What is being squeezed out of my sponge ?

I was talking with a friend the other day and we got on the subject of negativity. More precisely, how it affects us on a day to day basis. It seems we are bombarded with negative things on all platforms. The news is just one bad story after another, someone is only too happy to post all their dirty laundry on Facebook, conversations we overhear in the store is all about gossiping about someone else. If I’m being honest, I have been the one supplying the conversation to be overheard. I never really thought I was gossiping, just sharing news about someone and how they are struggling. But as I look at it now, it’s not my news to share and what have I done to help said struggling person?

My friend and I discussed this at length and in the middle of the conversation, I had an image. An image of a sponge. One that is dipped into water and then squeezed out. “We are like sponges,” I blurted to her. “What do ya mean?” she replied. I elaborated on this image.

A sponge will soak up water (or any liquid for that matter). I remember as a kid, I used to love to wash my parents’ cars out in the drive-way. Summer time was for sun, swimsuits, and getting wet, so I would put on my suit, grab the bucket and sponge, then head out in the sun. Pulling the hose out, I filled the bucket with clean cool water. Squirting in the soap and dropping in the sponge, I began scrubbing the car. I circled the car washing windows, mirrors, and bumpers. If the car was really dirty, it didn’t take long before my clean clear water turned brown. When I started this task, I would plunge the sponge into the bucket and lovely clear water flowed from the porous tool and I would swirl it on the hood of the car all the while singing the latest tune blaring from my boom box. After a while, I noticed the clean car was getting gritty with dirt again. What in the world?

My bucket held dirty water! I would have to empty the contents and refill it with clean clear water then continue my task. But ya know what? That sponge didn’t make any distinction between the clean water and the dirty. It just kept soaking up what I plunged it into. It was submerged in clean water at first so that’s what it gave back. Then it was submerged in dirty water and that’s what it gave back. Friends, whatever we are submerged in is what we will give back. If we are surrounded by positivity, we will give positivity. If we are surrounded by negativity, we will give negativity.

My vision wasn’t good as a kid, so I couldn’t see the grit going back onto the car, but I could feel it. When I changed to clean water, the dirt came off again. I paid better attention to the condition of the water after that. We have to pay attention to the condition of our waters. Otherwise our sponges will soak up all manner of dirt and then squeeze it out onto everyone around us. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

If we focus on positive things and surround ourselves with positivity, then we will give back positive things. It is just like that sponge. Let others squeeze your sponge and watch the clean clear positivity flow from you! I’m going to change my water and wash the things I have put dirt back onto again. Join me?

I Want to be Just Like You

When my son was little, he made up his two-year-old mind that he wanted to be just like his daddy and build things. He watched my husband with a careful eye. Tyler would want to help his dad in the garage but of course it was too dangerous to let a toddler use the kind of tools his dad uses. So inevitably we bought him his own Little Tykes work bench and tool set.

Oh how he loved that set! He would want that bench out first thing in the morning and he only stopped working on it for short breaks. Tyler would want to know what Jeremy had worked on that day when he got home from work so he could imitate his dad the next day on his tool bench. He strapped on his mini-sized toolbelt and put all the little plastic tools in there that he’d thought he would need for the pretend project. There were chunky hard plastic nails, screws, and bolts in the bench. Tyler would hammer those nails with the Little Tykes hammer which was his favorite tool. He would then take his little screwdriver and tighten the bolts. I had given him a sewing style tape measure to use as well. Whenever I would ask him what he was working on, he unsurprisingly said what ever it was his daddy was working on.

As I watched Tyler working intently at his bench, I noticed that he began to move like Jeremy did. He began to stick a pretend pencil (whatever pencil like object he could find) behind his ear like his dad did. He started wanting to wear a baseball hat like Jeremy did. Simply put… he wanted to be just like his father.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (ESV). This verse makes me think of my son imitating his father just as we should imitate our Father. We should seek to have His forgiveness toward others. We should imitate His merciful love. We should mirror His selfless generosity. Just as Tyler watched his father closely and wanted to know what it was he was doing so he could do it too, we need to watch our Father closely. We need to ask Him what to do so we can imitate Him and what He does.

