March 13, 2014

On Toddler “Help” (and how I’m a toddler)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , at 2:05 pm by Tamara

Little Bear is in the phase where he loves to help me, and I’m doing whatever I can to encourage it. He especially loves baking with me, which I find absolutely ADORABLE. Of course the downside is that everything takes 3x as long with a toddler helping, but I try to let him anyway because I want to encourage that considerate and helpful spirit of his!

The other day I was having an “Ahk-I’m-not-accomplishing-anything-in-life” sort of day, and desperately wanted to get some stuff done to make myself feel better. Bear was trying to help me clean, but Baby Songbird was quite indignant that I thought a broom was more interesting than her. She is SO social; Bear has always been able to amuse himself for quite a while alone, but she wants interaction all-the-time. At one point I told Bear, “You know, the way you could help me the most would be to keep your sister happy for a bit.” He gave me a dubious look, but, sweet boy that he is, trotted off to entertain his fussing sister (who perked up the minute he was paying attention to her).

Bear really seemed skeptical that he could be more helpful playing with Songbird than hanging on to the bottom of the broom for me, but as I swept and mopped as quickly as I could, I thought how that REALLY WAS the absolute best thing he could do to help me and how much I appreciated it. And suddenly it occurred to me that God probably often tries to tell me the same thing, and I often give him the same ‘Not-sure-you-know-what-you’re-talking-about’ look Bear gave me.  Sometimes I’m so busy looking for “BIG THINGS TO DO FOR GOD,” and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to be letting me “help” him as much as I want to. But I wonder if he’s telling me, “Honestly, what would be the most wonderful is if you would just love and care for the people I’ve put around you.” He did say, after all, that the two things he wanted most from us are to love him and love our neighbors.

Shortly afterwards I got a chance to choose to practice this conviction, because Bear got tired of playing with Songbird and she decided she was going to cry until I rescued her. So, I abandoned my mop in the laundry room sink and scooped her up. I told her teasingly, “You know, how YOU could help me the most would be to fall asleep.” And right away there was God’s whisper to me: “You could ‘help’ me by being still too, you know. By choosing to rest in me, and to peacefully enjoy and love the little ones I’ve given you to love, even if you don’t feel like you’re ‘accomplishing’ much.”

Now, I’m not saying I plan to let our house fall to complete shambles, because I know I can honor God by doing those practical things, but I realized that I probably have no idea how thrilled God is with the moments when I’m just sitting on the floor, showing my precious kiddos that I love them and God loves them too. If it gives me warm fuzzies to see my little boy sweetly loving and caring for his baby sister, how much more delighted must God be when we love and take care of the family, friends, and even strangers he’s put in our lives?

“Little children…a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

June 14, 2013

THOSE Days

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 7:40 pm by Tamara

Today was one of THOSE days.  I held it together by a thread until my husband got home, but shortly thereafter as I was angrily putting my 2 year old into a time out I became acutely aware that I should NOT be disciplining in the state I was in.  I snatched my keys off the counter, informed hubby that I needed to get out of there, and slammed the door behind me.

I stomped around our apartment complex until I found a quiet spot, where I sat down and sniffled and tried not to cry.  It was just.one.of.those.days.  When parenting and life and everything is just too much.  “Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off.”  And then I felt terrible guilt for losing it over tiny things when I know so many people who are facing big things, and felt guilty for abandoning Hubby with the crazy toddler when he had a stressful day too, and I began to feel like the worst person/mother/Christian ever and despaired that I could ever accomplish any of the things I care about if I can’t even handle days like today and….  Then I just cried.

After a while I saw an elderly lady come out of the house across the street and start to peacefully water her flowers.  And *OH* the resentment that suddenly leapt into my heart.  I couldn’t decide if I wanted to yell at her for having it so easy or just beg her to switch lives with me.

Ironically, the last time I remember losing it on one of THOSE days, I fled the house, strapped the toddler into the stroller, and went for a walk.  As we walked, I saw an elderly couple rocking on their porch, peacefully reading their newspapers.  I felt the same thing then: total jealously at the unfairness of them rocking there while I’d had the worst morning ever, and a longing to leap their garden gate, fall on my knees in front of them and beg “Oh please won’t you switch lives with me??

