Swinging the Bat

Sunday after church my kids were playing in the gym. My kids love to “play sports,” but they have not really been trained or taught how to play most sports. They have some basic knowledge of how to use the equipment, but proficiency is not a reality. They definitely do not know the rules of the sports.

Anyways, two of my children decided to try to play “baseball” with a plastic bat and ball. One of them threw the ball like it was the perfect pitch. The other swung the bat as if the ball had come straight to her. Then she yells, “Awe man, strike.” The problem… the ball went behind her… If she understood the game at all, she never would have swung the bat.

Of course, I’m an outsider looking in. I know the rules of baseball. I know the ability level of my children as well as their knowledge of the sport. But I, mom, sat back, laughed, and watched. I just let them pretend to play.

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There have been so many times in my life that I have done the same thing as my kids- just pretend like I knew what was going on. Play the game by the few set of standards I knew. I mean… seriously, every new stage of my life I pretty much lived by the motto, “Fake it till you make it.”

Life doesn’t come with instructions. You maybe able to read a good book with helpful suggestions, but even a one, two, three approach will not work for everyone.

I can remember sitting in the hospital after having our first baby. It was like the nurse handed me a tiny living human and said, “Here you go.” I had no idea what I was doing. The first time I changed his diaper, I got a golden shower. Then I had to call the nurse to help me swaddle him back up. I felt completely inadequate. I had no idea what I was doing.

I can also remember being led to read my Bible as I began my faith walk. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew a few passages. I had been prompted to read a couple others. But beyond that, I had no idea what to do.

Being the introvert that I am, I did not exactly reach out for help. I really have to give my husband some major kudos here. He could see a shift and desire to draw nearer to God. I started reading like crazy. But he also saw that I was reading a lot of books about the Bible and not very often was I actually in my Bible. He tabbed me a new Bible and started encouraging me to look up the scripture those books were referring to. Once he saw me actually taking his advice, he slowly prompted me to start reading one of the Gospels. Before long, I was in my Bible regularly.

Instead of sitting back and laughing as I swung and missed, he guided me. He didn’t ridicule my slow progress. He recognized the direction I was comfortable with and used it.

Now this could have gone in a completely different direction. If he would have just come out swinging, telling me I needed to get in my Bible and to put those silly books up, I probably would not have taken his advice.

Sometimes I think, we as Christians, expect other Christians to be in the same spot as us on their walk and hold them to that standard. I can remember being convicted to turn off the TV and only watch or listen to shows and music that would enhance my walk. Someone very close to me (my husband), did not have this conviction. I was being convicted to guard my heart and be still. At times it was frustrating that my husband was listening to secular music or entertaining a silly pointless sitcom on TV. However, pointing out that those shows were senseless, and those songs were about worldly things, did no good. The Holy Spirit was working on me in this area- not him.

He was being worked on in another area that I did not struggle with.

Looking back, it’s clear why the Spirit moved on me in this direction. I lived a life of distraction, of noise. I needed to turn off that noise, so I could learn how to walk with God and learn how to hear from Him.

I think it is extremely important to realize, other Christians need us to come along side of them in their walk. They need encouragement, love, and support. What they do not need is someone imposing their convictions on them. The Holy Spirit works on every single one of us. Sometimes we may have the same convictions as another, but that may not always be the case.

I am forever grateful for the people God put in my path to help me learn. Instead of watching me swing the bat when the ball was nowhere around, they came into my life as Godly examples. They encouraged me. They offered suggestions on where to start.

We are called to build each other up in love. We need each other. We need support. If you see someone swinging the bat when the ball in nowhere near them, come along side of them and gently guide them.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

 

Change of Perspective

My children love to do the Hidden Picture puzzles in magazines. We have a stack of Highlights magazines on our books shelves that have accumulated over the years.  Yet, these magazines continued to be viewed over and over again specifically for the Hidden Picture Puzzles. Recently, my girls realized how much they enjoy doing these puzzles, but it takes them a little longer to do them than it does my boys.

A couple days ago, my 4 year-old asked for my help to find a certain item in the picture. We looked and looked. I almost told her to go ask her brother. Then she says, “Hey mom, let’s just turn the page to the side and see if that helps.” Within a minute or so, she had found the item she had asked for help with.

A change in perspective. That’s all it took.

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Does this ever happen to you? Could you have ever just need a change in perspective? I know I have.

