The End of the Thomas Phase

This morning I sat in awe as my boys gave their little sisters all their Thomas the Tank Engine trains saying they do not play with them anymore.  While I watched the interaction occur I felt proud. Proud that they realized they do not need those toys in their room since they do not play with them. Proud that they passed them down to their sisters knowing it would bring them joy. And proud that they had finally realized they had moved on from Thomas and Friends. For a quick moment I felt relief that the Thomas stage was finally over. Then I quickly felt sad.

Thomas the Tank Engine has been a huge part of my house every since my boys brought home the first Thomas book from the library 3 ½ years ago. I’m pretty sure the Thomas the Tank Engine early readers were the first books that my oldest read on his own. After a few months of reading these books, I finally agreed to let the kids use their TV time to watch Thomas and Friends. Before I knew it Thomas, James, Henry, Percy, and Gordan were the majority of conversations, drawings, stories, make-believe play, toys, and games that filled my house with laughter, comradery, and fun for the kids.

I will admit, I wished for this day to come for some time now. (There’s only so much train whistles you can hear in a day that do not actually come from a train.) I had noticed the fade, but to say it is over… it’s bitter-sweet.

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The days of the kids running around in a line pretending to be train cars are over. Pictures that covered my fridge in trains are now replaced by super-heroes. The television shows and games they choose are now so varied and vast that I cannot predict who they are pretending to be as I type this blog.

But for a short period of time, it was predictable. When my kids were playing pretend, I knew exactly which engine each kid was assigned. When they sat down to color, I knew exactly what each kid will draw and which color it would be based off their engine of choice.

My kids grew during this phase. Yes, physically but also together. They had a common interest and supported each other in that interest. I don’t know many young girls who would choose trains over dolls, but my girls did. And I happen to know it is not because that was their preference, but because they wanted to play with their brothers and embraced the opportunity.  They willingly embraced less than desirable characters such as James and Gordon to be part of the Thomas and Friends craze.

Do I take on this attitude when it comes to my relationships? Am I willing to fulfill a less than desirable role so that my relationship can grow?

I’m sorry to say, this answer is not always yes. I can’t even tell you how many arguments my husband and I got into early in our marriage over the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen… Let me just throw this out there- I was not prepared for any duties in the kitchen when we got married. I seriously had no idea how to even make rice. I joked that if there were not directions on the back of the box, I could not make it. It was not a joke. It was 100% serious. For the first part of our marriage, I made frozen dinners every night. That got expensive fast and did not taste too good either.

Dishes! Oh dishes! To tell you how many arguments we had over the dishes. In truth, it was because I saw dishes and cooking as a chore… not as a responsibility… and definitely not as an opportunity to serve my husband. My heart actually grew to hate dishes, and this caused feeling of resentment towards my husband.

I wish I could tell you there was a switch that went off quickly. That God quickly convicted me of this, and I changed my heart in a matter of moments… but that would be a lie.

It took practice. First, I had to learn to cook. Yes, 26 years old and I had no idea how to make a pot of chili. I had to let go of my pride and ask my husband to teach me. Then I had to commit to doing the dishes without complaining. It took effort, but I put in the effort. Sadly, my works reflected a change, but my heart was still not thrilled about this change.

Then I ran across this blog. (Man, I wish I could redirect it to you, but that was almost 6 years ago.) It talked about how our family includes the most important people in our life, and sometimes we do not treat them like we should. Sometimes we take them for granted. The woman went on to talk about how she made a lasagna for her sick friend’s family. Her kids watched and anticipated eating that lasagna as she cooked it, but then they took it to her friend’s house. For dinner her family ate left-overs. While her family ate dinner she could see the disappointment all over her kids’ faces. The blogger said from that moment on, when she cooked for someone else- she always cooked 2 because her family was more important to her than any other family.

It was a simple blog post about serving your family. But the Holy Spirit used it to convict me. Am I serving my family like they are the most important people in my world? Because they are. The people closest to you shouldn’t get your left-overs. They should get the first serving with room for dessert.

After reading this, my perception on the kitchen changed. I wanted to give my husband and my kids a good first serving and good left-overs too. I wanted them to know that I wanted to serve them. It was my joy to take care of them. I needed that attitude change. That attitude change has blessed me in more ways than I can count.