But, I realized as I walked by, for all I knew, they were wistfully looking at me and thinking the same thing.  In all likelihood, that woman had once been just where I was and had her share of THOSE days.  For all I know, she was watching me and wishing for the days when she was a young mom, when her kids were close, when loved ones hadn’t passed away, when she wasn’t dealing with health problems or social security stress or whatever.  For all I know, my stroller-pushing walk in the middle of the day with my cute little man looked positively idyllic and gave her heart a pang of fond memories and longing.

To be honest, in general I’m really loving life right now.  I have a LOT of days as a stay-at-home mom that feel idyllic to me.  I love getting to witness all the little and monumental moments of Bear’s life, instead of wondering what the babysitter is seeing that I’m missing.  I love the freedom in my schedule that lets me decide on a whim to hop off to the park with him, or call a friend for a play date, or lounge around the house with him doing nothing.  I love that the effort and effects of my work directly impact my family, rather than some corporation or CEO I’ve never met.  Most days, I’m incredibly thankful that I can stay at home and be mom all day.

There are, unfortunately, also parts of our lives right now that I do not like at all.  I hate feeling like we are soooo far away from doing the ministry we want to be doing.  And there are other things, and when I’m just thinking about them, it’s easy to want to just be done with this phase, or think “Everything will be better when ____,” and just wish the time away.

So, what’s the point?  I don’t know exactly, but I do think it’s ironic that God seems to put the elderly in my path when I’m wanting out of my life.  Maybe it’s just about perspective, and realizing that in every phase of life, “This too shall pass.”  And that goes for both the good parts and bad parts.

Thankfully, I’d say the great days far outnumber THOSE days for me, but I do still have those days sometimes.  So, I’m glad for a little perspective, and a little reminder not to get fixated on the overwhelming days and wish away all the parts about this phase of life that I love.  And that will be a lesson worth remembering both now, and someday when I’m rocking on my porch watching other young moms pass by.  Someday I’ll probably be there, too, and I hope I’ll have lots of fond memories, a few wistful pangs, and the confidence that I’ve lived fully in every phase of life and have earned both the relaxing rocking and the longing for past things – and the freedom to pursue more and more of my goals until God takes me home.

I finally wandered home tonight, got down on the floor, and (still teary-eyed) apologized to Bear for disciplining him while I was angry.  He gave me a big grin, threw himself into my arms, and immediately began giggling and climbing all over me.  Oh, the grace and energy and living-in-the-moment capacity of a little boy.  Exhausting?  Yes.  Wonderful?  Yes.

June 25, 2012

Life Update

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 11:29 pm by Tamara

It may be hard to tell from the last few posts, but my life really isn’t a book (or a review of a book).  So I guess I should give a life update before I write the next two book reviews I have planned….

You’ve probably already guessed it, but we aren’t going to be going overseas this fall.  As I mentioned here, once we started the application process a bunch of reasons not to go suddenly popped up, and we were left trying to discern whether that was God speaking or just life being life or the enemy being the enemy.  We were concerned about the timing for several reasons, such as our desire to have more kids sometime in the next few years (and the possibility that I’d have to come back to the states if I needed another c-section), and the fact that we’d have to raise all our support in the summer, which is when I also needed to complete my internship for my degree.

Also, right when we were turning in our applications we found out that Adam’s mom’s cancer had started progressing faster than expected.  She was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia a while back, but told it would be ten years or so before she would feel any symptoms or need treatment.  Unfortunately, her check up showed it was progressing faster than they expected, and they said she would probably need to start chemo within the year.  I promised Mom I wouldn’t be dramatic when I wrote about this, but you can imagine how difficult it was for all of us to hear that!  She very much stressed to us that she wanted us to follow God wherever he was leading us, but it was definitely a new factor in our decision process.

So, we did a lot of praying and talking with people we trusted, and finally decided that we should wait at least a year before trying to go overseas.  Ironically, a few days after we decided that, the organization got back with us and told us that they didn’t think they had quite the right placement for us.  So that closed that door!

I had very mixed feelings about that.  My first reaction was to be very thankful that God had clearly closed the door and confirmed our decision to wait.  Unfortunately, other emotions followed quickly on my thankfulness’ heels!  Chief among them was a deep feeling of rejection.  “Why didn’t they want us?  What’s wrong with us?”  And that quickly transitioned into “Why doesn’t GOD want us?”  It’s baffling to me that God clearly calls us to “Go into all the world” and says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” but then when we say “Here am I!  Send me!” he says…”No.”  What do you do with that?

