Overgrown

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Do you ever feel you are just peeking out at life? Are lots of different things crowding out the life you really want? Are you longingly looking past obligations you have created for yourself Or perhaps  obligations others have put on you? Or maybe, your fears are keeping you from seeing real life? Maybe it’s time to do some weed whacking, even if they are pretty leaves.

One of the prompts for my art challenge this month was, ‘Overgrown.’ I’m practicing making a small ink drawing every day for a month.

In order to manage sketching every day this month, I had to plan ahead. Last month I chose the images I wanted to try to sketch. This meant I wouldn’t spend my ‘art’ time, scanning images.

Then I planned time in my day to do a light pencil sketch and also when I would actually do the ink work.

This is not an obligation or expectation from anyone else. It is a challenge I set for myself. Nothing bad will happen if I fail to ink every day. I don’t get demerits or a summons to court or even ridicule from my peers. It has been a good exercise in choosing my obligations. I have found creative ways to keep my commitment without missing out on other important things in my life.

Though this is an obligation of time every day for a month, it has rich benefits for me personally. First, it is helping me in time management. It is also helping me get comfortable with the lovely pen my husband gave me over a year ago. I am learning to control my hand-eye coordination better every day. This whole experience is helping me grow as an artist.

Not every obligation is like this. There are obligations we have not put on ourselves. We no longer have a parent looking over our shoulder and pointing out our shortcomings. But we may still be letting those sharp criticisms or harsh judgements crowd out the joys in our lives. Are there ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ in your life that keep you running in your hamster wheel? Have you ever asked God if those are obligations He wants you to continue to fill?

Perhaps your parents, either say or imply that since they paid for your education, you should be climbing the corporate ladder. You may have done that for a number of years while you saved and invested your money wisely. Now you are married and have a baby. You long to step off the ladder, do some commission work from home and enjoy your child’s formative years. Even if it means you won’t be adding much to your treasure in the bank, you could be gaining great treasure in helping your child be successful in life.

Our fears may keep us from enjoying life as we were meant to. We can be peeking out at life from behind our mesh of fears. For many years I would not speak in public because I was afraid I would fail. That hasn’t been a problem for a long time now. Yet there are still times when I could speak, but prefer to just watch from the sidelines.  

Recently my fear of not having done anything really worthwhile with my life has allowed a weed patch of disappointment, discouragement, and resentment for all the hard work I put into endeavors that have apparently not produced any fruit.

I’m ready to do some weed whacking. How about you? Are there commitments in your life that are suffocating the life out of you? How about fears? Are there some that you can recognize, call by name, and kick out?

God helping us, we can clear the rubble so that we can build for eternity.

Making Peace or Keeping the Peace

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Have you ever thought about the difference between making peace and keeping the peace? Someone I love mentioned that it is possible to keep the peace, but not be a peace maker. There is a subtle, but important difference in the two terms. And we can easily think we are peacemakers when we are really just keeping the peace.

Jesus tells us peace makers are blessed. In the Sermon on the Mount He said peacemakers will be called sons of God. He came to bring peace between God and man. But Jesus was not a peacekeeper. He was anything but that! He drove out the money changers from the Temple and He was always pointing out the fallacies of the Pharisees’ rules. If He had just gone along with the Jewish leaders, He could have kept the peace and not been crucified. But then he would have missed the point of his living among us.

Making peace with others

Have you ever thought, “If we do these chores in a different way, it would be easier on everyone.” Then in the next instant realized, “But since we’ve always done it this way, better not rock the boat.” That’s keeping the peace.

This kind of peace keeping can lock couples and families into hurtful behaviors. One member of the family can make the emotional toll too high for anyone to even make suggestions of change. They may control by ridicule, criticism, emotional outbursts, or stonewalling. These responses may kill a relationship quickly or very slowly like water eroding a rock.

I always saw my dad as a peacemaker. But on reflection, I think he was more of a peacekeeper. He did not like confrontation, so he would bear with situations long after others knew change would make his life better. His keeping the peace allowed a status quo where God couldn’t make a lasting peace in that situation. However, in another way his peace keeping was good. We never had the grumbling and complaining I’ve heard in other homes. He saw no reason to voice irritations and disrupt the peace unnecessarily. If he could do something to help, he did. If he could ease someone else’s frustrations by calm words, he did. Peace was the atmosphere around dad most of the time.

Making Peace can be internal too.