I actually no longer even see the kitchen as a less than desirable role. I am happy to cook dinner, happy to clean up afterwards, and eager to show my love to my family…Probably the same way my girls never saw a problem with taking on the role of James and Gordon. They happily embraced the characters and claimed them as their favorites. It is where they fit into the puzzle and a role they proudly played.

 

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.   1 John 3:18

 

Imitators

 

A few days ago, I apparently left my shoes out in the living room. My 3-year-old comes running to me to show that she was wearing my shoes. When my 4-year-old saw me smiling, she asked if she could wear my shoes too. I tossed her a pair of my shoes and sat back to watch.

My daughters ran around the house calling each other “mommy” while pretending to do my chores. One of them pretended to dust, while the other was asking if she could make her sister lunch.  The whole time they were shuffling around in shoes WAY too big for them.

I just smiled. It was honestly adorable to watch my girls imitate me. It was also a sigh of relief to see them modeling some of my good traits.

Sitting back smiling as they imitated me actually had me wondering if this even a fraction of how God must feel when we make the effort to imitate His Son?

I mean my kids could imitate me and probably not be modeling the best behavior. (I’m human after all…) But when we imitate Jesus, we are shining His light into a world that is filled with darkness. We are showing the world how awesome He is! Everything good and perfect comes from Him!

Jesus told his disciples, “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father…” (John 14:9) In other words, Jesus did only what He saw His Father do. By observing the character and actions of Jesus, we see the nature of God the Father! Everything Jesus did was to do the Will of His Father and bring Him glory!

When people see me, do they see Jesus? Do my actions reveal that God is alive in me and shine His light?

Do I take the time to pray and devote time to God like Jesus did?

Do I show love and talk to the outcast or those who are racially or culturally different than me like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman… or do avoid them?

Do I pray for those who are sick and hurting when they ask for prayer? Or do I simply say, “Oh yes, I will pray for you…” and then forget?

Imitating Jesus is not an easy thing to do. We are called to be set apart, called to shine His light for all to see. We are supposed to be different. John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We do not want to simply honor God with our lips, but also with our hearts. Our actions are an overflow of our hearts. So today, make an effort to imitate Jesus. Make an effort to show His love for His glory.

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As I put on my shoes that my kids once used to imitate me, I pray that God will help me imitate Him and show the world His goodness!

Asking For What I Need

My kids are big readers. They love their books. It’s not uncommon to walk into their rooms and see them all reading for fun. To say reading is one of the favorite hobbies around my house would be spot on.

Even though they love to read on their own (even my 1 year old), my kids will still ask me to read to them. Sometimes they ask me to read to them because they don’t know all the words. Sometimes they ask me to read to them because they like the funny voices I can add to the story. But usually they ask me to read to them just because they want to spend time with me.

The other day one of my girls was having a rough day. Her siblings did not seem to want to listen to her while they were playing outside. Then she had to come inside and change because she got her favorite shirt dirty. Overall, she was just having a rough moment. She was trying her hardest not to have a melt down and came running to me for a hug. While I was hugging her, I saw her glance at the bookcase. “Mommy, can you read me a story?” she asked.

Of course, I can. I knew that she did not really care about reading a book. I knew that what she needed, in that moment, was some quality time with her mom. She needed to feel loved and get away from the things that had her upset. So, we sat down on the couch together and read a book. By the end of the book, her tears were gone, a smile was on her face, and she was ready to go back outside and play with her siblings.  

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Somehow my 3-year-old daughter knew exactly what she needed and was able to ask the correct question to get it. Me… not so much… I might know what I need, but I fail time and time again to appropriately communicate that… to my husband… to my friends… to God…

For example, the other day my husband and I got in an argument. I said what I felt like I needed to say, let him say what he needed to say, and then I walked away from the conversation. Honestly there was no use in arguing. We did not agree. I knew that I had upset him, but I did not feel like my request was out of line. In fact, his response is what actually upset me. I know he was not responsible for my feelings, but my feelings were hurt.  

I could sit around all day thinking about how much he hurt my feelings… how upset I am with him. I may have even prayed a selfish prayer that God will convict him…By doing this I was only hurting myself and our relationship as I spun my tornado of emotions.

