, I think to myself, as I reach for my first cup of coffee. I just want some time, no, NEED some time to myself. To think, to wake up, to scratch. Instead, I have 2 toddlers, 1 much like me (cuddling in the lazy recliner grunting to any passersby) and the other, much like her father (awake, alert, ready to take on the day joyously). “Mom, do cheetahs lay eggs? What’s your favorite color? Can I have a cereal bar? One time, at school, my cookie was melted and I had to wash my hands. Can I have another cereal bar? Mom? Mom? MOM!?!”
I have always been one to enjoy my quiet time. I don’t feel the need to fill up every moment with words. I like to reflect, ponder, and pause. I have found that if I don’t, I am a grump. Unfortunately, I have not had the time. And yes, my facial expression resembles that of Oscar from Sesame Street. I am in no way ready for my day if I don’t make time to check in with myself and God.
This brings me to what I believe God asked me to do: Get out of bed AND get out of it EARLIER. (To which I said, “Whaaaaa? I don’t think I heard You correctly.” I then proceeded to give a list of excuses, including, I have 2 toddlers. (I’m pretty sure He already knew this, being Creator and all.) I go to bed late. (Simple fix, I heard.) I’m exhausted already. (Because you’re not doing what I asked.) Um…uh…Ok, OK. Begrudingly, which is far from cheerfully if you know what I mean, I agreed. So, tom morning, I will be waking at 5. I tried for 6 and even 5:30, but God isn’t the typical negotiator. Grr. Ok, 5 it is. The absolute hilarious side of this enthralling story is I’ve done this before. I woke at 5, every morning because God told me to. Know what happened? I got TONS accomplished. I had more energy than I knew what to do with. I talked with God, laying all my fears and worries out in the open. Then I listened to Him reassuring me of Scripture like Phillipians 4:13 and that I could do anything as long as He was with me. I learned things I couldn’t possibly have learned from any other book than His Holy Word. Why, you may wonder, did you stop? Exactly. All I can figure is it involves what the Bible calls “flesh.” I had to kill it then, meaning I don’t always do what I want to, I do what HE wants me to. I would much rather lounge in bed, contemplating how I can procrastinate cleaning out the fridge yet again, but God wants us to give Him the firsts. First fruits, first of the day, first 10%. (That’s another day’s article.) So, tomorrow begins a new journey. One that God’s leading the way, with His dear disheveled daughter padding behind Him in holey house slippers, searching for His will and caffeine.