Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What I Have Learned

Since this is the last day of the year, I wanted to write a conclusion to my year of "baby steps towards wisdom."  To determine if this endeavor was a success or failure, I asked myself what I have learned.  I reread some of my posts.  I reviewed the lessons I tried to learn...waking up early, working diligently, dealing with anger in a godly manner, giving soft answers, being more disciplined, not being weary in well doing.  I tried to honestly access my success and my failure on each task.  I have been more successful at some endeavors, less so in others.  But if you boil it all down to one thing, THIS is what I have learned this year:

God's way works.

Sometimes I can understand why, sometime I can't, but if I strive to do the things that God's word says is beneficial, life is better.  I get excited when I find a new-to-me admonition in the Bible, or when I find an answer to the problem I am currently experiencing.  I get excited because I know, in a way I have never before known as surely as I do now, that if I can execute the instruction...improvement will occur.  It just will.  It has.  Over and over again this year, I have watched problems improve because of God's wisdom applied in my daily life.  Perfectly applied?  HAHAHA....never.  But I really have given it a honest attempt.  And it worked.

So this year I have learned God's word really is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.  Not just in an eternal, when life is done heaven is your home kind of way.  But in a day to day life is tough and kids aren't easy and marriages can get messy kind of way.  The answers to our problems are there if we will search them out and apply them to ourselves.  I have learned that God's way works, and that is a step towards wisdom.  I am thankful.

God bless all of you, and may 2014 see all of us grow in our knowledge of and love for Him.  Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Stocking Stories

For years, HBON and I did not do the Christmas stocking thing at our house.  We didn't want to.  It seemed frivolous to have more sweets and gifts added to an already abundant amount of those unnecessary blessings we were surrounded with during that time of year.  The expense and effort did not seem worth the reward.  Then, about four or five years ago, our daughter came to us with a heartfelt plea to add stockings to our Christmas tradition.  After much discussion, HBON and I decided we would give it a try, but that we wanted the stockings to mean more than "Yes!  More stuff for me!"  In this vein, my husband related this story to me.......

Daddy (HBON's daddy) grew up poor.  The Great Depression didn't have a whole lot of effect on their family, because they were already too poor to notice much difference.  One Christmas, Daddy ran into the living room where the children had hung up their old socks the night before; and he could tell there was something in the toe of his sock.  FIlled with excitement, he ran to the sock, pulled in down, reached into the toe, and pulled out an ENTIRE orange.  He was soooooo excited!  A WHOLE orange that he did not have to share with anybody else.  And that was Christmas that year..nothing under a tree...no big feast for lunch...just that one,beautiful orange. And in his mind...even as an adult...he would speak with a hushed voice and a grin when he would tell that story. 

Now, in the overabundance that has become Christmas in America, this story may seem sad, but that was not the way HBON's father would tell the story.  It was always told as if this was one of the best Christmas's of his entire life.  See, in that little boy's mind, an entire orange to eat by one's self was an extravagance not to be imagined.  And to receive that orange at that time was a blessing of abundance he never forgot as long as he lived on this earth.  He didn't lament what he didn't have, or demand as his right something better.  He recognized...well into his eighties...the sacrifice of love his parent's had made to give him that gift.  He was thankful.

So as the conversation continued, we were discussing how gifts don't have to be huge to be special, and I then told HBON this story about my mother's childhood....

Momma was a fairly difficult child when she was young.  She came from a broken home. Her mother was deemed mentally unfit to raise her and her sister, and at that time it was considered inappropriate for a man to raise two young girls on his own. So, my four-year-old mother and her sister were sent to live with their paternal grandparents, Papa and Grandmother.  Momma was an absolute handful, and spankings, timeouts, speeches, etc. did no good.  She was just too hurt to care.  But Papa noticed that this little granddaughter of his loved new socks.  So he made a deal with her...IF she tried to be good all week and IF she was good every Sunday in church...then she could come to town with him on town days.  And IF, while Papa ran his errands, she conducted herself as a little lady, he would stop into the store on the way home and buy her a new pair of socks.  This simple deal changed that little girl's behavior.  At first, the reward of socks was the main motivating factor, but notice it was connected to spending the whole day with this man....observing his interactions and having one on one conversations about things great and small.  As time passed, the time with Papa became her treasure.  The gentle, firm guidance of this patient man eventually tamed this wild, little girl.  It wasn't a big reward....not candy or a toy or an expensive something....just a day in town every so often, holding Papa's hand, and a new pair of socks at the end of the day.  That is all it took to convince that little girl that she was someone special.