But then when I went to the Lord in prayer (after I stepped back from my emotions), I asked for God to change my perspective. Help me see past my feelings. Change my heart.

See- I cannot be a victim and a victor. I have the choice to sit in wallow in my emotions or to rise above them and see the truth. I cannot change someone else. No matter how hard I try. God reserves that authority for Himself.

Taking my eyes off what I perceive as the problem and focusing on growing in faith and obedience has had a huge impact on all my relationships. As I pray for a change of perspective, my eyes are open to the truth.  Most of the time I am not right. Now that doesn’t mean my husband is always right either. It means there is a middle ground to stand on. See marriage takes 3. When we are both trying to be right and trying to “win” an argument, we lose. We have to take that step back and ask God to change our hearts, change our perspective, help us see things the way God sees them.

One time I was actually praying a prayer that God would convict my husband of how harsh he was being. I was even making a list of the things God should convict him of… instead I heard in my heart, “Renee, love keeps no record of right and wrong.” Come on God, let me be upset. He wronged me. “No, Renee, love keeps no record of right and wrong.” Alright God, I get it.

I have learned that this life is not about getting what I want. It is not about being happy. It’s about being holy. It is about growing in obedience and trust in God. I had to let go of my “list” of things that had been done wrong to me. Not because the list was invalid, not because my husband was right, but because in doing so, I was growing closer to God.

Like I said before, I cannot change anyone. No matter how hard I try. But when I take the step back to grow closer to God, I can see Him also working in my husband. Not too long after I had the conviction to let go of my list, my husband also shared his conviction. Reading straight from the Bible he told me, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them- Colossians 3:19.”

How awesome is our God! While He is working to refine me, He is also at work in those around me! When I can change my focus on growing towards Him, I can see Him alive in others! Trust Him! He  knows what He is doing!

Since this experience, I’ve learned to pray prayers that improve my walk when I am in these situations. Pray for a change of heart. Pray for perspective changes. Pray for the person who has hurt me. Pray for the person who drives me bonkers. Pray to be more like Jesus.

Seriously it works. In my experience, God is not necessarily changing that person (though He may be). He is changing my heart towards that person. There are times that God does change my husband, but what I have found is that if I focus on God, and my husband focuses on God, God becomes the glue of our marriage.

As I pray these prayers I begin to see God at work in so many ways. It is my on-going prayer that God will use me and my family to do his will.  I have started praying that God will open my eyes to where He is already at work. As I have grown closer to God, I have realized my desires begin to change to meet His desires. I’ve realized prayers I have been praying all my life have a deeper, more meaningful sustenance.

Prayer is the greatest tool we have! Thanks to Jesus and what He did on that cross, we have the ability to go before our Heavenly Father and ask for what we need. However, many times what we think we need and what we actually need are not the same thing.

It is my prayer for you that the Holy Spirit continues to peruse you. That He continues to change your heart to a heart more like Christ’s heart. That God’s will becomes your will.

 

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

I John 5:14

The Magic Marker

My daughter has these black baby-doll slippers that she likes to wear as much as possible. Seriously, it’s not uncommon to find her playing outside wearing these dress shoes. She wears them everywhere.

Well, it should be no surprise that when a 4 -year-old wears a pair of dress shoes every day, the shoes will be scuffed up. In the past, I have secretly taken her shoes and covered up the scuff marks with black permanent marker. Good as new, no-one knew- not even my daughter.

Before church last Sunday I noticed her shoes were no longer black in many areas due to all the scuff marks. I told her to bring me her shoes. She watched in amazement as her shoes began to look new- all because of a black Sharpie marker.

Later that week my daughter brought me her shoes with a little scuff mark on it. “Mom, can you please use that marker to fix my shoes?” I looked at the shoe… there was a little mark on it… But she did ask nicely. I grabbed the marker, fixed it, and sent her on her way.

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I still sit dumbfounded at this. For almost a year she happily wore her scuffed up shoes. I would make them look new every once in a while, but for the most part she didn’t care. Then she saw me use the “magic marker” and that little scuff now needed fixed as soon as she saw the flaw.

This is a classic case of accepting mediocracy when you can have amazing. Even though her favorite shoes looked worn, they were still her favorite shoes and she wore them nonetheless. Now- her favorite shoes can also look amazing all the time while she wears them all the time. Why would you settle for less than the best you can get?

