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Knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement from a Christian perspective is my goal. I post a weekly commentary, which could be about world events or the events of my week. Other days I might share stories, recipes, homemaking tips, book reviews, political talk, biblical truth, or other blogs and websites I like. This blog is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Monday, December 28, 2009

DO CRUMBS REALLY MATTER?

Every time I'm bothered lately, it's for the same reason...people can't relax. They obsess about everything and fuss about things that could easily be overlooked. It's hard to be yourself around someone like that. The minute they walk into the room you feel uncomfortable, like you have to watch everything you say and do for fear that you might set that person off.

I was that kind of person years ago. Maybe that's why I'm bothered by it now. I was very controlling, I fussed about things that weren't important and I had a comment for everything. I still have a lot of opinions, but now I have to be pushed before I'll express them directly. When the same injustice keeps occurring, I'll make my opinion known, but I'm more likely to grab a pen and start writing than I am to get into an argument.

The older I get, the more I realize that it's just not worth it. People have enough to worry about without being nagged by people who can't relax. The bible has some clear warnings about minding our own business and letting God do the correcting. Of course there are times when we do need to speak, but I've learned that those times are few and far between and should always be preceded by careful thought and lots of prayer.

I'm not talking about parenting. That kind of guidance is certainly needed. I'm talking about fussing over things that aren't important. In the grand scheme of life do crumbs really matter? Is it worth disrupting a peaceful dinner for the sake of a crumb-free table? Is there any sense to arguing about garbage? I know a guy that gets mad if someone throws something in the garbage right after he changes the bag, as if there's a waiting period that must be followed. I guess he needs to enjoy that empty can. He makes garbage more important than people every time he fusses about it.

People are more important than things. A close friend said those very words to me recently. A few years ago she became very sick and was faced with the reality of death. Since then her priorities have changed. Now she doesn't care about her house being perfect and she doesn't get upset when her routine is interrupted. There was a time when I couldn't drop in on her unexpectedly. If I did, I was met at the door by an unwelcoming glare.

Today she's more relaxed because being sick made her realize how fragile and fleeting life is. She doesn't want to waste her time being mad at people when things don't go her way. Those things are less important now. She thinks of her sickness as a blessing. It changed her for the better. And people notice the change. They like the person she's become... a more relaxed, more pleasant version of herself.

How do you know if you're someone who needs to relax? What are your family members and friends telling you? Keep a journal and write down every time you fuss about something that could easily be overlooked. Might you be better off to pray about the situation than to voice constant opinions?

What if we took that same energy and fussed about the people in our lives? What if we would come home and talk to our kids, ask them how their day went, instead of fussing about the way the house looks? What if we put more effort into noticing people and their good qualities, praising them for the work they have done instead of harping on their weaknesses and what they haven't done.

If we can't relax we can't enjoy the ones we love. We'll be more bothered by them than anything. Some day those people won't be with us anymore. All we'll have is memories that we wish we could go back and change. We'll regret all the time we wasted fussing about messes, crumbs and interruptions.

Monday, December 21, 2009

CATCHING MY BREATH

"Lay aside your agenda for a moment. Stop striving to relieve yourself of the burdens that plague you. Rest, dear sister. Rest in the secure arms of your heavenly Father, who set your story in motion before time began."

Today I decided to take a break from all the "doing" and just "be". I'm always amazed at how God brings just the right book into my life at exactly the time I need to read its wisdom. My latest divinely appointed book is Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup. The above quote was taken from it.

I've been knocking myself out with accomplishing things. I'm falling into the trap of believing that my value comes from what I do and how busy I am. That's the message of our culture. But it's a lie. Today I realized what I've been doing and I decided to spend the day catching my breath and hanging out with God. He reminded me that my value comes from who I am, not what I do, and who I am is a beloved child of God. Today He invited me to rediscover that.

Chapter 10 of Alsup's book is a chapter every woman should read. It's about finding our identity in Christ. She starts the chapter with this question: "Where do you find your identity? If you have a blog or a MySpace page, what does it reveal about how you define yourself? How do you introduce yourself when someone asks, "What do you do?"

