Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pressure

So, you know how a fish swims through water…all it’s life?  And that’s completely natural?  I don’t think the fish ever thinks, “Huh, I’m swimming through water.  I wonder what it would be like to be outside of water.”  Yeah, I don’t think so.  And I doubt even more that the fish ever thinks about the KIND of water it’s surrounded by…or HOW MUCH PRESSURE that water is putting on him.  I mean, think about it.  He’s lived his entire life in the pressure of the water.  He’s never known any different.  So he has no idea.  In fact, since he’s lived his entire life in that pressure, he probably doesn’t think he’s under any pressure at all.

Did you know the same is true of you?  You know how the earth is surrounded by atmosphere – an atmosphere that provides wonderful things like air for us to breathe in and protection from the sun?  Well, that same atmosphere is exerting crazy amounts of pressure on you.  And yet, because from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb the atmosphere has been pressing down on you, you don’t notice it at all.  In fact, it feels like you’re under no pressure at all!  And all the while, the atmosphere is pressing, pressing, pressing – pressing 14.7 pounds per square inch ON YOU (thank you NASA for that info)!  I don’t know if you get it – but that’s A LOT of pressure – that you don’t even feel!  CRAZY!

It is completely mind-blowing to me to think of all that atmosphere we are surrounded by, all that atmosphere we just take for granted and don’t even notice.  All that atmosphere putting pressure on you and you don’t even (normally) realize it.

Which, of course, makes me wonder:  what else am I so used to that I don’t even notice.  What ELSE in my life is putting pressure on me that I just deal with – even though I don’t have to (unlike the pressure of the atmosphere – we actually need that).  Words like parents, friends, school, grades come to mind.  My parents put pressure on me about specific things (keep room clean, take a shower, don’t talk like that, etc) (okay – they used to, now that I’m a grown woman – not so much).  My friends would put pressure about how I looked on me, or how I talked, or what stuff I liked, or WHO I liked, or all sorts of stuff.  I don’t like to admit it, but those fuzzy-pictured magazines in the grocery store put pressure on me too – pressure to care about meaningless stuff, or to look a certain way, or to need something unnecessary, or something.  And, well, you get the picture.  We are under a ton of pressure.

And so it’s your choice what to do with that pressure.  You can buckle under it; you can choose to listen to all those voices whispering into your ear…and eventually go crazy, or get distracted from what we’re SUPPOSED to care about (because, that’s the point of those pressures, really).  Or you can do the miraculous. You can ask God to take them off you (because He can and will) and help you focus on the things He wants you to care about.

So you say, “So, I go from the pressures of the world around me to the pressures God puts me under?  Great.”

But it’s not like that.  God will lift the pressures of the world from you…and then help you pursue the things HE wants you to.  And since He’s helping, and He’s God…you won’t be under crazy pressure.  Because He’s GOD, and He carries the burden of that sort of thing.  And, when you live a life pursuing the things He wants you to, it’s more of an adventure anyway.

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Cross-stitched flowers and Thankfulness

I’m a hands-on type of girl.  So sometimes I get real creative and actually MAKE presents for birthdays, weddings, or even Christmas.  I know, I know, everyone makes presents for Christmas, that’s not that big of a deal.

See, for me, when I make you something, it means I’ve spent hours scheming the exact perfect thing for you, and then I’ve spent hours actually making it for you.  It’s a reflection of my love for you, of our relationship.  Literally by the time you unwrap it, whatever the present is, it has become a tangible symbol of the prayers I have prayed for you, the dreams I’ve dreamt for you, and the memories we’ve created together.  You might not see it, you might just see a cup, or a plaque, or a book, or a blanket, or a dress, but that’s just a cover for what you’re actually unwrapping.

The thing is though, growing up, I didn’t realize how much of myself I’d pour into hand-made gifts.  I also didn’t completely realize (mostly because I hadn’t thought about it) that the cross-stitched, personalized plastic mug that I sewed just for you with your favorite flower on it might not be as cool as the gif card to Abercrombie and Fitch that someone else gave you.