I have honestly struggled with this in my prayer life. I used to pray prayers that sounded like this: “God, here’s what I want… But your will be done.” I prayed because I knew I should, but I also didn’t want to be let down if my prayers were not answered. So, this was my way of letting God off the hook. (As if I could actually control God.) The truth is that I lacked faith. I lacked assurance that God can do anything. I lacked confidence that He cared enough about my little situation to make sure I got the best. I did not realize this was my opportunity to speak to my Heavenly Father, a Father who loves me unconditionally and truly wants the best for me…. Here I was giving the God of the Universe, The Creator of Heaven and Earth, an out. I was telling Him it was ok to NOT answer my prayer… why? Because I was praying without expecting God to come through for me. I knew He could do anything, but I just didn’t think that he would. In the book of James, we are told not to pray double-minded. If you have a need, ask for that need to be met.

I heard a preacher (sorry I don’t remember which one) once talk about how upset he would be if his son needed a new pair of shoes but did not ask him. Maybe his son thought his dad was too busy, wouldn’t care, or couldn’t afford it… ultimately the reason does not matter… The preacher expressed how heart broken he would be if his son would hold out on a request from his dad for any reason.

It is the role of a parent to provide for the needs of a child. It is a privilege of the parent to provide for the wants of their kids. Now sometimes, parents do know best and have to say wait or not right now. But for the most part, we- as parents- want our kids to have their needs and even some of their wants met. Most of all, we want our kids to be happy. I never want my kids to worry that I cannot or will not provide for their needs and wants… I can only imagine how God must feel when we do not ask for what we need.

The point of this sermon was if there is something you want, ask for it. If there is something you need, ask for it, AND have confidence that God, your Father, will provide. Honestly, this is about trust. We have to trust that our God can and will provide for our needs.

Sometimes He answers in ways we do not understand. Sometimes the answer is wait. Waiting is so hard to do. But in these times of waiting, we get to grow closer to God and experience Him in a new way. Trust that He knows what is best for you.

Also know that sometimes we are too busy praying selfish prayers. In these times we are fixated on our wants and fail to see God at work in other areas. God’s plans are much better than any plans you could dream up on your own. Six years ago, I would have never been a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. Today I could not imagine it any other way. Praise God He had a better plan for my life!

The bottom line is- if we do not ask and expect results, we will not see results. Don’t be double-minded. God is a good Father. Just like you would want your kids to ask for what they need, He also wants us to ask for what we need!

When you pray, know you are talking to the Creator of the Universe. You are talking to a God who literally spoke the universe into existence. You are talking to a God who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you. You are talking to a God who delights in caring for His children. Ask and you shall receive. But just like all good parents, sometime the answer is not what we want to hear. We must be able to accept that. I believe that one of the best ways to see prayers answered is to live in His will. When God changes your desires, you will see that your prayers begin to resemble His plans for you, and you will begin to see prayers answered in ways that you could have never imagined. Put God first and watch what amazing things will happen in your lives.

 

 

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Matthew 7: 9-11

 

Missed Trash Day

Last Friday morning I treated like any other day of the week. After teaching my classes online, I got my kids up. We all went to the kitchen for breakfast. As I handed the kids their peanut butter toast, my son hears a vehicle outside, checks the date, and says, “Mom, it’s Friday. We forgot to take the trash around.”

“Man!” I looked out the window and saw the trash truck quickly driving by our house. “It’s alright,” I replied. “There’s still some room in the trash can.” But I knew full well that while there was some room in that trash can, by next Friday, the trash can lid wouldn’t close. Soon raccoons and every other animal in the wild would be tearing into our exposed trash.

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This is exactly how my days go on days I forget to spend time with God. I tell myself, `It’s alright I’m still filled up from yesterday or from church on Sunday.’ I convince myself that the exposed trash will be left alone, knowing that there is an animal (the enemy) out there wanting to get into it and make a huge mess.

Missing trash day is a bummer. But giving the enemy an upper hand is worse. Please listen to me closely- It doesn’t matter when you spend time with God- just do it!