Ya know, Tyler still wants to do things the way his father does them. He has watched, learned and is now imitating him on a larger scale. Oh, and we let him use real tools now! It warms my heart to see my son at almost nineteen, still want to be the kind of man his Dad is. Tyler is a carpenter’s son and learned from his father how to honor God as well as how to be a skilled craftsman. I know my husband is not Joseph and my son is not the Savior of the world, but I love the similarity to that imagery.

I want to learn from my son how to imitate my Father… my Heavenly Father. I long to have others see Him in me. I want to love like Jesus loves. I want to give like Jesus gives. I want to see others the way Jesus does. How about you?

What did I really stuff in my seventh-grade locker?

Oh, the junior high years can be brutal, can’t they? My seventh-grade year was probably the most difficult year of junior high. My vision seemed to change weekly. I would get adjusted to a certain level of vision and then I would lose a little more and have to adjust all over again. This resulted in confusion, frustration, and several emotional outbursts. I couldn’t seem to control anything that was happening to me. I was angry a lot. I was moody a lot. This is normal expected behavior from a pre-teen hormonal basket case. But you add in ever-changing eyesight, trying to locate where my locker was in a sea of metal and combination locks, and hoping I was going into the correct classroom when I couldn’t see the tiny numbers… then you’ve got a real storm brewing.

As my vision deteriorated, I had to start using large print books. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that they were the size of world atlases. So needless to say, I did not walk down the halls of my middle school unnoticed. Soon the bullying began. Girls making snide remarks about how simply awful it would be to have my eyesight. Oh they would just die if they had it, Like ‘fer sure!’ Speaking in their totally rad valley-girl lingo and trying to fit through the classroom doorways with six foot bangs. The boys did their best impressions of me running into doors or other people as I walked by them, hoping that somehow I WOULD be able to see them.

I endured and I ignored all the hurtful words slung at me… or so I thought. Each day that passed brought new hurtful comments and run-of-the-mill staple remarks that the not so creative kids had to rely on to get their digs in. I always felt that I was on the sidelines of everything in those years. I always got picked last for the kickball teams, there always seemed to be the “aww man, does she have to be on our team?” after the gym teacher assigned teams. I did have friends and we hung out together often. But I was never going to be at the “cool kid” lunch table. I would usually take my lunch out to the hallway and sit against the wall with a couple of friends who didn’t feel part of the “in” crowd either. We talked and laughed and forgot about the “cool kid” lunch table for a while.

There was an incident that happened one day that I remember very well. I was walking down the hall feeling frustrated with my circumstances… again, when a particular boy named Josh made some hurtful comment. Truth be told, I don’t remember what the comment was, but I definitely remember my response. I stopped in my tracks, turned around, and promptly stuffed Josh in his own locker. I know, I know, your mouth probably just fell open. You may have even gasped. I DO NOT advocate this form of retaliation or any form of it for that matter! But my eleven-year-old way of thinking told me it’s what he deserved.

Now as an adult, I revisit this memory with a different perspective. I felt so much angst and frustration over my blindness and I never really told anyone how I felt. I stuffed all my feelings down and ignored them. Then ironically, I exploded in anger after I had no more room to stuff anything and stuffed poor Josh in a place where there was not enough room for him. It seemed that I was a champion stuffer. I wanted to stuff the comments Josh had made to me by stuffing him. But ya know what? It didn’t help. Inflicting pain, embarrassment or shame onto someone else never resolves how we feel. After I had time to calm down from the hurtful words, I then felt bad for doing to Josh what he had done to me. When we feel like we are drowning in an ocean of tears, we must seek higher ground. Psalm 61;2 says “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint. lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (ESV) The Lord has promised higher ground for us when things feel deeper then we can handle. I picture in my mind a space filling with water. The water represents the negativity I feel. That may include feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, not good enough, clumsy, incapable, and the list can go on. I then picture a set of steps going up to higher ground. As I focus on those steps that lead to the way Jesus views me, before I know it, I’m on higher ground and the waters are no longer swirling around my feet… ankles… knees… thighs…

I do my best at a task that I feel God has called me to do. If my best is under attack by someone, I have to be ready to tell them that if my best isn’t what they had in mind, then they need to take it up with God. Not many people are willing to do that. When we honestly give our best but it doesn’t seem to measure up to someone’s expectations, we need not retaliate or exhaust ourselves trying to do better. Step up onto that higher ground and let Jesus set your feet on the rock who IS Jesus.

