Life Happens

I haven’t blogged for a while.

Why?

………………….LIFE!

My life doesn’t function like a well-oiled machine at a factory, churning out products on schedule.

My life is full of people.

I make a “to-do” list, and begin to “do,” and then my daughter calls from Haiti.

Gladly I put that list to the side – my daughter is way more important than anything on that list.

I am sitting down at the table about to do another “important” task on my to-do  list when I get a call that my sleep-deprived son and daughter-in-law need me to come and help them out with their newborn (less than one-day old) baby.

…..Hurriedly I deal with the necessary things on the home front and head out the door. Giving that help at that moment is more important than what I had planned.

2014-06-23 10.45.06

Another day, another to-do list (some things carried over from previous days, of course), and a daughter informs me she needs her health card renewed. That wasn’t on my list, but off we go. My days never go as planned. And that’s okay. Because that is life!

People are more important than the tasks on my list.

Those tasks, however, are connected to people, whether it is the laundry (people need clean clothes), cleaning (people prefer a germ free and somewhat tidy environment), or more directly, my list includes doing things with this person or that.

And just because something or someone wants to interrupt my day, doesn’t mean I have to go to that thing, take that call, or whatever.

I want to be sensitive, not pushed and pulled about by everyone else’s demands or perceived needs, but that I may be sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit and discern what is truly important at the moment.

And be willing to let life be life and not worry about the multitude of things that didn’t get crossed off my to-do list.

Yeah, so I haven’t gotten around to writing a blog until just now. And that’s okay with me. Life happens. Priorities.

What Can You Waste, But Can Not Save?

A riddle: Some spend it wisely, while others fritter it away. No one can save it. Everyone, both those who have spent it wisely and those who have spent it foolishly receives a fresh supply the next day. What is it?

Time!

Over the last few months, every now and then a recurring question has come to my mind: “How am I spending my time?”

I’m not talking about my main “job”, that of being a mom – I’m thinking about the other bits of time that I have. Am I using the twenty-four hours that I (and we all) have been given, in the best possible way?

God’s Word says,  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Am I making the best use of my time?

How should I spend/invest it? That is besides my main “day job” of being a mother (all right, “day-and-night” job for mothers of young children, but let me encourage you – it eventually becomes mostly a “day job”).

I find it so easy to simply  slip in to frittering away time – picking up a book lying around – we like books in our family and there are usually some lying around that I can reach over, pick up, and open randomly (I’ve most likely read it already) and read. For. A. While.

Or looking up something on the Internet and then clicking on this link and that simply because the title catches my eye. And the time passes.

I have been writing a children’s novel for some time now (many, many years) and when I look back over the years and the time wasted here and there, why, I believe I could have finished that novel by now!

But no use crying over wasted time! It is useful, however, to take stock of what is, or has been, and seek to make wiser investments of my time.

How do I make the best use of my time?

Seeking God is always the best place to start (prepare for a little “ouchy” reality – but “ouchy” isn’t bad if it leads to good change!).

Hourglass imageAnd here are some general ideas to consider regarding investing time other than our main job/ministry that God has given us:

Invest in relationships: I want to spend time with God (if you don’t know what that means, feel free to ask), with my spouse, with my children. I want my other relationships to be helpful and encouraging – if someone isn’t benefiting from the relationship, why spend precious time on it?

Use even casual encounters (cashier at the grocery check-out, child’s soccer coach or ballet teacher) to be a blessing, to bring God’s kingdom here on earth.

Refreshment: we need to rest, recharge or replenish our bodies, minds, and spirits. What does that?

Physical rest is important (am I burning the candle at both ends?) as well as exercise.

For mind and spirit, I think creative pastimes are beneficial, whether it’s art, music, writing, gardening, building, decorating, and so many, many more areas.

Entertainment – here is an area that most of us could probably use a moment to step back and think about: Movies, YouTube videos, video games, or those online games that I don’t know what they’re called, but I receive notices in my FaceBook newsfeed that my FB friends have reached this or that level in them. “Making the best use of time?” Hmm? Is it refreshing my mind and spirit or dulling them?

While I don’t play online or video games, I do enjoy watching a movie or an entertaining, or touching, or funny YouTube video, but how much of my watching is “making the best use of my time”?

Perhaps I should use the same standard as with my relationships: if it isn’t actually beneficial to someone (in this case, me), I should invest my time in something else.