So I had to take a few weeks to really wrestle with some things I believe in my head but had to come to grips with in my heart.  A big one was that God’s love for me has nothing to do with my usefulness to Him.  And that closing one door doesn’t mean He’s given up on me and doesn’t want me anymore.  That He loves me fiercely and unconditionally and considers me as valuable as His own Son, and that will never change.

Once I had some peace in my heart about that whole mess of emotions and lies and truth, it was pretty much back to my old reaction: “Alright, Lord, thank you for clearly closing that door.  But, now, where is your open door?  I’m very thankful for clear ‘No’s,’ but where is your ‘Yes?’”

And…you’ll have to wait for a future blog post about that, because we’re not exactly sure about the answer yet!  We are sure, though, that God doesn’t have us here for no reason.  We don’t want to just be here because we aren’t “there” (wherever there is); we believe God has a reason why we are HERE, NOW.  So we’re trying to be faithful with what’s on our plates right now and keep our eyes open for what God wants to do in and through us right now.  There are a couple things on our radar screens, but this is getting long, so I’ll save them for later.

Mom has had a couple of doctor’s appointments since then, and we’re very thankful that she’s found some fantastic doctors.  They are still thinking she’ll need to start chemo sometime before the end of the year, but say there are some positives about where her condition stands now, such as that she’s still considered stage one.  So we’re waiting, praying, and trusting God.  I’d really appreciate your prayers!!

Thanks for reading, caring, and praying for us!  I can tell you are.  : )

January 13, 2012

Dead Chicken Wrangler

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 11:07 pm by Tamara

Slimy....

The other night I had to use a whole chicken for a recipe.  I’m not particularly freaked out by raw meat, but there’s just something mildly disturbing about being covered in bacteria-infested slime from a dead animal as you tug and hack away at it.

Life lately is a little less than glamorous.  In theory, we’re trying to get into fulltime ministry.  In practice, life doesn’t feel much like ministry.  It seems like things like “serving God,” “ministry,” “missions,” etc. should have at least an aspect of glamour to them.  Like there should be some sort of heart-swelling feeling of changing the world and leading people out of darkness and sacrificing for a cause and being looked up to as a spiritual giant.  Like I should feel like God’s special favorite, like he’s proud of me.  Happy with me.  I don’t quite envision ministry to entail things like living with my parents and spending half the day wrestling with a dead chicken.

I was reading Leviticus a while back, and thinking how awful being a high priest sounds.  Here is the man with the most “spiritual” job in the whole country, and his job seems…disgusting.  I wonder what Aaron thought when he heard the list of his new responsibilities and compared them to his brother’s.  I have to wonder if I would have been angry:

Well isn’t this just fantastic.  Here’s my spoiled, stuttering brother Moses, who already got to grow up in palace luxury while I was a slave, and now he gets the glamour of leading the nation, and what do I get?  I get the nasty, bloody job of constantly slaughtering, dissecting, bleeding, burning, and cooking sacrifices.  I get to check for hairs growing in yellow skin sores.  I get to inspect houses for mildew.  I get to tend fires and lamp stands and carry heavy things.  I get to teach people laws about bodily discharges.  I get to kick people with infectious skin diseases out of the city.  Wonderful.  Sign me up.

But there is something incredible, awesome, jaw-dropping that priests got to do that no one else did: they got to commune with God.  There is only one person who gets to go into the holy of holies, into God’s very presence and glory: the high priest.

Pillar of Fire

The wonder of that is easy to miss, because I forget how great my God is.  This is the God who shakes mountains, who thunders and smokes, who makes men fall down in terror, who can make your skin radiate after just a glimpse of his back, who makes walls of water crash down over entire armies, who conceals himself in a giant swirling pillar of fire.  To approach him is a very, VERY big deal.  To communicate with him, be his special assistant, step in between him and people he’s angry with, be a recipient of his blessings, sweep the floor of his house…these are big deals.