Just like Josh, many other people feel the need to put others down to reach a different form of higher ground. This ground actually causes them to sink. Jesus’s higher ground need not be built over top of someone else. He is the higher ground we can stand on. When you or maybe your teen/tweenager feels overwhelmed in an ocean, envision the higher ground Jesus has built just for you. Journal about what it looks like to you, write about how beautiful it looks. If your artistic, draw or paint this image and keep it close to you so it’s a reminder. At the top of the steps leading to my higher ground is my best friend Jesus, extending His hand to help me to His higher ground.

By the way, I forgave Josh and all the others who felt the need to make me feel less than, unimportant, and broken a long time ago. This allowed me to begin my journey to higher ground. When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, don’t stuff those feelings into a locker to be locked up. Share them with a trusted friend and share them with Jesus. He will begin building your steps to higher ground.

P.S. I would love to hear what your higher ground image looks like.

Why Are You Doing this to Me, God?

I am certain without posing the question that most, if not all, of us have begged the question “Why are you doing this to me, God?”. When things seem so bleak that we simply cannot see the proverbial silver lining, we want to know why God would allow this to happen. I have most definitely asked this question repeatedly. Why would God let me have blindness to carry throughout my life? What good could it possibly do? When we have a child born with, or resulting from an accident, a disability of any kind, we want to know why.

This past week I went on a church retreat camp meeting chock full of spiritual seminars designed to feed us spiritually. There were many to choose from for all age groups. I went with a dual purpose. There were a group of teenagers from a couple of our churches that are working on the “Master Guide” program for Pathfinders. (This is the Christian equivalent of Boy/Girl scouts) There were many of the requirements available at this camp meeting so I decided it would be perfectly fine for me to take all six teens up there… by myself! Ok you can pick your jaw up now. My husband would be up on the two weekends, but it would be up to me for the rest of the week. We had a pop-up camper that slept two of the girls plus myself. Then we had two tents side by side across the front of our camp sight— one for the two other girls and one for the two boys.

Let me insert here that all six of these kids have been in Pathfinders together for the last seven years. Also, four of them are related and the other two girls might as well be. They are all very close. So, Sunday came and Jeremy had to go back home for work. I assured him (and myself) that I would be fine, nothing to worry about. Let me just tell you some details about our campsite. The previous year, an obviously large and heavy camper or motor-home had been on this sight and it had rained, resulting in the trailer sinking and leaving two enormous ruts in the middle of the camp sight. This proved to be a problem for someone with very little vision. I repeatedly stepped in, twisted my foot on, or fell in said ruts, over and over again. We supposedly had running water. I guess that meant we’d be running the water back and forth across the dirt pathway to get it. What’s that you ask? Did we at least have electricity? Oh yes! Exactly fifteen amps to share between two campers. We did in fact lose power on one of the hottest nights we had. At 2 a.m. I might add. We also had luxurious port-a-potty latrines to share. So this of course meant I would have to have someone walk me up to one every time I needed to go.

The second night we were there without Jeremy, it down poured all night   long! I worried about the kids in the tents and prayed for the rain to cease. It didn’t. The kids were all going in different directions for their classes and I still had to get to mine. Remember that dual purpose I mentioned? I was there to get certified in Women’s Ministry. My class ran for two-and-a-half hours in the morning and an hour and forty-five minutes in the afternoon. Trying to figure out eating times in between was challenging but we managed to do it on a camp stove we have. Navigating around the camp sight with tent stakes holding strings suspended outward that I couldn’t hope to see was interesting. Well… you get the idea.

I had to ask various people to help me get from place to place and that resulted in feelings of being a burden to others. But I do not tell you all this to complain or pout about how difficult it was. I tell you because I have a new favorite verse in the bible. It’s John 9;3 which says “Jesus answered, ’it was not that this man sinned, or his parents. But that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

I love that the first two words of this scripture is “Jesus answered”. These have quickly become my two favorite words in the bible. You see friends, God allowed the rain, the ruts, the lack of running water, the extended tent ropes, all the other challenges for me so that His work could be displayed in me. Ya know what? I made it through the week unharmed. I earned my certification in Women’s Ministry. I had no major mishaps. I even had women approach me and tell me what a blessing it was to see me going forward and accomplishing what I desired to do with Gods help in spite of my disability. May I just add here that I’d like to put the “ABILITY” back in the word disability. Oh my dear readers, whatever you may be facing today, God is just waiting for you to allow his work to be displayed in you! The blind man rejoiced at his vision being restored and had no care for how long he had to endure being blind. Jesus answered and God’s work was being displayed. How marvelous. Oh how I want to be the back-drop for Gods display. How about you?