I used to be awesome at waking up before my kids, drinking my coffee, and spending time with the Lord. Then I got this awesome job teaching kids in China online through VIPKID. With the 13-hour time zone difference, my job starts some days at 3:30 AM. It’s perfect for my family since I finish teaching when my kids are waking up for the day. But it has definitely taken a hit on my time with God.

Seriously, I am already tired. Who in the world wants to wake up at 3 am? No one! So, I have had to readjust. I have had to find another time to spend with God. Amazingly, I have found that God doesn’t care when you spend time with him- as long as you do it.

I have seen that if I have time set apart, I tend to have ongoing conversations with God all day. But those days I forget and rationalize, I also forget to thank him for the blessings or ask him for assistance. Readjusting my schedule has been hard. So many well-intentioned leaders and people have beat it into my head that you need to spend time with God first thing in the morning. And if you can- awesome! It worked amazingly for me, before my days started while most people are still asleep.

I’m not going to lie- I left my trash exposed. I let the raccoons get into it. When I first started working for VIPKID, my classes were here and there. I may have 1 class today, 3 tomorrow, and so on. It was easy to plug in my morning time with God still… Then my schedule became consistent. I worked pretty much every morning from 4 am to 7 am. After teaching, I would read my Bible, pray, and get the kids up.

BUT THEN Day Light Savings Time happened. Guess what- China doesn’t do Day Lights Saving Time. So now peak hours shifted. My kids were still up at 7:30. I had to rearrange my schedule. I set my new availability from 4:30-7:30 every day. But the difference now was I went straight from teaching to getting my kids out of bed.

At first, I let the trash can sit there and fill up. Then I tried to ignore the fact that it was overflowing. Then the animals came and started making a mess.

I’ve written about this before. I don’t always notice the issue right away. It’s usually not until my peace gets interrupted. When the fruit becomes spoiled instead of delicious. My patience starts running thin. I’m easily annoyed and frustrated.

There’s only one cure- that’s Jesus. Luckily for me, I don’t have to wait until trash day. I can go to Him whenever and where ever I want!

While waking up and spending time with God is still ideal in my book, if you can’t make that work- that’s ok. God already knows our circumstances. He already knows what tomorrow holds. He is not surprised by any of this, but we are. We need that grounding. We need to build our relationship with God. We cannot afford for our peace to be interrupted.

It does not matter when you make time for God, all that matter is that you DO make time for Him. Maybe that’s nap time. Maybe that’s before bed. Maybe that’s while dinner is cooking. It’s your relationship. Whatever works for you, may not work for all. In my experience, keeping it consistent helps, but is not always an option.

Different seasons of my life have left me forced to change this precious time. For a brief season in my life, Bible time was nap time.  I also had great success with having my Bible reading and prayer after breakfast. I would have my kids read quietly in the living room, while I ate my breakfast with Jesus. If you cannot find the time, pray that God will unveil a proper time to you. There are 24 hours in a day. Surely there is a time that will work for you, but it has to be a priority.  You would not expect a friend to remain a friend if you never put the effort into communicating or spending time with her. In the same way, you cannot expect your relationship with God to grow if you are constantly letting the trash pile up.

 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

Tearing Down the Awning

One of my favorite hobbies is crocheting. I enjoy crocheting for many reasons. First, it’s a creative outlet. I have no idea how to read a pattern, but I love finding ideas on Pinterest and seeing if I can recreate it. Second, it helps me feel productive. As a mom of 5, some days just seem like I am surviving my duties to my family.

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But one of the reasons I enjoy crocheting so much is because I can literally crochet anywhere. As long as I have a comfortable spot, I can crochet for hours. If my husband wants to work in the shop, I can grab a ball of yarn and a hook, go to the shop, and enjoy some time together. If there is a long car-ride coming up, I can grab a project to work on. If my kids are playing outside on a nice day, I can take my project out back and watch them play.

I recently went out back to crochet, and I was very uncomfortable. Mind you, I have been crocheting for about 4 years, and we have lived in our house for almost 8 years now. I went to my normal comfortable spot- (my husband’s riding lawn mower), kicked my feet up, and began to craft my project. But the sun was hot. I could feel my skin burning. I honestly sat there for a few minutes not understanding how the sun could be so hot…

Then it suddenly clicked… I know why… our back porch used to be covered by an awning… after a storm left a tree in the middle of it, my husband and I decided to tear it down last fall. It was an eye-sore anyways. It really did not look that great, and we did not really use the area. However, by taking down the awning, I lost my comfort that I used to have in the shade while I watched my kids play. An area that was once comfortable was now completely uncomfortable, because we modified our home as an improvement.