“Ministry” for me right now is NOT glamorous.  It is not heart-swelling.  I do not feel like I’m impacting anyone, or helping anyone, or doing anything grand to advance the kingdom.  No one is impressed by me or looking up to me.   Lately I am cutting a lot of chicken, changing a lot of diapers, doing a lot of apartment searching, paying lots of bills, scrubbing lots of gunk, etc, etc, etc.  I don’t feel very “useful” to God.  But if Leviticus teaches me anything about service to God, it’s that serving doesn’t always involve glamorous things.  That’s not the point.

What I DO as God’s servant isn’t always glamorous, but what I GET is very, very glamorous: I get to know God.

Friends with the God who made THIS.

What could be more glamorous or heart-swelling than getting to personally be friends with the creator of the universe?  To communicate with him whenever I want?  To know that the veil keeping me out of the Holy of Holies was dramatically ripped in half when Jesus died, and now I can go in his presence whenever I want?  To know that he loves me and values me, and that neither of those is dependent on how glamorous or important or useful I am (or feel)?

As I was writing this, a snippet of a verse floated through my head, so I went to find it.  It sums it up pretty well:

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”  Psalm 84:10-12

So no matter how insignificant my daily grind may seem sometimes, that’s really not the point.  I’m a dead chicken wrangler in the house of the God of the universe, and not only that, he’s my friend.  That certainly makes my heart swell a bit.

 

P.S.  This post was really hard to come up with pictures and a title for.  “God’s Diaper Changer?”  Um, nope.  Pictures of slaughtered little lambies?  Um, no.

December 31, 2011

The Blog Liveth! As do we: in our parents’ basement! (Wait. What?!?)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:31 am by Tamara

What’s with the siren song tempting me to start every blog post with “Well”?!?  (Or, worse still, an apology for taking so long to post.)  Both options are about as exciting as watching grass grow.  I stop my ears, siren song of well/sorry!!

Anyway.

We’ve been in Colorado almost two months now, and life is still pretty up in the air.  We haven’t signed a lease on an apartment yet, mostly because Adam’s job situation is still in progress.  He’s been working two jobs, but we’re really hoping he can get one better paying job (and actually have time to do little things like, you know, sleep and eat).  He had a preliminary interview with a school bus company and they told him he has to do another interview in January, but if he passes the background check, etc, he’ll get hired.  That’s very good news, since they pay significantly better than his current job and he would have regular hours (YAY!) instead of never knowing what his schedule will be from week to week.  The only downside is that the training doesn’t start until February, and we won’t know until it ends in March whether he can get full time hours right away or only part time.  But, even if he’s only hired part time he’d make almost as much as he’s making full time at his job now, so we’re really praying it will work out!

At any rate, we’ve decided it’s best to wait and see what happens before we sign a lease.  The cost of living here is pretty high; we could afford a decent one bedroom off what Adam is making now, but we’d really prefer two.  He also could end up driving a route on the other side of town from where we are now, so we need to know that before we can decide on a location.  Or there’s always a small chance he wouldn’t get the job at all, so we don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch.  So many unknowns!  So, for the time being I am forcing myself to be patient and wait on God’s provision until we’re confident we’re making a wise decision.

I have mixed emotions about the whole thing.  On the one hand, I am SO thankful that my parents are graciously letting us stay with them.  There’s a stereotypical horror story about staying with your parents, but our experience couldn’t be farther from that stereotype.  They’ve been gracious and encouraging and helpful and non-meddlesome, and have done their best to give us as much privacy as possible in a house that really wasn’t designed for two families.  I’m also thankful for a chance to pay off our moving expenses and save for a deposit on our apartment so we don’t have to take it out of our savings.

On the other hand, I still really, really miss having a place of our own to call home.  No matter how gracious your hosts are, living out of a suitcase in a room without four complete walls gets stressful.  I also get a lot of fulfillment from creating a homey home environment, and it’s discouraging to not have a place where I can do all the wife and mother things I enjoy so much.  I LOVED being a stay at home mom after Bear was born, and I just ache to have space where I can create order and beauty and functionality in our own little world with our own little routine.  And last but not least, no matter what the circumstances, telling people that you’re living with your parents never makes you feel like you’re doing especially well in life, so it’s a bit of a blow to my pride….