Time for a retreat!

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Photo of 3 youth, 2 girls and a boy, from a distance, standing on a stage holding microphones. The boy on the left is wearing a dark suit and has dark hair. The girl in the middle is wearing a white dress and has dark hair. The girl on the right is wearing a blue dress and has dark hair.
Hi all! I am out of town on a camp meeting church retreat! I will return next week giving you a recap of my week here getting spiritually fed. My prayer is that your week is well and God is with you. Looking forward to giving you all the highlights of this week here at Campmeeting. See you all next week.
As I have posted on my Instagram and Facebook pages, feel free to drop me a prayer request and I will be happy to pray for you!

Getting to know myself better

Sitting in the eye doctors’ office at nine years old and listening to the Optometrist tell my parents that their daughter would be legally blind set me on a journey of normalcy at any cost. I attended regular schools as my mom and dad wanted as much of a normal childhood as was possible given my circumstances. I never went to blind camps or special groups for blind kids. I made independence my middle name. There was no need for me to have any special treatment for my condition, I was as normal as anybody else.   This was what I had been telling myself, others, and well… God. Where I recognized I needed God in my life after I was an adult, I wanted the independence that others had. The freedom to go to the store or take my kids to the library or just go shopping for fun. These desires were not to be a reality, or were they?

We had moved to a little town that had a grocery store, library, salon and lots of little shops to poke around in. Why, even my kids’ Dentist was right around the corner! We found a house right on the edge of this quaint little town in a beautiful neighborhood. It was the perfect place for our family of four. The kids had a block to ride their bikes in, I could walk my dog, and I had a lovely sun porch to have my prayer and devotional time with the Lord. My prayers for more independence had been answered!

The children and I had a marvelous time walking to the nearby park, the library, shops, and of course… the ice cream parlor. My husband was so happy for me to be able to take on the responsibilities that I longed to be able to help out with. It made me feel more like an adult to be able to run errands, get groceries, and just doing the general day-to-day necessities of married life. After so many years of feeling like a habitual teenager asking for a ride to the mall, I had my independence! Oh, how I praised God and sang songs of His glory. But I began to feel a little stagnant in my devotional life and wanted more. I asked God to show me what needed changing in my life. He showed me in the most heartbreaking way I could think of at that time.

We had lived in this most perfect location for about a year-and-a-half when we learned that the person we were renting from wasn’t paying the mortgage but using our payments for other things and now was losing the house. My whole world seemed to shift in that moment. No, I didn’t just get the news that my husband was having an affair or that one of my kids was just killed in an accident, but it was still a death, a blow to what I had prayed for for so long. How was I supposed to reconcile my declaration of answered prayer to anyone who would listen with the news that God was now taking it back.

I rejected God at every turn for the next three days. My family and friends tried to comfort me but I would have none of it. I didn’t care that I was setting a terrible example of God’s working to my kids. God was a flaky giver in my mind. He dangled my answered prayer in front of me like a carrot for a rabbit, then pulled it away. At least that’s what I chose to believe.

Remember my stagnant devotional life I mentioned? I truly wanted God to strip me down and reveal what was hidden in me. I always felt that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t give up if God asked me to. My house? Sure. Fancy clothes? Absolutely. Even people that were not in keeping with Gods’ plan for my life? no problem. Some of these things would be harder than others to part with but hey, if God asks me too, I’m in.

I remember going up to my room, probably to pout, and literally laying on the hard wood floor. I finally was ready to talk to God about this situation. I was ready to tell Him that He was making a terrible mistake and needed to revamp His plans. “How could You do this to me?” I yelled through my sobs. “Why would You give me my independence then take it back?” These were the questions I hurled at God after I decided to stop giving Him the silent treatment. I hadn’t counted on Him showing me things about myself that I didn’t really want to see.

