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Posts Tagged ‘Change’

I admit it.  I don’t do change well.  This is something God and I are working on, and He has given me many beautiful opportunities to trust that change, though it may involve letting go, is not in and of itself a bad thing.

We had our first frost this week.  Sunday morning, I peeked outside to see if anything in our garden had survived.  My heart sank a little when I saw the leaves of our summer basil blackened and once robust squash leaves looking like limp dishrags on sticks.  How I loved our summer garden!  And now, it is gone.

But the first frost of the season also means harvest.  That same day, I plunged my gloved hands into the soft earth and pulled out the sweet potatoes that will soon be on our Thanksgiving table.  It was a delightful, subterranean treasure hunt.

sweet potatoes!             

This is only one example of the changes I have seen this fall.  Though the letting go always makes me wistful, I am trying harder to look ahead – to smile for what was, instead of crying that it is no longer.

There was a time in my life when change, especially the endings of things, would have sent me into all-out panic mode.  Not anymore.  I have learned to trust the hand that turns the seasons.  I have lived long enough to see that things have a way of working out.  I have grown in faith enough to know that there is treasure under the surface of whatever change I may be facing. 

I feel that I should pause here to offer a caveat.  I don’t mean to suggest that grieving is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Grieving is normal, healthy and biblical.  I am referring here to day-to-day, season-to-season, year-to-year changes which may cause discomfort, but do not devastate.  In either case, a little faith goes a long way to soften the blow.

What changes are you facing this fall?  Do you welcome change, or do you fear it?  Do you see the loss or the harvest? Perhaps most importantly, do you believe that whatever change God allows you is ultimately for your good?  (It is, you know.)

There is a season for everything.

There is a reason for everything.

Trust now the hand that turns the seasons…

…and leave the reasons to Him who is for you. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

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I checked off another birthday this week.  This one was difficult to accept.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday.  It’s just that upon examination, my life isn’t what I thought it would be by this point.  I am not who I wanted to be.

I asked Hubs, “What’s so great about being this age?  Please tell me.  I need to focus on something positive.”

Sweet thing that he is, he tried to comfort me with talk of wisdom and depth.  Somehow, those perks seemed worth little when weighed against drawbacks like wrinkles, gray hair and sagging body parts.

So I had myself a good, long think.

I thought about how I spent my youth borrowing against the future.  I couldn’t wait to get to the next thing.  I always wanted to look older.  Never satisfied…

I thought about how that shifted.  Around age forty, I started looking back.  I missed the trappings of youth.  I wanted to look younger.  Never satisfied…

Like a giant light bulb illuminating my pity party, it hit me: 

Why not just be satisfied with this moment, this age, this life right now – just as it is? 

What if wishing to be somewhere else, or pining for my youth, or nursing my dissatisfaction is sapping my energy and joy? 

What if all this “wishing for different” is really me playing the victim?

Gasp.  Shudder.  Ew.  Gross. 

As folks say in the south, “I tell you what.”  (Contextual translation:  “I am so over that.”)  It is time for some changes. 

I don’t have God’s perspective, so I’m leaning on His.  I have laid out my every activity and attitude before Him and asked, “Is this what You would have for me?”  The answers have been surprising. 

He is renovating.  I am an observer, watching Him work.  As the drywall dust settles, I see glimpses of a new creation.

And what freedom!  I am no longer a powerless woman having a pathetic mid-life crisis.  I am His project, which means I am fully empowered to move forward – with boldness.  I can say “no, thank you” to things which might be burdensome, and give a resounding “yes!” to things which He has determined are right for me.

Birthdays need not be a funereal passing of another year. 

They can be the start of something wonderful – a birth-day, a cause for celebration.

Today can be a birth-day.  It’s all in the attitude.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”  (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

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If you happen to be taking a stroll through my neighborhood on any given summer morning, you will probably see me working in the garden.  (This Montana-grown, transplanted-to-the-south gal has to have her hands in the dirt!)  While I’m working, God often takes the opportunity to teach me.  This summer, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of what I’m learning, à la mini-Bible study, from the garden.  Grab a shovel or a cup of coffee and join me in my garden!

 __________________________________________

 

Finally!  The garden has started to produce!  Every morning is a bit like Christmas.  I run out to the garden to see what gifts are there.  I peek under leaves.  I sidle up to stalks.  And look!

