Month: January 2016

When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want

A few nights ago, I got a taste of what God sees in us through an experience with Josiah. I love how being a parent widens my eyes that way.

He had a huge day and was really tired. I was preparing his bedtime routine when he started sassing me something fierce. For whatever reason (I’m guessing the Holy Spirit), I was able to respond in grace despite my own exhaustion. I knew he was tired, and in spite of his fervor for “a snack and a show”, I knew that what he needed was a bath and some sleep. I kindly told him he should not talk to Momma that way, and that it was time to get washed up and go to bed.

How many times does God hand us what’s best for us, and we start to sass him? I know I’ve pitched a fit over not getting what I want. The cool thing is, God is our parent and can handle our childish anger. He will kindly give us what He knows is best for us, even if we can’t see His purposes at the time.

I’ll never forget being on a road-trip with my parents when Dad ended up driving down the wrong highway. I don’t know if he missed an exit, or what. The details aren’t super clear anymore. What I do remember is discovering not too long after that a plane had crashed into the highway we were supposed to be on right when we’d have been driving through! Now, we can’t be sure, but it’s definitely possible that our road-trip got “off course” because God was protecting our family from a terrible accident.

When things like that happen, I take it as a reminder to not get upset when life doesn’t go as I think it should. Truth be told, we don’t know what’s around a corner. What we want may not align with what we actually need for a healthy, joy-filled life. Additionally, getting flustered over things we can’t control only makes matters worse.

Reading about the Israelites in the book of Numbers this week, I was reminded how ridiculous I can sound when I’m whining to God. I complain about the things He won’t give me as I sit in a heap of blessings everyday. Numbers recounts how He’d freed His people from captivity and provided their every need, and yet they whined because they wanted different food…

“…And the people of Israel also wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Numbers 11:5-6, ESV).

They were longing for the food they had in captivity! Isn’t that so like us? Because our circumstances aren’t exactly like we want them, we’d be willing to forgo God’s best for the sake of our own fleshly desires. It’s crazy when you really stop to think about it. I’m learning that I find the most joy in life when I thank God for what I have, and stop focusing on what I don’t. I hope you’ll feel encouraged to do the same.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).

Cultivating Creativity: Wreck This Journal, By Keri Smith

At the end of 2016, I want to be able to look back and say I really lived this year. For me, that will mean three things…

  1. I worshipped God with my whole life.
  2. I was intentional about building relationships with the people I was given to love.
  3. I cultivated creativity and truly pursued my artistic passion.

I am not proud that it took me until I was 30 to figure out what was most important to me in life, but now that I have, I’m not looking back. I could rehash the last few decades and lament the time I wasted chasing after other things, but what good will that do my future? So far, that tendency has only left me depressed and unable to move one.

The struggle now is training myself to align my days, my thoughts, my energy with what I truly want to accomplish. My habits have to be re-calibrated so that I don’t slip back into my old ways of wasting time on trying to please other people or live up to some set of ideals I didn’t create for myself.

With that in mind, I am really excited about one of my Christmas gifts. Dustin’s brother and his wife are pretty awesome at picking out gifts, and this year they gave me Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal. I’ve had this book saved in several places, because I found it intriguing and thought it would be a great gift. Turns out I was right. It was a great gift for me! And it came at the perfect time!

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What I love about this book is that it asks you to step out of your comfort zone and stretch your ideas about creativity. I think as we get older, we forget how to create with reckless abandon. We can find ourselves confined to a box of our own making.

Have you ever watched a kid scribble wildly? Why do they stop that? Because someone teaches them to color in the lines. But scribbling is amazing! Throwing paint on a canvas is a major stress reliever. Why am I so afraid to make a mess? This page was a reminder of how freeing it is to make a giant jumbled mess!

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And what about what other people think? Why do I spend so much time trying to avoid making a fool of myself? Pouring coffee on your journal in the middle of a coffee shop seems weird, but it was fun! It didn’t hurt anyone and I didn’t leave a mess behind for anyone else to clean up. It was a reminder that it’s okay to have your own kind of fun, as long as you continue to respect the people around you.

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Needless to say, I’m loving all the silly ways this journal is stretching me. It’s the start of learning to truly cultivate creativity in each of my days. Thanks for the gift Devin and Leah! You’ve helped me start something beautiful!

If you want to cultivate creativity, why not pick up a copy of Wreck This Journal? Or maybe go to an art class or start a craft group? What ways can you stretch yourself this year? Please share, as I’m learning, too!

The Blame Game

Dustin and I went to Bible college with dreams of ministering to God’s people, beginning with teens. When we entered the field, one of the most common challenges we faced was helping teenagers learn to respect their parents. This was especially true for the kids whose parents treated them poorly in one way or another. There were hypocritical Christian parents, as well as unchurched, broken parents. Some of these kids had legitimate reasons to be angry toward their folks. There were times my heart would ache at the stories I heard. Parents have such a high capacity for harming their children’s sense of self-worth.

Regardless of how their parents behaved, however, we knew it was our responsibility to encourage the kids to honor their parents. In Exodus 20, we find honoring your father and mother among commandments not to steal or murder, nor to lie nor cheat. This honor is serious to God.

All too often, though, the kids felt justified in being disrespectful or disobedient, because of something Mom or Dad did. Playing the blame game, they excused themselves of responsibility for their own actions. They took the role of victim to justify sin.