So, as I sat out back realizing why I was suddenly burning in the sunlight, I got a lawn chair and moved to the side of the house where the shade was located.

This reminds me so much of my own life. Areas of my life that were just comfortable quickly became uncomfortable as I began to truly walk with Christ. People, places, and even hobbies that once seemed normal, now needed modified as an improvement in my life.

Some of these areas of improvement were quickly convicted and recognized. Some of them, the Holy Spirit is still working out in me. One thing is for sure, I am not the person I was six years ago.

Once my eyes were opened to the Lord, the Holy Spirit began tearing down many awnings in my life. From conversations I held, to the entertainment I allowed to influence my mind, to misconceptions I had about being a wife and a mother.

I’ll never forget that first awning that was torn down. Not long after my husband and I finally realized what it meant to walk with Christ, we had an anniversary coming up. Knowing that we wanted to start this chapter of our lives with Christ at the center, I decided to take some of our wedding photos and put Bible quotes on them. Now, I grew up claiming to be Christian, I went to a Christian school, I attended Sunday services, but I never opened the Bible unless I had to for a class. This Bible was foreign to me.

So, what does a girl in 2012 do when she doesn’t know how to do something? She asked Google. So, I Googled, “Bible verse + marriage.” When those results did not give me what I wanted, I Googled, “Bible verses + wife.” As I read the verses, I suddenly realized I was not a biblical wife. In fact, I was not following the Bible at all. I kept running into Proverbs 31… man, I did not even come close… even in my best thoughts… I was not this person…

I was shocked… the Bible did not say what I wanted it to say. In fact, it did not say anything about marriage that I thought it may. So, I took a couple of the verses about love, put them on a picture or two, and gave them to my husband for our 3-year anniversary present.

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But I was not ok with not knowing what the Bible said. How could I follow God and His word if I didn’t know it? The obvious answer is- Renee open your Bible…However, this thing was still so foreign to me. What should I do?  Where should I start?

Praise God, He put some great resources in front of me. For the first time in my life, I became a reader. I stumbled upon an excellent book called Not a Fan. After reading that book in a few days, I wanted more. So, I searched the library catalog for books on the Bible. Some how I managed to find The Bad Girls of the Bible series by Liz Curtis Higgs. (To say I loved these books would be an understatement.) She led me to find Proverbs 31 Ministry. I was introduced to many amazing women sharing their faith through blogs and books. And slowly, with encouragement from my husband (who bought and tabbed me a new Bible), I began opening that Bible to see where their references came from. Slowly I was prompted to open the Bible and read for my own study. The Bible that was once scary and foreign, was now covered in highlighted marks and notes.  After a few months of doing this, I was completely comfortable opening the Bible and reading it on my own.

Tearing down that awning was ridiculously uncomfortable, but the benefits of being forced outside my comfort zone have been amazing.  I was completely comfortable living my life as I pleased. It never bothered me one bit that I had never really read the Bible. But as soon as that awning came down, I was convicted that a change was needed.

If you are in a similar situation, I highly encourage you to find a small group to break open God’s word together. Being the proud introvert that I am, I chose to find books and women online to follow. While the Holy Spirit did use these tools to begin the process of refining me, I truly believe being connected with other believers is a key component in the growth process. As Paul said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered the it, but God has been making it grow (1 Cor 3:6).”

Be honest. Be real. Jesus said it is the sick who need a doctor. There’s no point in faking it. We are all sick- sin sick.  Jesus is that doctor! God can make that seed grow!

 

 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3: 17-18

 

The Poison Oils

I live in Missouri. People from Missouri like to joke about having to turn your heater and air conditioner on in the same day… It’s not really a joke during the spring and fall though… We also like to joke about not knowing what the season is- first spring, third winter, mud season… who knows… soon it will be crazy hot and humid, and this we all call summer… Living in a state with unpredictable weather, you learn to just roll with Mother Nature’s mood swings.