The first time I realized this, it broke my heart.  I had given one of my closest friends the mug described above, and she hardly looked at it.  I don’t remember what everyone else gave her for her birthday, but they were all ultimately cooler gifts than the mug.   And then she proceeded to hang out with everyone else at her birthday party and practically ignored me.

And it hurt.

It hurt like someone had taken my heart and slapped it with a thousand rough-wood splinters, all digging deeper and deeper into my tender heart.

In fact, that’s one of the first times I remember confiding to my mother about something I was going through.  With relationship stuff, that is.

My momma was wise.  She sat on my bed next to me, and put her arm around me, and just hugged me for what felt like hours.  She let me talk and cry and sob, and she didn’t try to fix it (she couldn’t), but she did listen.  And eventually, when I quieted down, she told me that next time, before I started making a gift for someone, I needed to remember this night.   I needed to make the decision whether or not it was worth it to make that present.  Would I be okay giving a gift that might not be appreciated as much as I wanted it to be?  Would I be okay giving away something that precious if it wouldn’t be loved as well as I thought it deserved to be?

Basically, my choice was to be okay with my hand-made gifts meaning more to me than to the friend receiving it, and to keep making those gifts, or to never give a gift that dear again.  If I never gave a gift that precious again, my heart wouldn’t hurt as much.

I chose not to protect my heart that way.  I have made many gifts since then that have been carefully crafted for a specific, special someone.  And I have learned that when I make such gifts, it’s about the love I put into it, not the love with which it is received.  But it’s still important for me to give such gifts.  It’s good for my heart.  And, I like to think, whether or not my friend knows it, that the gift somehow blesses them.  That somehow, all the love and prayers and memories I’ve poured into it surrounds it and is absorbed by my friend.  I’m not sure if that’s actually possible, but I like to think so.   It doesn’t matter that my friend doesn’t know; she’s still benefitting from it.

The thing is, when I think about that cup I gave all those years ago, I think about thankfulness.  What cross-stitched mug has God spent hours making for me, that I have scorned because it wasn’t as cool as an itunes card? What has God made specifically for me;  that I receive but don’t appreciate to the fullness of the gift?  What do I take for granted, or don’t give a second glance to, that He has planned and schemed and crafted just for me?

I hope nothing.  I hope I take none of His gifts (or any of my friends’) for granted.  But I’m human, so I’m sure I do.  But I pray that God continues to open my eyes to the gifts around me that I am oblivious to.  The ones that He poured His heart into.  The ones that are meant as reminders of His love and His dreams for me.

Because He loves us better than our parents, our dearest, closest friends, our significant others.  And so His gifts are SO much better (and bigger, and more random, and more unexpected, and often crazy) than theirs.  Because He, the one who crafted YOU, the One who knows every atom of you, who knows what makes you smile and glow, loves you, and gives you such good, mind-blowing gifts.

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Colorado Mountain Air

The summer I came back from Bahrain I was on sensory overload.  Suddenly, after 10 months of living in a place I describe to people as “Mars”  (think red desert with not much vegetation), I was suddenly back in my beloved Colorado.  I could hardly handle being surrounded by my mother’s gorgeous flowers, and God’s breath-taking mountains, and the wonderful, refreshing, mountain air.   I have never taken so many pictures of my mother’s garden, or stared so hungrily at the mountains that a few years for I had taken for granted.  And the air!  The fresh, clean, clear, crisp, mountain air!  If you’ve never smelt it, you don’t know what you’re missing.  But I guarantee it’s a smell you will encounter often in Heaven.  I’m pretty sure the smell that accompanies a Colorado mountain morning is God’s cologne – the stuff He puts on just to impress you.

But the thing is, the summer before, I had no idea of the wonder and majesty that surrounded me.  I spent that summer in Colorado too, but I did not take a hundred pictures of my mother’s flowers.  I did not stop dead in my tracks after stepping outside in the morning, just to soak in the wonderful air.  My spirit did not lift in joy when driving into the mountains.  I didn’t know what I had.  I didn’t know the glory, wonder, majesty that I had been given to me.