A few years ago, I had a coworker that literally drove me crazy. Just the sound of her voice made me cringe. I was working as an elementary school teacher, meaning my adult interaction was very limited and much appreciated. But when I did get a break and I caught sight of this woman, I tried to turn the other way. At one point I actually felt like she was imposing on my ability to do my job. She was a very strong woman with strong opinions… and I am a more of the keep the peace type of person. I really did not like this woman though I am not sure that many people knew this.

At this point in my walk, I was heavily being convicted on my desire for drama and gossip. I really wanted to vent my frustrations to another coworker. They would understand. They may be able to give me some advice on how to handle her. However, I also knew that doing this would turn into a gossip session… and I was trying very hard to only have positive conversations about others.

So, what’s a girl to do? I came home to vent my frustrations to my husband. Now, my husband is not really the kind of person to just give you a listening ear. He’s more of a Mr. Fix-it type of person.

So, when I took a break in my venting session, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you done?”

Oh, I wanted to keep going, but I knew I probably shouldn’t. So, I nodded and waited.

My husband then said to me, “Renee, it sounds like you need to pray for her.”

WHAT! Pray for her! I can’t even stand the thought of her name! How am I going to pray for her?

“Trust me, Renee. Pray for her,” he assured me.

I did. Reluctantly at first. I don’t really know what I expected. I knew she wouldn’t just magically turn into Mary Poppins. But I started praying for her, her family, her happiness.

As I started praying for her, I did notice a difference. But not so much in her, but in me. I was no longer so easily annoyed by her. My thoughts swaying in my mind when she spoke were no longer the negative- please just stop talking. But I was actually listening. When I saw her during breaks, I would have a short conversation with her and go about my day. I actually ended up enjoying this woman’s company before long.

So what changed? My perspective. By offering up God my frustrations with this person, He was able to change my heart towards her. I no longer saw her as an enemy or as an annoying coworker to escape. I started seeing her as a person, as an image-bearer of God. I started noticing I was taking things she said too personally. She was not trying to impose on my classroom but offer friendly suggestions. She was a person, too. She just communicated differently than I did.

I can honestly say that after seeing the result of praying for someone who drives me up a wall, I have started praying for other people much more quickly and much more often.

When we can see people as people, as an image bearer of God, we can start to see that they too have highs and lows, problems and joys, limited time, different ways of communicating, and the list goes on… But that is no reason to treat them any differently than we would want to be treated.

Sometimes problems we encounter, whether another person or a physical barrier, need a change in perspective.  I have had to learn to stop wallowing in self-pity about things I have no control over and just give it up to God. Instead of feeling like a victim of a circumstance, I ask God how can I grow from this? What lesson are you trying to teach me? Or show me another way Lord.

I truly believe that sometimes God closes doors and tells us no because we need a change in perspective. We need to see people, things, situations, and ourselves the way God sees them.

 

 

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44

 

Embrace Change

Well, I think it’s officially fall in Missouri! One day it was over 70 degrees, then a cold front came through, and now it’s 40. The cool crisp temperatures have been anticipated, but when they finally arrived it shocked us all.

This morning my kids wanted to go outside after breakfast. One of my children came to the door in shorts and a T-shirt. “Honey, you need pants to go outside. It’s a little chilly out there.”

She reluctantly went to change. Seconds later, the older children were asking for hats and gloves. Within a few minutes, my child who was dressed for summer suddenly looked as if it had snowed outside. She was bundled in her winter coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Though I thought it may be overkill, I let them go outside dressed for the snow.

While I know my child still needs to learn the appropriate clothing to wear for the weather, I realize that change, even when expected, takes some time to adjust.

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Now I will admit, I have struggled with change. Especially when it came to my Walk with Christ.

I grew up in a very traditional church. I held onto those traditions, without fully understanding the reasons behind those traditions. They were habits, not time set aside to grow closer to God.

Attending a different type of church felt all kinds of wrong. I was used to a certain order. I was used to certain songs. I knew exactly what to say and do and when to do it. It was comfortable.

However, these new churches we were attending, were not. First off, they gave us coffee when we entered and offered a time to talk to each other before service started. I was used to just blending in, coming and going without having to talk to a bunch of people.

They usually started service off with a band or a group of people jamming out and worshiping Jesus. I was used to traditional songs at set times throughout the service.