It’s not just teenagers who do this, though. You don’t have to look very far to find adults defending sinful behavior, because so-and-so “made them do it.” In Genesis 3, we read about the fall of man, where this blame game began. Breaking the one rule God gave them, Adam and Eve were quick to place blame on someone else.

“He said…’Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate'” (Genesis 3:11-13, ESV).

Apparently it has been in the nature of man to push responsibility onto someone else since the very beginning. Adam blamed God for giving him Eve and blamed Eve because she encouraged him to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve blamed the serpent for his deceit. Neither was willing to simply say, “I was wrong, and I’ve sinned.” But God held each one responsible for his or her actions.

The reason we can easily place blame on someone else, is because we are justified in our feelings of being wronged. FEELINGS, not actions, are justified. God never said that anger was wrong. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin…” There is such a thing as righteous anger. Jesus got angry. God gets angry. It’s okay to feel those emotions, but it’s not okay to allow those feelings to spur you on to sin.

Although it was easy for me to convey this message to teenagers, I failed to recognize my own blame game for many years. When Dustin and I were first married, I often justified disrespectful or controlling behavior by pointing out the ways he was hurting me. My friends and family even validated my blame, because some of his sins were so blatant. But I was wrong…

It doesn’t matter what my husband, my child, my friend, or my enemy does to me, if I am mean spirited, controlling, manipulative, or deceitful, the sin is mine. At the end of my days, God is going to be judging my heart, not someone else’s.

Furthermore, each one of us has the power to better our situation. If we continually blame someone else for the struggles in our life, playing the victim, our situation will never improve. Regardless of what is happening around you, you have the choice to make good decisions. You can be kind. You can improve in areas where you’ve made mistakes. You can respect an undeserving individual. In so doing, you truly are able to say you have done right and that any hardship you are facing isn’t at your own hands.

Taking responsibility for your own choices is so empowering. If you daily follow after Christ, humbly choosing love over hate, selflessness over self-preservation, you will be rewarded with peace. When I began to show Dustin respect, his heart softened toward me and mine toward him, and our relationship began to flourish.

Dustin and I still both sin, but our reactions to one another are graceful the majority of the time. When either of us lashes out in frustration, the other has the powerful ability to defuse the situation by being patient and offering a gentle reply.

Just the other day, I jumped in and disagreed with one of Dustin’s parenting choices right in front of Josiah. I dishonored Dustin and undermined his authority in Josiah’s eyes. Dustin snapped and said something hurtful. I bit my tongue, thought to myself, “Woman, you better shut yo mouth”, took a deep breath, and apologized for my behavior. I owned what I’d done, rather than flipping out over his hurtful words. He was also so apologetic.

We both knew we were wrong, and freely admitted our sin. We were able to talk it out, and the day went on beautifully. No harm, no foul. In the past, it would have been a knock-down-drag-out argument, ending in wounds and a wedge between us. Blaming one another for our actions would have led to more pain, not resolution.

Ultimately, the way you treat others is between you and God, and you will have no one else to blame. Playing the victim will never lead to victory. Own your life. Take responsibility for your choices. They are yours alone.

Happy 2016!

As I prepare for 2016, I have been reflecting on 2015. Reading my New Year post for 2015, I can’t help but laugh. My mantra was “Wait upon the LORD.” And though we did wait for the LORD’s leading, I definitely didn’t feel like I did a lot of waiting, in terms of MY time table. This year was FULL of change. Once again, life taught me that my ideas about what the future should or will hold are really arbitrary. Sometimes waiting upon the LORD means lots of time and patience, and sometimes it means that your life will course forward faster than you can fathom. I struggled with patience in years prior, and this year, I found myself struggling to find my bearings as the LORD brought so many blessed changes.

Let me tell you what I thought was coming in 2015. We planned to stay in our tiny 500-600 square foot, one bedroom apartment, where Dustin and I literally slept in a storage closet. We planned that I would work at least another year at Ford, and then we’d reevaluate our financial position for 2016. And we didn’t really see anymore children in the near future.

However.

By the end of January, we were given the opportunity to move into a bigger home with a huge yard, and we were moved by the beginning of February. By the end of May, we were in the financial position for me to once again be a stay-at-home-momma. And come the middle of August, I was experiencing full-blown morning sickness…our precious second baby was making its presence known in my body. Glory be!

This was one of the happiest years of my life. Our marriage is stronger than ever, and we are full of dreams for the years to come. How good it is to look upon the future with joy and happiness. Thank You, LORD, for this time of refreshing. We will continue to wait upon Your leading.

As we serve the LORD with more fervor, I’m making some practical goals…

  • Practice consistent spiritual disciplines
  • Have less meaningless screen time (i.e. social media, television, etc.)
  • Read 2 books per month
  • Make more – buy less (e.g. food, and beauty, cleaning, and hygiene products)
  • Do yoga three times per week
  • Make and follow a schedule
  • Make art a weekly priority

There you have it. Nothing too crazy. Basically, I want to live with intention to give the most meaning to my days, be my best for God and my family, and to have the energy to build relationships with the people God has given me to love. Once again, I don’t know what 2016 will hold, but we will “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 5:33), trusting that His plans are our greatest blessing.

Happy 2016, family and friends!

Love, Felisha 🙂