One day this winter or spring… I really don’t know which one it was… there was a random beautiful day in the middle of a cold week. My kids spent the majority of the day outside. They were playing on their play-set outback and trying to climb the tree that sits just behind it.

Once they came inside, it was apparent they had all came in contact with poison ivy or poison oak… I really can’t tell the difference… both of these plants make my kids and husband break out into horrible rashes.  I lathered the kids up in lotion and told them to stay away from poison ivy. We went through and looked at pictures to explain what poison ivy and poison oak looked like. “Leaves of three, let them be.” I explained that you may see it on trees or around the trees. They seemed like they understood.

A few days later, my kids were back outside climbing that tree again. And what do you know… they got more poison ivy. So I walked myself out there with the intent to show them that they need to stay away from this plant… BUT it was not there. There was no plant around that tree. In fact, there was no green in the backyard at all besides the grass.

Apparently the oils from the poison ivy that had been on the tree remained on the tree even after the plant had died. I was teaching my kids to stay away from the plant because of those oils, not realizing they could still get poison ivy without seeing the plant just by coming in contact with the oils.

How many times have I done the same thing? How many times have I not noticed coming in contact with “poison,” because I simply could not see it? Maybe it was disguised as something else… maybe I just simply overlooked it…How many times have I thought the problem was something visual and avoidable, when really it was deeper than that?

The truth- this is so easy to do. I know I struggle with drama, so I avoid many television shows and negative conversations about people. However, I was standing in the check out line the other day, and  I couldn’t help but read the headlines on the magazines. Though I did not pick up the magazine to read, I did go home and Google the topics out of pure curiosity. Before I knew it I was researching all the dirty secrets and stories about the topic. The “oil” got to me. I didn’t actually touch it… well at first… but the drama entered my mind, and I allowed it to run wild.

I know I struggle with drama. It’s no secret to me. But when I can’t see the drama, I do not realize that I am slipping up. I can see and am fully aware of the drama on television, or in books, or conversations with certain people, or on social media. I am prepared for a defense against those situations. However, I did not see the problem behind reading a headline of magazine while I stood bored in a check-out line.  

By allowing the drama to slowly seep in, I let my guard down in other areas. I’m now bored. I don’t really like being bored. So I busy my schedule. I start over planning my week and stretching my time. By the end of this, I am tired and I just want to be alone. So now, I am cranky and short with my husband and kids…All because I allowed the oil to seep in. I let my guard down. I let a sin seep into my heart.  

Honestly, in the moment I do not really see what’s wrong. Reading articles online is perfectly  normal. Having a busy schedule- it happens. Wanting to be alone- we can chop that up to introvert problems. Being snippy with people I love… not ok. 

It’s easy to justify all these events as life… but one thing is obvious- My peace has been disrupted. When I know my peace has been disrupted I have to get back on track. This most likely means I am lacking in my prayer life. Have I been being diligent in prayer? Have I been reading and studying my Bible? Or have I just been going through the motions? Has my relationship with God been a priority or more on the back burner? Have I skipped some days with the Lord and figured it will all be just fine?  I know this answer.

The first step to every problem with sin is prayer. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to help in the areas you are weak. Give up your struggle. It was never meant to be carried by you in the first place. Lay it at His feet. Pray and trust!

My husband recently shared with me a thought he had while reading Romans. It amazed him that Paul, a true apostle for the Lord, a man who literally gave his life to serve Jesus and spread the Gospel, still described himself as a wretched man.

 Romans 7: 22-24, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s Law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Honestly, I think we can all relate to this struggle very well. 

There’s hope here! One of the most well-known men in Christian history… a man who wrote the majority of the New Testament… never felt like he was getting it right. He knew he still struggled with sin, though he lived a life fully devoted to Jesus. We are all going to struggle against sin until the day we die. We must have a defense, and that defense is Jesus. We must draw near to Him. We must earnestly seek Him in prayer.

 

Lord, my flesh is weak. I pray that you will help me guard my heart against the schemes of the enemy. I pray that you will open my eyes to the oils that I cannot always see. Give me eyes to see what you see and a heart that breaks for what breaks yours. Thank you for loving me even though I slip up over and over again. You are a good God and worthy of all my praise!

In Jesus name I pray.