A few days ago someone asked if I was working. I said, "Just at home." Why I felt the need to add the "just" to my response is another example of being tainted by the culture I live in, a culture that has shunned the value of homemaking. The message I hear day after day is that if I'm not busy outside my home, then I'm not valuable. It's difficult to ignore that message even though I know it's untrue. So I decide that I'd better get busy. And then I make sure to let people know that I'm busy so I can prove my worth.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only woman who does this. As you're reading this you might be having a revelation of your own. Maybe you, too, need to catch your breath and connect to the real source of your identity--the one who created you.

It is God's opinion of me that matters, not what others think of me. I know that, but I still get sidetracked into thinking I need the approval of people. I think it's something many of us do. "Many Christian women weigh their words, obsess over their clothes, and attempt to control big and small circumstances around them in an effort to build their reputation. They are constantly on guard for new strategies to make others think better of them," says Alsup.

Talking about how busy we are and how successful we are is one way to build our reputation with people. I know a woman who talks constantly about her business and her accomplishments. She even mentions dollar amounts and her latest awards or promotions. Just listening to her makes me feel as if she's trying to impress me. But I'm not the one she should be impressing. I have no power to change her life or make it better.

God is the one we need to impress. I need to remember that, too. I'm also guilty of trying to make others think better of me. But the bible says that we must let go of our reputations and rights. We are called to humble ourselves, to forget about ourselves and instead serve God and serve others. We are actually supposed to think of others as better than ourselves. Not an easy thing to do. Especially in a culture that is so self-absorbed.

My sister is a professional artist and she struggles with the promotional aspect of her business. She knows that in order to sell her work she has to promote it. She has to get it out there for people to see. But she doesn't like promoting herself. She would rather hand that job over to someone else. But paying someone to do that wouldn't be practical.

I think it all comes down to our motives. If we promote ourselves and our accomplishments to impress others, that's not right. But if we promote ourselves in order to pay the bills or serve God in some way, that's a different story. Artists have to advertise their work if they want to sell it. That's just the way it is. What matters is that we keep our focus on God and His approval. Trying to win the approval of people is a waste of time, and it's downright exhausting. We need to rest in the secure arms of our heavenly Father. That's the only place that we can catch our breath and have peace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SIMPLIFY THE SEASON

This is the first I've been inspired to write since taking a break in late summer. Don't you love the weeks leading up to Christmas? I guess not everyone does. I hear so many complaints about having so much to do and so little time. Some people get very stressed out at this time of year. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Simplicity helps me to enjoy the pre-Christmas rush. I'm finding that the more I simplify my life the more I enjoy it. The less pressure I put on myself, the more I can live in the moment and enjoy what's happening now instead of fretting about all I have yet to do. I can listen to my children without distraction, have time to do things for myself, and recognize the needs of others then do something to help.

One of the keys to simplicity is to love people and not things. Especially at Christmas we get so caught up in making things perfect. We want to find the perfect gifts, decorate our homes like Martha would, wrap the presents with style, and buy the perfect outfit for every event. We wear ourselves out on all the pretty details then have no energy to enjoy the company.

I simplified my tree this year. Instead of dragging out all the boxes of ornaments, I pulled apart some cotton balls and covered the tree with snow. My Christmas card list isn't what it used to be. Only people who've been a meaningful part of my life will get a card this year. I didn't spend much time searching for gifts. And I'm planning to wrap them all with my friend Tam. We're going to make tacos, play Christmas music and sip cocoa or hot tea. My wrapping paper isn't color-coordinated and I won't pay much attention to making perfect creases or disguising the tape. I'll be too busy enjoying the company of my good friend.

Simplifying things frees up our time so we can magnify the people in our lives. Some people have it backwards. They magnify the things and simplify the people. Then they wonder why they feel so worn out and unhappy. My fondest memories of Christmas are not about how pretty the packages were wrapped or how my mom decorated the house.

What I remember is sitting on the stairs Christmas morning, whispering with my sister and brothers, impatiently waiting for Mom and Dad to wake up. I remember caroling on a snowy night in Pillow. I remember how my Dad loved egg nog. And the excitement of Christmas Eve when one by one we were allowed to open just one of our gifts. It's the company that I remember, not so much the things.

Of course festive things do help to make Christmas special. Ribbon candy has a special place in my memories and the warm flickering glow of a candle-lit church as we sang Silent Night. Christmas without candles, music, decorations and lit up trees is hard to imagine. But if we're over-stressed this time of year, we might be investing too much in those things. Simplify the season and have more time for the people you love.