Then the pastor would give a sermon. These sermons were usually very good, biblical, and practical. However, it didn’t feel like Church. It felt like Bible study.

Finally, there would be some sort of closing, usually with a song. That was exactly what I was used to.  However, sometimes we would have communion in the middle of service, sometimes we wouldn’t. Sometimes they would take tithes and offering at the beginning, sometimes at the end.  Sometimes there would be a Baptism in the middle of service. Sometimes they would ask us to get up and find a group of people to pray with. It was unpredictable.

In my old church I knew what to expect. I knew what to do. Yes, maybe most of the time I was just going through the motions, but I didn’t have to experience that unknown. Nine times out of ten I couldn’t even tell you what songs we sang or what the message was about, but I was there.

I struggled with the change at first. See all my family and friends still attended the traditional Churches. I felt like I was doing something wrong. In fact, for almost a year I didn’t tell any of those people that we were no longer attending that type of service.

As I started seeing a growth in my walk and understanding what it meant to Walk with Christ, I slowly let my guard down. I began to share that we were now attending a non-denominational Church. I began to share the changes that were happening in my life. Surprisingly, no one really cared that I no longer attended the traditional Church.  They only cared that I was going to Church.

I slowly began to recognize the Holy Spirit and His prompting in my life. I became more and more open with my faith and much more willing to share my faith.  Though I knew a change was needed and anticipated that change, it was still uncomfortable. It still took me some time to adjust and share. But as I look back, each change, no matter how long it took me to adjust, has completely impacted my Walk with Christ.

Please know, I am in no way telling you to stop going to a traditional church. Each person is on their own spiritual journey. For some people, they can grow closer to God through traditions. My stumbling block was not the Church or the traditions, but the way I approached Church. I had the problem of just going through the motions that needed a radical change. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and trust God to lead me.

Something I have learned is that God does not call us to be comfortable. I have heard many people say that they believe God wants us to be happy (implying that we should just overlook our sin that makes us happy). But that’s not really true. God doesn’t call us to be happy, but He calls us to be holy. The process of becoming holy, being like Christ, is a life-long journey full of uncomfortable moments and changes.

By embracing a radical change, I found myself experiencing God in a way I never knew was possible. Each day I am growing in relationship with Him, learning more of what it means to be His child, and striving share this with others.

Change may not feel good in the moment, even if you are anticipating it.  But God is faithful.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

It Takes Some Practice

This morning I was working with my first grader on his math assignment. I looked at the problem and said, “What’s six plus six?”

Within a matter of seconds, he spewed out, “Twelve.”

I read the next problem, and just as quickly he answered it. Suddenly his eyes widened, and he said, “Hey- I know this! Mom, how do I know this?”

“You’ve been practicing. Remember all those games I made you play that you didn’t want to play.”

“Ohhh!” He grabbed his workbook and went back to the table to finish his assignment.

The situation had me laughing, because just a couple weeks ago he didn’t want to play all those games I opened up on the internet. He didn’t feel like he needed to practice his facts. He was perfectly content with counting on his fingers. And now he knows those facts a little better, he can recall the information a little bit faster. Now math assignments are a little bit easier.

Maybe next time I open those games up for practice, he will happily practice- knowing that they are helping him grow… maybe… but my son is stubborn just like his momma. He will probably forget, drag his feet, and reluctantly play the games I am “forcing him to play.”

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This is very much like spiritual discipline. Praying, mediating, reading scripture, fellowship, fasting, stewardship, all these things sometimes feel like things I HAVE to do. But through obedience, practice, and time I grow to appreciate these disciplines and see the results because God meets me there.

For example, when I first became a Christian, I didn’t have a problem consulting Google for Bible verses. But after spending time in prayer, reading my Bible, and even memorizing verses- I have seen these verses come to me in unexpected ways.

Sometimes this happens to me at Church. Someone I am sitting next to may ask for prayer. As I start to pray over this person and I open my mouth outcome the words of scripture that I had locked away in my heart. Timely words. Placed into practice. Prayers I offered up, but were 100% inspired by the Holy Spirit prompting me to say what I had been studying.

Other times those words I have been studying come to me as conviction. One time I was having an argument with my husband. I grabbed my blankets and decided to sleep on the couch. As I went out to the couch I started praying, “God, please convict my husband of what a jerk he is being. He did this, that, and this…”

As I sat there listing my wrongs, I felt this stir in my heart, “Love keeps no record of right and wrong.” Convicted!