I hate to make phone calls to agencies. I’ve been afraid I couldn’t explain what I needed or wouldn’t have all the information they’d want or wouldn’t be able to understand their accent. My helpful and kind husband usually offers to take care of that kind of call for me. I’ve been peaceful in my ‘fear.’

While we were in the US this time, there was a major problem that required an ‘official’ call to an agency that is characterized as gruff and unhelpful. But I was the one with the information that needed to be dealt with. We were running out of time before returning to Malaysia. Mike was out doing some other chores. After I tried to use the internet to solve the problem, I realized there was no other solution except for me to make the call. I prayed about it and asked my sister to pray for me too.

When my husband came home, he was shocked to see me on the phone with an agent, dealing with the problem! “Not Diane! Not with them!” Yes, it was true! God was merciful. The three agents I had to speak to were all kind, understanding, and helpful. I would have missed a huge blessing if I had tried to keep my peace instead of making peace with my emotions. This doesn’t make me want to make any and every call. But I am now at peace that I can make calls when necessary.

Take a moment to consider:

I will look for other ways I’ve been peacekeeper instead of being a peace maker. Can you think of areas in your life where you need to take the step to be a peace maker? It may mean some temporary disruption, but in the end, you will have made peace in that area.

Skin Horse

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Mike reminded me of quotes from The Velveteen Rabbit. The beautiful Velveteen Rabbit asked the very worn and injured Skin Horse toy about becoming real.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

In the last few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in many, many years. We looked back at the time when we had been classmates with one and also teachers and student with the other. When we thought of those years, we remembered so many mistakes. We were different people back then, young and just feeling our way along. We didn’t know how to be what we needed to be in those situations. We felt we were failures.

As we met these old friends, we got a glimpse of how they saw us in those early, early years. They didn’t judge us like we had judged ourselves. We heard from their lips ways we helped and encouraged them. We heard about what our friendship had meant to them. We told them what they meant to us and how they had also blessed our lives all those years ago.

We heard how they had been knocked around, rubbed raw, and left alone at times in the past. We shared our bumps and scars and calluses. Like the Skin Horse we all feel the effects of aging. Also like the Skin Horse we know the harsh effects love has sometimes had on us.

The thing we had in common with these old friends was that though people and life had sometimes treated us harshly, we knew Love and that’s what has made us real. We have not had to go through these experiences by ourselves, though at times it felt really lonely. God never left us! He provided what we needed to keep us going. He healed, strengthened, provided, comforted, and even used us through the tough times. These bodies show the wear and tear, but our spirits shine through with Light.

These friends had loved us and cared for us many years ago. They carried pictures of us in their heads of the way we were back then. We see the Skin Horse that we’ve become and sometimes rue our lost youthful glow. But love from the Father and love from these and many other friends over many years have made us real.

We had such sweet conversations filling in an outline of our years apart. We were amazed at some of the similarities. Though our paths have been different, we have come to many of the same opinions and experiences.

Is there someone you should try to find from your past? Why not reach out? Your love and good memories of them may be just the lift they need.

To My Young Friends

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I  was asked, “What would I like to be remembered for?” My instant answer was,  ” I want to be one who showed young women how to fulfill their highest calling.” For some that means to be successfully single in a sex crazed world. For some to be a good wife and friend to their husband throughout life. For others the additional calling as mom to members of the next generation.

I  don’t want any applause for how I live. I don’t want to be looked at like a stained glass saint that is impossible to follow.

My life is impossible for anyone else to live. I admit that. But the same Lord who saves me, empowers me, and teaches me will do these things and more for anyone who opens their heart and life to Him.

My direction manual, the Bible, is available to any who will open and read it. The principles in it work in every generation, every culture.

One of the ways God helps us stay on course is by giving us companions along the way. For some women, the friends they went to kindergarten with stay their friends for life. Most of us though, have to find those close friends at different stages of our lives. Society is so fluid that even if we never move, everyone we hold dear will move. But I have always had at least one close female friend and usually more than one. Even in the wilderness, God provided friends for His people.

We need each other. We need confidential friends and those who know us well enough to know when we are in need or in danger. If you don’t have friends like this, ask your Heavenly Father for one and then take the time and energy to develop the friendship. God uses good friends to help us through our griefs and and to keep us grounded through our successes. We also need the exercise of being a good friend to others.

Look for opportunities to grow or stretch or change. It may seem best to just keep doing things the same way. This is comfortable or at least a known quantity. But take the challenge to learn something new or take a new position or go somewhere new. You won’t be sorry for the experience. God will use it to enrich your life and other’s lives too.