On a little side note here, I have to say how it still amazes me sometimes that I get so much joy and fulfillment out of being a stay at home mom.  I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I was afraid I would chaff a little–miss “ministry” and “stimulating conversation” and “freedom” and all that jazz.  It’s not that I love those things any less than before or am any less passionate about them, but I think it’s that motherhood has been so much more wonderful and awe-inspiring and fulfilling than I ever dreamed possible.  There’s probably a whole other blog post in this topic, though, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Anyway.

I suppose I’m learning (or at least wrestling with) a lot: blessings, thankfulness, perspective, patience, humility, etc.  There was a picture that was all over Facebook this Christmas that put things in perspective:

I have to remind myself to mentally replace the right side of the picture with my “stresses” lately, whether that’s a picture of a home, new clothes, a computer that works better, or whatever.  It seems obvious, for example, that we “need” a two bedroom apartment, until I think of the thousands of families living in one room shacks or on the streets or running for their lives from war zones and genocide.  And I could make similar comparisons with all my issue right now.  I am definitely blessed.

So, all that to say, not much has changed, except (hopefully) some of my mindsets and attitudes.  I could probably get this tattooed on my forehead:  Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

December 4, 2011

Bear’s First Thanksgiving

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 1:57 am by Tamara

We celebrated Bear’s first Thanksgiving with my family a few weeks ago.  He was TOO cute in his little turkey shirt, as you can see.  He just bursts with personality, and I think I love him more every day!  He just got his second bottom tooth, which is also too adorable for words.  Love this little boy so much!

My mouth is open, bring on the food!!

What’s up? I’m just chillin’.  (Wink, wink)

I made sure to get these teeth before all the big holiday meals!

We had a glorious feast for Thanksgiving with all the traditional (at least for our family) foods: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing with raisins, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (plain and with marshmallows), corn, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, all sorts of pickles and olives, rolls, sparkling cider, and six kinds of pie: French apple, pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate French silk, cherry cheese cake, and plain cheesecake, with ice cream and whipped cream for topping.  I’m listing those for two reasons: 1) I’m curious if my grandchildren will someday read this and if the traditional foods will be the same or will have changed, and 2) because it’s really amazing to have so much food.

We started a tradition when I was a little girl where we would start the Thanksgiving meal with five kernels of corn on our plates.  This is reportedly what the Pilgrims lived on for daily rations before they were able to take in their first harvest, thanks to the help and friendship of the native Americans.  When they celebrated their Thanksgiving feast, they put five kernels on their plate to remind them of how far God had brought them.  It is always really sobering to look at those five tiny kernels on our plates and then look up at the incredible meal in front of us.  We take turns taking each kernel and saying one thing we are thankful for.  We are very, very blessed!

Thanksgiving Dinner, 2011

Thanksgiving night we watched “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  I love that movie and I’ve been wanting to watch it for a while now.  I love it because it reminds me how blessed we are to have family who love us and will always be there for us in hard times.  Every time I see the main character and his son sitting on the floor of the public bathroom in the middle of the night because they have nowhere else to go, cradling his sleeping son and crying, I think “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  It’s easy to take good jobs, warm homes, and caring family and friends for granted.  We are so blessed.

September 23, 2010

Burnout

Posted in Water Droplets tagged at 7:08 pm by Tamara

I’ve had writer’s block for a while, which could more accurately be called “baby block.”  Basically, everything I thought to write about had to do with the baby, and since we hadn’t announced it yet, I couldn’t write them.  Now, though, I’m finding that baby block hasn’t stopped, because what could I possibly write to top that post?  I think the only thing that could top it is going to take another six months.

The only reason I’m actually writing something here is because the only writer’s block currently worse than my blog block is my homework block.  I am experiencing B-U-R-N-O-U-T.  Big time.  I’m sure some of it has to do with the nausea/fatigue, and the rest of it is just being tired of school and tired of the topics I’m studying.  My topics this week are Feminist and Post-Modern Therapies.  (unimpressed expression)  At least it’s not Freud, AGAIN.  If I never read his name again, it will be too soon.  Post-Modern therapy actually has some techniques that I agree with, mostly in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), which mainly implies that you focus on the solutions, not your issues/problems, which sounds obvious, but isn’t obvious.  Usually you come in to counseling saying something like “Aaah!  Fix my bad marriage!” and you end up wanting to talk about everything wrong with your marriage.  SFBT says, “Okay, you had five good days last week, and two days when you fought.  Let’s talk about what made those five days work, rather than harping on the two days that didn’t work.”  I’ve read some really good Christian versions of SFBT.  It emphasizes the pull of the Spirit, rather than the pull of the flesh.  Usually we think “But my desire to yell at him is so strong; why can’t my desire to not yell at him be as strong?”  Well, it is, because we have the Holy Spirit, but we need to train ourselves to hear the Spirit’s still, small voice pulling ourselves in the right direction, just like we feel the flesh pulling us in the wrong direction.  It’s not enough to say “No, Flesh!” we have to say “Yes, Spirit,” too.  SO anyway.  Of course, you can imagine my thoughts on Feminist Therapy and the Post-Modern aspects of SFBT, so I won’t get into those.