As I mentioned, this question of how I have been spending my time has been one that has been recurring to me over months. Writing this blog has helped me sort things out. I see that I have invested my time wisely over the years, pouring into my children, but I have also wasted time, not always making the best use of it.

With God’s help, I intend to be more aware, more intentional, and to make better investments of my free time. How about you?

Inspiration by Example

This week we had a couple over for dinner. I will give them the fictitious names of Brian and Nancy, simply because I don’t think that they would want any praise.

We know Brian from our college days, when he was my husband Alan’s counselor. Over the years, we have had Brian and Nancy over a couple of times when they have visited the city that we were living in, and Alan has met with Brian when Alan has visited the city Brian was living in.

Meanwhile, Brian became the president of a renowned graduate school. Recently, he was invited to our city to speak at a prestigious event, and even though Brian and Nancy had a busy schedule, they made time to come over for dinner.

Brian and Nancy are both fun, intelligent and down-to-earth people with huge hearts for others. They were an example to me by the way that they engaged each person (down to our ten year old)  in our home in conversation, making each one feel worth while.

Most people are more focused on the main conversation going and what they could contribute to it or their own good time, but this couple seemed to be thinking of others…all the others. This is an example to me, and I am seeking to follow it. By the next day I had an opportunity when at Israeli folk dancing to approach someone who doesn’t converse much with others, and speak some kind words. I plan to pursue the thoughtfulness that Brian and Nancy modeled to me.

But there is more:

After a wonderful evening together, when I was driving Nancy and Brian back to their hotel, our aged car began making very loud noises, as if there were no muffler. After a while there were additional noises and the feel of some sort of pipe dragging underneath the car. While I was concerned about the car, and about getting Brian and Nancy back to their hotel, not for one moment was I embarrassed, as this couple was only projecting sympathy in a kind but fun way.

Driving up to the Lord Elgin Hotel in downtown Ottawa with this rusty, roaring, clunking car did not seem to phase or embarrass them. Brian looked under the car, saw that there was definitely a pipe dragging on the ground, and asked the uniformed door-man for a hanger. When this was brought, Brian got down on his hands and knees and managed to rig the hanger around the pipe and hook it to something to keep it off the ground for my journey home.

What did I see that evening, in front of the Lord Elgin Hotel in downtown Ottawa? I saw Mr. Dr. President-of-Renowned-Graduate-School-Speaker-at-Prestigious-Event down on his hands and knees doing exactly, and I mean exactly what Jesus (Yeshua) did and told his disciples to do…serve each other. People say they believe certain things, but does their life show it? Does ours? This man’s does.

What Not to Wear

Many years ago, one of my daughters told me of a television show called “What Not to Wear”. I have no need of this show. I have daughters. If my daughters ever saw me in something that they considered hideous, or even simply quite unflattering, they would be sure to tell me.

I am not the foremost authority on fashion or clothing, but I can tell you one thing not to wear. Ever. That item, that ugly, unflattering garment not to put on, is complaining.

One of the garments that we are supposed to “put on” is thankfulness. Thankfulness and complaining can’t both be worn at the same time. So it is either thankfulness or complaining. And God makes it clear which one He favors.

The reason I began thinking about this today, is because it is May 2. May, in the part of the world where I live, is a beautiful month – the month of blue skies and warm sunshine, and colorful flowers blooming. In fact usually on Mother’s Day, my family blesses me to have time off and I often spend part of the day planting the pretty flowers that they have given me for Mother’s Day.

But as I look outside, I see that May is not living up to my expectations. It has been drearier and colder than usual. We have had a longer-than-normal winter, which means the warm sunny months of spring and summer will be shorter. No flowers yet.

As I was realizing this, I was thinking about how people are going to be complaining about our short spring and summer, the way there has been so much complaining about the long winter.

So I wanted to preempt this complaining that I anticipate and encourage my readers to leave off that garment. The garment of complaining is what not to wear. It is not pleasing in God’s sight. Thankfulness is. Let’s put that one on. It’s in the “What to wear” list…God’s list. And His list is good enough for me, in fact, His list brings life!

“It’s All About Me” (or not)

I think my generation began the “Me” generation…you know: “It’s All About Me!”

And the “Me” generation raised an even more self-centered super “It’s-all-about-Me” generation…little gods whom the world revolves around. Entitled to whatever makes them happy. Whatever makes them feel good.