Young women, give it your all, your best. Whatever you have to do today, do it with your whole heart. Even if it doesn’t make sense now, you will some day see how it built your character or gave you experiences you can use to help others or prepared you for an opportunity in the future.

I’m here. I’m rooting for you. And you have a Heavenly Father who wants your best. Don’t give up or give in! There is too much at stake.

This song has been the encouragement I needed at times to keep going and keep doing what is right. Let the words bless you, too.

Don’t grow weary or discouraged. Don’t surrender in the fight. Keep on moving in the Spirit, keep on doing what you know is right. There will be seasons of blessing and there will be weeping in the night. But soon you’ll be reaping the blessing, if you keeping on in the fight.

God Sees in Secret

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In our heads we know that since God is spirit, He sees in a different way from man. We can hide whatever we want to about ourselves from other people. But we cannot hide from God.

Sometimes we don’t like that we cannot hide from God.

Psa. 139: 7-12 describes our feeble attempts to hide.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” 

We know He sees our obvious sins. But He also sees our secret sins. These are the sins even our closest friend does not know. Sin always damages and secret sin damages our own souls. They may not be seen by others, but God wants to free us from their grasp too. We know God knows about them, when His conviction stabs us like a thorn in our shoe. We find mercy when we confess these sins.   (Pro 28:13)

hiding

He sees us when we are tempted. Like a skilled manipulator makes us agree to something we had no intention of doing, the enemy of our soul tries to isolate us from support and render us too weak to resist. But Jesus was tempted in every way we are and will not let us be tempted beyond our ability. And he provides a way of escape. We need to ask God to show us the way of escape when we are tempted. (1Co 10:13) 

The Bible shows us very good reasons we want God to see us like no person can see us.

Hagar was very glad God could see her! She was Sarai’s slave and had been harshly treated by Sarai when she became pregnant with Ishmael. Sarai had arranged for her to get pregnant, but then was angry when Hagar looked down on her for her barrenness. Hagar fled into the wilderness. The Lord told her to return to Sarai and submit to her and He promised her that her offspring would be a multitude. And she named Him, The God Who Sees.  (Gen 16:1-13)

He sees our tears and knows our pain. Even if the people closest to us cannot empathize with us, God sees and saves our tears in a bottle. (Psa. 56:8 ) And even if the tears are not stopped in this life, at the end of time there will be no more death, no more grief and no more crying or pain. (Rev_21:4) 

He sees when we are lonely and depressed. He is our Comforter. He will turn our loneliness and depression into a way we can comfort others. He does not waste our sorrows. (2Co 1:3-4) 

He sees us even when we cannot feel his presence. Many of the most sincere believers through the ages had periods when they could not feel His presence. He had never left them and He saw them and provided for them. Mother Teresa is one in our time who spent many years serving the poor and dying and not feeling God’s presence in her own life. But He promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And He keeps His promises! (Heb_13:5)

He saw us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. He has seen us grow and develop. He sees what age and use have done to our bodies. What we don’t like, has never repulsed Him. (Psa 139:13-16)

He sees our thoughts and hopes and dreams. Others may not know what we dream about and our hopes for the future. Many of those God placed in us to give us a future to aim for.  (Eph 2:10) 

He sees our hard work. Some of us are given very tedious, repetitious work to do. We may never see any worth in that work here. But if it is done in obedience to Him, He stores up rewards for us in heaven. (Col 3:23- 24)

He sees where we go. He also sees our attitude as we go. When we are open with God and willing to do what He tells us, He will show us when we have a bad attitude and what we need to do about it. Wanting revenge or holding unforgiveness are just a couple of the bad attitudes we may have. God will not let us keep those and will help us know a better way, if we are open to Him. (Eph 4:21-32)

He sees when others take advantage of us, or persecute us. It is His work to vindicate us. In His time and in His way, He will give everything back to its rightful owner.  (Isa_54:17) 

He sees our needs. Why don’t we pour out to Him what our needs are? He knows them before we ask, but He loves to hear us ask. (Heb_4:16) 

There is nothing that pleases God more than when we take time to be alone with Him. He loves us to tell Him what is going on in our lives, especially when we listen to what He has to say about those things. He does not want us to be afraid to tell Him anything. When we spend time with Him, the troubles of this life seem much smaller and less important. We discover a new way to see when we see how the Father sees.

You may click on the link to have the Bible verses for your reference.