Had I not spent time studying, meditating, and memorizing scripture, I am not sure that the Holy Spirit could have worked in me the same way.

Much like my son was shocked that he suddenly knew his addition facts, I tend me be shocked that the words I have been studying come to me when needed.

Don’t be content counting on your fingers. Learn your facts.

Don’t be content looking up verses online. Read them. Memorize them. Mediate on the word. Lock those words away in your heart.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

2 Timothy 3:16

The Indication Light

Last Friday my kids had a doctor’s appointment. Since my morning was a little out of routine, it really didn’t surprise me that I forgot my cell phone at home. Oh well, I figured. I will be home in an hour, and I probably won’t even miss a call.

I really didn’t even notice the missing cell phone until I was driving home. Suddenly, I heard my dash beep at me. My natural response was- gas light. But as I looked down I was surprised to see not the gas light, and not the check engine light, but an indication light that I was unsure of. I glanced at my dash and read- Service Stability. What was that!?!

Clueless, I held the wheel a little tighter and decided to take a more direct route home. Usually I take a route that includes 3 interstate exchanges from South County to North County. The way I chose to go only had one interstate change. As I changed interstates, my dash light went off… Odd…

I got home and googled it. It really is no big deal- Service Stability just means that the traction control is disabled, and my anti-lock brakes wouldn’t have worked.

But unaware of that, I was extra cautious and chose a different direction.

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There have definitely been times in my life that the Holy Spirit has worked in similar ways. Little warnings that I do not fully understand. Routes changed, plans altered for reasons I cannot understand. However, I trust these changes are in my best interest.

The most obvious example of this came about 5 years ago. I was reading a book called You Were Made for God Sized Dreams by Holley ­­­Gerth.  I honestly cannot tell you what that book was about or how far I made it into the book. As I read the book I kept thinking, “I want to stay at home with my kids,” and, “I want more kids.” I had to put the book down.

Those thoughts made no sense. Five years ago, we had just had a surprise baby #3. My husband and I had planned on having two children- that’s it. But then God gently showed us His plans are far better than ours by giving us Grace (baby #3.)

Now here I was reading this book, wanting to have more kids, and wanting to stay at home with them. At the time I was teaching in a private school near our home. Our oldest was getting ready to start kindergarten, and we would finally be able to take advantage of the benefit of free tuition to this school. Quitting my job would mean losing an income and not being able to afford private school while we lived in a failing public school district. I had to be out of my mind. But I couldn’t shake it.

I picked up that book to read a few more times, and every time I had the exact same thoughts. Finally, I put the book on the shelf and told my husband I can’t read it. He inquired as to why and I explained, “All I can think when I read this is I want another child, and I want to stay at home with the kids.”

To my surprise when he asked why, all I could say was, “I don’t know. Maybe to get more souls into heaven.”

He looked at me and said, “Ok. I don’t know how we will do it, but let’s do it.” He recognized that God was speaking to me and placing this dream in my heart. Even though I still thought it was nuts! We were soon pregnant with baby #4 and trying to figure out how it would be possible for me to stay at home with the kids.

God made a way for this God given dream to come true. As we started this journey, we realized the obstacles in our way of education pointed to a path I had never really considered- homeschooling. As we started homeschooling, I quickly realized what a good fit it was for our family.

Somehow our finances stretched. We learned how to budget, and our income seemed to reach even further. Honestly, somehow making less money seemed like we had more. We were paying attention to how we were spending and using the money we had wisely. I never felt like we were going without. God provided work for my husband and the resources to help us be smart with our money.

It was like God was saying to me, “Your plans may be good, but my plans are better.” For reasons I cannot explain I picked up a book at a book store that I didn’t even finish, but the Holy Spirit used it as an indication light on the dashboard. This light made me consider going down a path I never would have considered otherwise. But now that I am on this path, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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*As I was rereading this post to edit, the VeggieTales movie “Josh and The Big Wall” came to mind. So I pulled out my kids’ VeggieTales comic book in order to quote this properly.

Now this is Junior talking to the Israelites who are debating whether or not to follow Joshua and march around the city of Jericho.  “I know God’s directions don’t always make sense to us. It didn’t make sense when God told us to walk through the Red Sea. But He brought us across safely. There was no food to eat in the desert, but God gave us Manna to eat. Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense to us. But His way is the best way.”