But the first commandment God gave us is: I am the LORD your God,…you shall have no other gods before me. (Ex.20:2-3)

No other gods…including ourSELVES!

We are not gods, but we are made in God’s image – to create…to love…to serve!

Serve?

The Messiah, at His last Passover meal got up and did a servant’s menial task: washing his disciples’ dirty feet, and told them they were to serve each other.

He followed this act of service by a much great act of service – the ultimate act of service: giving up His life for all mankind.

That’s our example.

And as we serve, as we lay down our lives, we get life! Joy and fulfillment don’t come when “It’s all about me.” They come when it’s not. God’s Word is true. Living it out brings peace, freedom, joy, fulfillment! We do need to actively renew our minds with His Word, because it’s not the message that the world tells us or that our flesh always wants. But it truly brings us life. I experienced this last weekend. Doing things God’s way brought me freedom, peace, and joy! Have you had experiences like that? Feel free to comment so we can encourage one another.

Spring Is Coming!

2014-03-30 11.58.15It is March 30 and it snowed a lot last night where we here we live in Ottawa. Everything is covered in thick, deep whiteness.

Devoted skiers may be happy, but everyone else is tired of winter and has been looking forward, even longing, for spring. There are certainly lots of discouraged, unhappy people.

But wait! My experience of living in this city for twelve years says that spring never begins in March. Spring in this part of the world starts in April. Some time in April the weather gets milder and the snow melts. My experience also tells me that often after this mild weather, there is one last snowfall,  but since I know that this often happens but does not last and that spring weather returns swiftly, it does not discourage me.

To sum up: my experience tells me that here in Ottawa, spring begins in April, and so in spite of yet another end-of-March heavy snowfall, I am not discouraged and I do have hope – in fact I have faith which is “the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1) that spring will come, almost assuredly, some time in April.

I have experience with God. I have walked with Him going on 38 years, and I know He is trustworthy. He takes care of me, He provides for me, He gives me all that I need and more. I am not talking about simply my physical needs, but all other needs as well – emotional, mental, social, and spiritual. The Bible tells me God is my heavenly, loving, all-powerful Father, and my experience confirms this.

My experience also tells me that life works better when I live it God’s way. Doesn’t that make sense?

Many people have had some pretty bad experiences in life, but when they turn and look to God, He helps and heals and to provide the love and power to overcome. In time, after walking with God, these people also gain the experience that I have had: that God is trustworthy and takes care of us, His children.

Then when spring seems long in coming, we can have faith that it will come. When we seem to be in a life season of winter, we can have the assurance that new, fresh life will come.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

And Be Thankful!

I wrote a blog last night, but instead of posting it, I deleted it. On purpose.  It was of the same name, “And Be Thankful.”

Thankfulness is the last “garment” that God tells us to put on in Colossians 3:12 – 15, and I wanted to write a whole blog post about it.

I wrote about how we, in first world countries, have so much to be thankful for, and we do. I am pretty sure that everyone reading this has enough to eat, a choice of clothes to wear, and a roof over their heads. And most have a lot more than that to be thankful for: family, friends, and so many extras.

I also wrote about the things we have that are far better than that: the eternal inheritance that God has for us, His Presence with us, etc.

And I encouraged us all to try an experiment and make a list of all the things that we are thankful for. I wondered if we would come up with 50, 100, or 200.

But this morning it hit me: not everyone lives in a peaceful country,  not everyone has the freedoms and the nice life that we first world people enjoy.

But the things that are written in the Bible weren’t written only for affluent us. They were written for everyone! And if everything that we have was taken away, and war and persecution was our lot, God’s Word still stands.

And the bottom line is that God is with us, He is working everything out for our good, and He is loving and trustworthy. So…we can be thankful, and we should be thankful (because He says so), and that is that.

That we have so much to be thankful for, that we can count so many blessings (and I still think it is a good idea to do that exercise of writing out all the things we are thankful for) is great.

But I just read Psalm 79 today, and in it Asaph is lamenting and asking “How long, O Lord?”, Because His people are suffering many horrible things. Yet he ends with saying, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to You forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.”

The bottom line is that whatever we are going through, good or bad (and my life is pretty good at this moment), if we are part of God’s family through faith in Yeshua/Jesus, then we have the Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, as our Loving, Wise, Patient, Forgiving, Trustworthy Father. So on that basis, we should be able to say with the Psalmist, “I will give thanks to You forever!”