The blueberries are popping…

 blueberries

Cukes are almost ready…

 cukes

Look at this cute baby cantaloupe!

 baby cantaloupe

‘Maters!

 maters

Deep aubergine Japanese eggplant…

 eggplant

I can almost smell the zucchini bread!

 zucchini

And look!  We even have hairy ears!  (Of corn, that is…)

 corn

Oh, that nasty pride monster tries to convince me that I can take credit for all these wonders, but I don’t listen.  Nope.  Can’t do it.  Sure, I’ve planted, watered and weeded, but seriously… did I have one thing to do with the gorgeous color of that eggplant?  Or how the zucchini grew an inch overnight?  Or how that cantaloupe blossom turned into a baby fruit seemingly in an instant?

God does it, and I get to delight in it.  What gifts!

(Please excuse me for the gratuitous exclamation points.  I can’t help myself.  I get so excited about the subject of fruit. (!)  Anyway.)

I wonder if He delights in the fruits He produces in our lives as much as I delight in what He produces every morning in my garden.  Does He get giddy when we show generosity, or exhibit patience, or control our impulses?  Does He laugh with us in our joy?  Or smile when we are kind?

As much as I would like to take credit for these glimmers of fruit in my life, I can’t.  He is doing the work in me, as surely as He is coloring the eggplant in my garden.  My part is to create the best conditions possible by reading His word and keeping Him close company.

Do you see any fruit growing in your life?  Look closely.  Don’t you see His handiwork in your life?  Have you seen His work in someone else’s life?

Digging deeper: Our lives are meant to bear fruit.  You’ve probably read this before, but take a close look at Galatians 5:13-26.  This is a brief explanation of what it means for us to bear fruit.  Are there any fruits missing in your life?  Where does your garden need some tending?

Let’s pray: Dear God, I want to delight You with the fruit of my life.  Do Your good work in me.  Tend all the dry and fruitless places in my heart so that my life may be pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

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I heard a strange noise this morning.  It was me, grumbling.  For me to grumble is (unfortunately) not unusual, but it is strange in that I have nothing to grumble about, really.  To the casual observer, my life is perfect.

Today, my ears were opened to my own discontent.

“Why am I always the one to clean up?” I muttered as I stomped around the house.  “Why can’t anybody in this house pick up after themselves?  And for the love of God, am I the only one in this family who cares that our sofa pillows are fluffed and karate chopped?!”

As I got myself ready for the day, the monologue continued.

“Ack!  Would you look at the number on the scale?  No wonder your pants are tight.  And look at that muffin top!  Get yourself to the gym, girl, or you’re going to need a new wardrobe – and it won’t be pretty!”

My list of grievances about my sorry life grew.  I grumbled about everything.  Oh, yes.  I had worked myself into quite a huff.

Was I being ungrateful?  Yes.  Whining much?  You betcha.  But underneath the grumbling was a feeling I hadn’t been aware of until today.

Powerlessness.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I want to go home, wherever that is.  I am in this strange land of motherhood/wifehood/personhood, and it’s fraught with unexpected challenges and dangers.  I feel powerless to change any of it, little realizing that the choices I have made brought me here.  I find myself dependent upon a cast of unlikely characters for help.

Ah, but there is my mistake.

I fail to realize that many of the things bothering me are well within my power to change because of the Spirit who indwells me.  If God is the power behind my efforts, how can I be power-less?

My family will never care one whit about the status of the sofa pillows.  (I probably shouldn’t either.)  But I can change.  I’ve had the power all along.  I just didn’t know it. 

Have you been there?  Have you grumbled about your job, your life, your __(fill in the blank)___?  If so, it’s time to go home, Dorothy.

You’ve had the power all along.

 

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man, this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:27, NIV)

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Last week, our family was supposed to have been enjoying a vacation in Orlando, FL.  It was to have been a refreshing getaway for spring break.  But, alas, that was not to be.

Our older daughter contracted a significant illness which kept her out of school for almost two weeks and required many doctor visits.  Since the penalties for cancelling our trip would have been steep, we decided that I would stay home with her while my husband took our younger daughter to Florida. 

If you are thinking that my older daughter was jealous, that her mother was stressed, that her father felt guilty for leaving and that her sister bounced between compassion and excitement, you would be correct.

It was at this point that each member of my family faced a choice.  We could let the circumstances devastate us, or we could choose to be thankful.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Thankful?  How could you be thankful?  Resigned maybe, or martyrish, but thankful?  Come on.”

I have heard of people of great faith thanking God in horrendous situations, and I have regarded them with incredulity.   I thought maybe they were faking.  Or maybe they were putting on a show of piety.  Or maybe they possessed way more faith than I would see in my lifetime.