The Bible is full of characters obeying the call that most likely made no sense to them.  Can you even imagine being Noah’s wife? Sure, honey a big flood is coming. What about Sarah? Yes God, I believe you will give me a son when I am way beyond my child-bearing age. (I hope you can sense the sarcasm I am typing.) What’s great about these women is they didn’t know the big picture, they couldn’t see it, but they followed their husbands and were obedient to the call.

Ultimately, we are His workmanship. He started a good work in us and is faithful to see it out to completion. Even though we cannot see it, we can trust that God’s way is the best way!

So if there’s an indication light going off for you, pray about it! Talk to a godly person you trust. Take the steps in obedience. Trust God’s plan! His plans are the best plans!

“As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) (2 Samuel 22:31)

It’s More Than Dishes

Recently our dishwasher decided to stop draining water properly. As a result, I needed to start hand-washing all our dishes. I do not love dishes. When I realized this, I may have given a little huff and reluctantly agreed to hand wash the dishes until the dishwasher was fixed.

Within minutes of this interaction, my husband took the initiative to teach our daughters to hand-wash and dry the dishes. My girls are currently 3 and 5. They have helped me load and unload the dishwasher, but it has never really been assigned as a chore.

My husband pulled our five-year-old up to the sink. He started explaining that God gave us these wonderful blessings- food, dishes, water- and it was our job to take care of these blessings. Our five-year old hung onto every word and watched carefully. Meanwhile our 3-year-old was listening closely, though she was not part of the conversation.

My husband then told my daughters that from now on it was their chore, their responsibility, to take care of the dishes after every meal.

You would have thought my daughter had been given a pony. She was so excited to have a chore… so excited to wash and dry the dishes. As soon as she is finished with her meal, she happily gets everything ready to wash the dishes.

Me… I have NEVER been excited to wash dishes. NEVER! I mean growing up it was a chore… chores for me pretty much meant- something I HAD to do because NO ONE ELSE would.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. My grandparents lived on a farm. They’re farmhouse did not have a dishwasher… wait let me take that back… the dishwasher at the farmhouse was all the ladies in the house. It was like a right of passage. After you were 10, you got to help do dishes. But it wasn’t bad at all. Literally every girl and lady at the farm gathered in the kitchen to wash, dry, and put away dishes. It was just expected. And we did it with no fuss or kick-back. Grandma took care of us by cooking, we would take care of her by cleaning up afterwards.

Other than dishes at the farm, I have always had a distaste for dishes. I always thought of dishes, cooking, laundry, and the list of chores as something I had to do… Then as I grew to know God, I realized it was my opportunity to serve others. Little did I know that by listening to my husband teach my daughter how to do dishes, I too would learn an important lesson. It’s much more than just dishes.

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Doing the dishes was an opportunity to honor God. God gave us these blessings, it is our job to take care of these blessings. Stewardship. Doing chores is stewardship. How did I never see this before?

I guess I thought of stewardship in relation to tithing. God gave us a job, so we give back our first fruits. God gave us our Church family, so we take care of the church with our time, talent, and treasures.

But I am clearly seeing the tithing is only part of stewardship. God has blessed me with so much! Anytime I take care of these blessings, I am serving God. Anytime I clean my house, do the dishes, clean the laundry, wash my van, pay my bills on time- I am being a good steward.

So while this has all the sudden hit me, I had to do a quick Google to make sure I am correct. The definition of stewardship is: “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.” Sounds pretty spot on to me. Anytime we take care of our blessings- material things, kids, money, etc.… we are acting as good stewards.

God created Adam and gave him the task of stewardship. (Gen 2:15) “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” He also created Eve as Adam’s helper (Gen 2:18). It is in our bones to do work. Though we all know how the story of Adam and Eve ends… they fall… they give into temptation… work becomes cursed, toilsome… The very things we were created to do have now become burdensome… and we do not want to do them.

But by doing these chores, by doing our work, we are honoring God. Everything we have is a blessing from God. Taking care of those blessings shows our appreciation and love to the Creator!

Though I know I probably should have been the one teaching my daughter to do dishes, I am so grateful that I was the one listening and learning a simple lesson on stewardship. God works in amazing ways.

 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24