But, unfortunately, my assignment is not on SFBT, but on Feminist and Narrative Therapy.  (unimpressed expression again)  And it’s due tonight.  (continued unimpressed expression)  And I’d better get going on it.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

July 4, 2010

If This Doesn’t Give You Chills….

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , at 4:18 pm by Tamara

My Aunt Lois posted a link to a video of the Dubai Fountain, and I was absolutely entranced.  Who knew waters could dance?  I found myself thinking, I bet things like this will happen in heaven.  After all, the Bible says that creation is longing and groaning for the day it will be set free (Romans 8:19-22).  What would a “set free” universe with no sin and no bounds look like?  Will it spontaneously erupt in beauty just to praise the Lord?  Why not?  I can’t see much purpose for a sunrise other than to shout “God is glorious!”—and that’s just what it can do NOW; think about what it will look like when God sets it free!

I went and did a little digging and found this passage:

Psalm 98:4-9  “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth!  Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises…let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the LORD, for He is coming….”

So, thinking about that, I went to see if there were more videos and found this one.  Now, imagine if the water was spontaneously leaping like this to praise God, and if the music in the background was the MOUNTAINS SINGING!  Oh my heart!

Oh, and, by the way…the words to this song just happen to be the Lord’s Prayer. Chills!  God is glorious!

(A link to the video if this doesn’t work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_GQYI9brGs)

The Dubai Fountain

April 27, 2010

Really, God?

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 10:20 pm by Tamara

Sometimes I really think I know where God is going with things.  His power is so obvious, His control over the situation so seamless.  Take the story of how God delivers the Israelites from Egypt.  God needs a leader, so He miraculously arranges for a baby boy to be rescued and adopted by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter.  I see where He’s going with this!  Who better to free the Israelites than Pharaoh’s own grandson, who just happens to be an Israelite himself?  It’s perfect!  Moses just grows up, becomes pharaoh, sets the Israelites free, and rules all of Egypt.  Isn’t it so amazing how God can put people in powerful positions in order to have them do His will?

Pause.  What?  Moses commits murder?  Pharaoh orders him killed?  Moses runs for his life, leaving his wealth, his power, his position?

What?

I’ve had some “what?” moments with God before.  I think I know the track He’s rumbling my life along, and then—WHAM—everything gets derailed.  Without warning, Moses goes from a life where he was probably learning political strategy, forging alliances, using wealth, and dreaming of how God might use him to deliver his people.  And then suddenly, he’s sitting at a dirty, dusty well in the backwoods, where no one respects him and he’s constantly looking over his shoulder in fear.  Everything is lost.  To add insult to injury, his solitude is cruelly interrupted by the jangling, jostling, bleating sounds of a smelly herd of sheep plowing their way towards him.  Not only that, but they’re being shepherded by the daughters of a pagan priest.  Great.

Moses watches them fill their water troughs, wishing they’d hurry up and finish so he can be left in peace again.  And then the shepherds come—big, burly, dirty men who start harassing the girls and shoving them away from the well.

Now, to be perfectly honest here, I’m not sure I would have done anything.  I can physically feel how depressed, worthless, afraid, and abandoned I would be feeling at this point.  All my big dreams of doing great things for God are gone.  The most important thing in front of me is a well and some idol-worshipper’s sheep?  I have a sad feeling I might have just gotten up and walked away.  What’s the point of doing something so small when I failed at something so big?  But Moses doesn’t walk away.  Exodus 2:17 says he did two things: “Moses stood up and helped them.”