But then it happened to me.

And it happened to my daughter.

We chose gratitude.

To keep our spirits up, we named everything we could think of to be thankful for about that particular situation.  We thanked God for clean hair when she finally got to shampoo after a week.  We thanked Him for Chinese take-out.  We thanked Him for inside jokes that made us laugh and briefly forget about pain.  We thanked Him for wise, compassionate doctors and nurses.  We thanked Him for medicine, and Mr. Brown letting her skate on all the history homework she missed, and the friends who stopped by with cards and gifts, and new sweat pants, and a host of others things that you might find odd.

God did not take away the circumstances.  Instead, He provided us with grateful hearts. 

It wasn’t that my daughter and I are women of faith for the ages.  It was that God is good. 

There are now two more humans who looked on an ugly circumstance, and with sincere gratitude, whispered to Him, “Yet will I praise you, O God.”

 

“For what you have done I will always praise you…. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.”  (Psalm 52:9, NIV)

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Shortly after we were married, the company my husband was working for folded under mysterious circumstances, and its owner disappeared into the night.  For the next eleven months, my husband was without full-time work.  We were broke. 

We weren’t exactly rolling in the dough before he lost his job.  We were young and just beginning our careers, so this was quite a blow.

We took work anywhere we could get it.  I had a few piano students, took singing gigs wherever I could and decorated ice cream cakes at his mother’s store.  He worked for a neighbor who had a landscaping business and took odd jobs from anyone who offered.

We ate rice and beans.  We went to the public library for dates.  We bought our clothing at thrift stores.  And when it all got to be too much, we volunteered at a soup kitchen to remind us that there were others who had it far worse.

We couldn’t give up, though.  We had freshly promised before God and many witnesses to stick with each other “in plenty and in want.”  With some age and perspective on me now, I can see that God gave us that time of want as a wedding gift.

We were dependent upon each other for survival, so we learned trust.

We worked on our situation together, so we learned teamwork.

We had very little, so we learned the benefits of simplicity.

We couldn’t afford everything we needed, so we learned to set priorities.

We were desperate with worry, so we learned to depend on God.

I have heard it said that the purpose of marriage is not to make you happy, but to make you holy.  This weekend, my man and I will celebrate eighteen years of holy-making: sickness, health, plenty, want, better and worse.  (With all we’ve been through in the last eighteen years, we ought to be pretty “holy-fied” by now.  God is still working on us…)

Funny, it’s those early days I miss – days before kids and schedules and mortgages and careers.  Life was simpler then.

I have a feeling that our life will return to simplicity once again.  But by that time, the girl in the marshmallow wedding dress and the guy with the inappropriate moustache will be silver-haired and wrinkly.

And we will thank God for our most unusual wedding gift – a disguised blessing.

 wedding

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  (James 1:2-3, NIV)

P.S. This post was published at a coffee shop.  (Landscapers have seen to it that I have no internet.)  Your comment may not appear until tomorrow, when certain cut cables should be repaired.  :/  Thanks for your patience.  – wwh

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I have been dreaming of starting a certain something for several years now.  (I promise to let you in on it when it is farther along.)  I’ve turned it over in my mind and examined it from every direction. 

I’ve been alternately inspired and utterly discouraged about it.  I have given audience to the inner critic in my mind that tells me it will never work.

Have you been there?  Have you been on the edge of beginning something, but find yourself teetering between jumping in and running in the other direction?

I haven’t exactly jumped in yet, but…

I gathered up my courage and began it.

It was sort of like an out-of-body experience.  I was watching myself take action.  I wanted to yell, “No!  Don’t open that door!  There might be a boogey man behind it!”

But there was another Voice.

“I put this on your heart.  What have you got to lose?  Don’t worry about what may or may not happen after this step.  Just take one.  You can do it.  I am with you.  You do not have to be afraid.”

And then there was calm.

Peace.

I remembered that the success or failure of it is not entirely up to me.  I need only to be a willing participant.  If God chooses to bless my efforts, that is His call.  Mine is to answer it.

At that moment, I reached into my purse for my wallet.  Instead, my hand pulled out an index card on which I had written a memory verse.  I read it, and had to laugh.

“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV)

Thank you, God. 

Thank you for the reminder that if you are leading, there is no room for timidity.

Thank you that when we step out in faith, the water we step on becomes as solid ground.

Thank you that we don’t have to do what you ask in our own power, but in yours.

I am following you.

 

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