God revealed things to me in my time getting to know the floor better. In Genesis chapter 22 Abraham is asked to sacrifice his own son “…then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.” Abraham trusted God’s plan so deeply, he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. I knew in that moment God was asking me to make my ultimate sacrifice at that time. He wanted me to trust Him with the one thing I wanted so badly. If Abraham could trust God so much as to be willing to sacrifice his own son, then surely, I could trust Him with my long-awaited independence. After all, we are not to be Independent of Him but to be dependent IN Him. This unexpected turn of events put me on a path of discovering just how committed to God I wasn’t. If you ask God to show you yourself, He will. It was the most painfully wonderful realization I’ve had. Now I know when I need to ask God for a little extra help letting Him take the reins.

 

 

Aren’t my sins too big to be forgiven? (part 2)

Welcome back! Pull up a chair at the table and let’s get back to King David’s story (if you missed part 1, you can find it here). When we last were together, King David slept with another man’s wife against her will, got her pregnant, tried to cover that up by making her husband think it was his baby, then when that plan fails, ultimately has him killed while trying to defend David’s kingdom! Whew. Let’s see what else ol’ David is up to…

As the battle is under way, several of the king’s soldiers died and among them was… you guessed it… Uriah. One of the chief soldiers, Joab sends a messenger to the king to let him know that several of the men have died in battle and one of them is in fact Uriah. The king simply responds by telling the messenger to tell Joab, “Well, don’t lose any sleep over it. After all, men die in battle all the time.” Now that’s a pretty callus attitude.

When word is taken to Bathsheba that her husband has been killed in the battle, the bible says she lamented over her husband (verse 26). I looked up the dictionary definition of “lamented” and it said, “A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Now, I imagine this poor woman falling to her knees when she learns of her beloved husband’s untimely death. She covers her face with her hands and cries, body shaking, heart crushing sobs of which she feels in that moment there will be no end. Can things get much worse for Bathsheba? She has been through such horrible things both physically and emotionally, now the one person who would help her through all that was dead. How? By the hand of the King.

Bathsheba is stricken with an amount of grief to completely undo someone and David, the one who caused it all, is saying “No worries, it happens.” Allow me a little scratching of my head for a second. But wait, there’s more. After a time of morning (this was approximately 1 week), David sends for Bathsheba to come and live with him and be HIS wife. Just seven days after losing the love of her life, she is to be the wife of another. I suppose that David might have been trying to do a good thing by taking Bathsheba in after her husband died. There wasn’t a lot of options for women back then after they were widowed. However, I’m inclined to believe that David was still just interested in making Bathsheba his own. Verse 27 says that David brought her into his house, but what he did displeased the Lord.

There came a time that a man named Nathan was sent by the Lord to see King David. Nathan told him a story of a man that had a large flock of sheep but didn’t want to slaughter and prepare one of his own sheep for a guest so he took the only sheep of a poor man. This sheep was not just property, it slept, ate, drank and grew up with the man’s family and he loved it like one of his own daughters. Ever had a beloved cat or dog like this? I have. It was terribly painful to lose her. Well David burned with anger that someone could be that heartless and demanded that the man who stole the poor man’s sheep to be punished by death. Then the defining moment happens. Nathan utters the words that David hears like thunder. “You are the man.”

Like flashes of lightning, David replays all the deeds he has done and reality crashes into him like a cannon. I imagine all the color drains from his face, his shoulders slump, and his eyes close. He doesn’t deny any of it. Nathan delivers a “thus says the Lord” message as David hangs his head in shame. Crown falling to the floor, palms on his forehead, he listens to Gods message of “didn’t I give you everything? Didn’t I make you king and ruler? Didn’t you have enough?”.

David feels empty, shameful, loathsome. But then Nathan tells him “The Lord has also put away your sin…” and there it is… forgiveness. David rose to fame and acquired much power and it all went to his head. God knew that David was what He called a man after God’s own heart. David loved the Lord at his core, but he let power overtake logical thinking. But as soon as God brought it to his attention, David saw his own sin and came back to God. After everything David did, all God needed was for David to recognize it, admit to it, and ask God to forgive him… that’s all!

Friends God doesn’t need or want a laundry list of good deeds to make up for our sins. He doesn’t need or want us to carry those sins and their burdens for a said amount of time before He can forgive us. What He desires is a repentant heart and then an open heart for Him to come in and let us start over with Him. God loves each and every one of us… including YOU! All you need to do is simply go to your knees and say Lord forgive me. I want to have You in my heart and life from this moment on.

He truly desires you to ask Him to live with and for you, no matter what has been done before. Just ask Him.