Out of these two stories, our stocking tradition was born.  Every year we each get one orange, some socks, and one extra little gift in our stockings.  One simple, yet extravagant blessing received with a thankful heart.  One reminder that each of us is special to the others.  And one little extra, just because.  We tell the story of the orange and the story of the sock every year.  And while, right now, our children sort of roll their eyes and say...Yes, we already know this story! ... one day, I hope, they will recognize the nuggets of blessings found in their family's lore.  Abundant blessings.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

But Sometimes...

Isn't life funny.  I made my post yesterday about well doing, in part to encourage myself, in part to encourage you all; and this morning I was presented with another opportunity to help someone....and I said no.  Now here is the thing...I just could not do it today.  I had to work at the church, my house was a wreck because my focus had been a lot of other places this week, and Christmas is coming, y'all!  I had to have a day with just my troubles, responsibilities, and family to worry about if I had a hope of getting through next week.  So, I said no.

My friend, who called for the help, was wonderfully understanding, didn't make me feel at all guilty, and even called to give us an update on things so that we would not worry.  She knows, I hope...I think, that next time she needs some help she should call me and I will probably say yes.  Another friend sent me a little note encouraging me to feel okay about saying no sometimes because I say yes so much.  She even gave me a virtual pat on the back.  And that's the best thing about grown up friendships.  They (grown up friends)  get it when I have to say no, they will give me another opportunity to say yes, and they will love me no matter what.

We should be willing to be well doers.  We should want to be well doers.  But there are times in life that you just have to say no...and that is okay.  Recognizing our limits is not being weary....it is just being human.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Weary of Well Doing?

KJV Galatians 6 : 9-10

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."

The straight way is difficult, and sometimes you just want to spend a day on the broad way so that you can "rest".  But that rest is false.  It is like a vivid nightmare while you sleep.  Yes, technically you rested...but you don't feel rejuvenated.    You are not excited to face the day ahead of you, and a million voices will call you back so that you may "rest" some more.  And you must fight to get back onto the straight way, more weary than when your veered off in the first place.

Well doing is wearisome.  Doing good to all men...even and especially the brethren....can be tiresome.  It can add work, responsibility, and stress to an already hectic life.  At first, we don't mind too much, because we figure it won't last for long.  But if we are faced with a long opportunity for well doing, we start to tire.  And then we start to make excuses for why we shouldn't help someone anymore, or maybe we even blame them for needing help.  But this verse cautions us against this downward spiral.  It admonishes us to not be weary...because in DUE season..we...shall...reap (good things is implied)  IF...IF...IF we faint not.

Fainting is a dastardly temptation.  Fainting not does not mean that you won't get tired....you will.  It doesn't mean that you won't get discouraged...you might.  It doesn't mean that you won't get frustrated...you can just about count on that.  Fainting not means doing what is right in the face of all the frustration, discouragement, and weariness.  Fainting not means...in the words of Sir Winston Churchill....."never give in, never give in, never, never, never- in nothing. great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." (From a speech to Harrow School on October 29,1941)

Yielding is the easy path.  Giving up takes little effort.  But the consequences of that can be devastating.

Continuing on can be exhausting.  Holding fast can be excruciatingly  difficult.  But the consequences can be amazingly  full of blessings.

The world will tell you that you have done your part, that no one could reasonably expect you to continue on, that you deserve a break.  God's word says to not be weary, to not faint, to fight the good fight.  Earlier in this chapter of Galatians is this statement.."Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

So...do we continue in well doing...or do we take a day off.  I guess it comes down to who we believe more...God or man.

 Don't be weary friend.  Don't faint.  Due season is coming.  It's coming.