Moses made a huge mistake in Egypt.  I can remember times I’ve wondered if I have too, and if I’ve completely messed up God’s plan.  Or sometimes it just seems like God has plunked me in the middle of nowhere for no reason.  But He still challenges me to 1) Get up, and 2) Do what He’s put in front of me (Ex. 2:17).  No matter how small it is.  No matter how far gone I feel.  No matter how powerless I feel.  I have no way of knowing what wonderful things God might do through my obedience.

I don’t always get God.  I “think” that I think in big terms, have big dreams, lofty goals, careful plans:

“God, couldn’t You make me president so I can DO something about this?”

“Oh, if only I was a famous movie star, I’d share the Gospel with everyone.”

“I can’t wait to be on the mission field so I can make an eternal impact.”

Those aren’t bad dreams, per se, but it seems like God doesn’t often work that way.  In my case, He’s taken me from being heavily involved in multiple ministries to working a retail job.  Really, God?  Are you sure?

Have you ever had one of those moments?  Ever felt powerless to impact anything?  Ever stared down at that exploding baby diaper, or at the piles of paper covering your desk at work, or at the five page study guide for that test, or at the notice about your layoff, and said, “Really, God?  This is my life?  This is what You’ve given me to work with?”  Don’t get me wrong–I’m enjoying life right now, but it doesn’t seem very spectacular, or like there are many life-changing moments in it.

“Really, God?  A smelly herd of sheep, and pagan shepherd girls?”

“Yes, Moses.”

In the end of the story, God’s plan was infinitely more incredible than where I would have gone with it.  A vision of God in a burning bush?  One of those shepherd girls becomes his wife, and saves his and his son’s lives?  Miraculous powers, signs, and plagues?  The entire Egyptian army being wiped out?  Wow.  But the really impressive half of Moses’ story starts with him just showing compassion and watering a flock of sheep.  Just like Moses’ story, I think the story God’s writing for me—and you—will be more incredible than we imagine.  And it, too, will probably start with obedience in a lot of small things.  We just need to get up, do what He’s put in front of us, and trust Him for the rest.

April 2, 2010

Pebbles on the Track

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 10:54 pm by Tamara

There are some days when I really wish I could push a “Stop” button and have them end, like turning off a bad movie.  Presto!  Over.  Yesterday was one of those days.  It wasn’t a cataclysmic day, just a bunch of little failures and inadequacies.  One of my bosses, who tends to make me feel like I’m about to lose my job, was pushing me most of the night on why I haven’t been able to meet a certain sales goal lately, and by the time I was driving home I felt guilty, inadequate, discouraged, and defensive.  I have a tendency when I feel that way to re-live everything that happened, mentally beating myself for my failure and thinking of what I should have done, said, not done, or whatever.  I just wanted to stamp a huge red “FAIL” on myself, end the day, and wipe it off my memory bank.

I was trying to think about how Jesus sees me, and how completely insignificant my failures for the day were in His opinion.  I know when He looks at me He couldn’t care less if I failed to make a sales goal.  I could almost hear him scoffing, “You think THAT changes my opinion of you??”  Then suddenly, through the cloud of guilt, I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend earlier.  It was an incredible conversation–I’ve been praying for openings to share the gospel with this person, and out of nowhere they said that they feel a spiritual void in their life.  And I have to admit, this was one person who I expected to be, at best, apathetic toward religion, and at worst hostile.  It blew me away–it was like God had plunked down a lighted billboard saying “Attention!  Fertile Ground Here!”

So, as I was driving home feeling like a worthless failure, it suddenly struck me like a blow: Satan wants me to forget all about that conversation.  He wants me wallowing in guilt and inadequacy, convinced of my failure when I just had a day that should put me on a fired-up spiritual high.  He is such a THIEF.  He desperately wants me to judge myself by a few temporal, worldly failures so I forget all about the spiritual marathon God is coaching me through.

I want to work hard at my job.  I want to glorify God by working with all my might like I’m working directly for Him.  But I do not want to define myself by whether I do well or poorly at it.  It’s not, after all, my real job.  God is placing spiritual hurdles before me every step of this marathon called life, and I know He and the angels cheer madly every time I clear one.  It’s a spiritual marathon, and there are some things that will only have an impact until I die (if that), and other things that will impact the rest of forever, for me and others.  That’s what He’s concentrating on, and what I want to concentrate on too.  All the other things are just little pebbles on the track.

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