Unfortunately, over the years since then, that wonder has faded a bit.  But I can still remember that summer.  And I wonder how many OTHER things I take for granted in my life.  Just how blessed I was growing up.  How many friends I’m not near enough thankful for.  How very easy and convenient our lives are today.  How very different my life would be if it weren’t for God, for Jesus and what His amazing, loving sacrifice did for me.  For the air I breathe.

Like the air that surrounds me that I don’t think about breathing in and out, I am surrounded God’s blessings.  And I take them for granted.  Honestly, I often EXPECT them, and get frustrated when I don’t get what I want.  How ungrateful, how ugly, is that?

What are you immersed in that you have forgotten to be grateful for recently?  When was the last time you asked God to open your eyes for all the blessings surrounding you?  How many blessings can you name?   What blessings do you expect to receive?

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Inspiring Flight

Never underestimate your story.

No, really.

More than once I’ve been told that some part of my story is inspiring or faith-building or something.  But see, to me, it just felt like I was living life.  Like I was being obedient.  It felt like no big deal.  I mean, sure, I’ve lived through moments that have been super scary.  And I’ve made choices that don’t make sense.  But in the middle of those moments, when I’m being obedient, it just feels like the right thing to do.

Now, I’m NOT comparing myself to Moses or Noah, but I bet they’d tell you similar stories.  They were just being obedient.  Doesn’t mean it wasn’t scary.  But it was the right, next thing to do.  It was their life.  Nothing nearly so epic as to have a soundtrack playing in the background, or to inspire movie four thousand years later. But they were obedient.  They lived their lives.  And they inspire movies, and teach us about God, and encourage us.

And you know what?  Your life does that too.

No, really, it does.

If you are pursuing God.  If you’re obedient to His calling on your life.  If you take a hop of faith here and there.

Then you’re life WILL inspire someone else.  Someone else will think you’re this great person because you talked to that kid, or you gave money, or you went to that country, or you pursued whatever passion it is that God has been cultivating in your heart like some delicate, strong rose.

So, NEVER say, “Well, I haven’t really done that much” or “Well, I don’t have a story like THAT” or anything along those lines.   Somewhere, sometime, God WILL use your story (if you’re willing) to draw someone else to Him.  And that person WILL be inspired by you.

So, butterfly, don’t underestimate you’re journey through the chrysalis.  Go fly now.  The caterpillars are watching.  The caterpillars need your flight as a reminder there is something better ahead for them.  Scary and huge as it might seem for them at the moment.

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En GUARDE!

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told to guard my heart.  Like sitting in 7th grade Bible, right after having a discussion about how tampons work.  No joke.  Sorry.  Or 8th grade Bible, and Language, and Social Studies, and P.E. and chapel.  And then practically every-other chapel in 9th through 12th grade. And it mysteriously came up in every high school Bible class.  And in every Christian book I read (fiction and non-fiction).

So, I thought I got the picture.  I mean, it’s pretty simple, right?  Don’t fall completely in love with a boy until you marry him, right?  Simple.

HA!

The thing is, growing up, whether or not the speakers were actually doing this, I always heard “guard your heart” in connection with dating and boys.  Which isn’t really the case.  Giving your heart away is different than guarding your heart.

SO VERY different.

There are SO MANY other things that are going to try to steal or taint your heart other than boys (or girls).  Like anything and everything.  Literally.  Anything on this earth that can be twisted and tweaked so that it can become an obsession that takes your focus away from God.  It will steal your heart.  Like food.  Like Facebook.  Like reading.  Or watching TV.  Or dreaming about your future.  Or working out.  Or computer games.  Or board games (don’t ask). Or coffee.  Or a band.  Or ANYTHING.

Now, before you freak out on me.  Those things I just listed aren’t bad.  I promise.  It’s when they become more important to you than your relationship with God – when you turn to them instead of God when you’re angry/frustrated/confused/depressed – that’s bad.

Incase you didn’t pick up my subtleties there – whoever /whatever you go to when you’re in a rough spot –t hat’s who has your heart.  Wherever /whoever you spend all your free time with – that’s who has your heart.

And it’s no use trying not to “give it” to someone /something, because we as humans are wired to give our hearts away.  You’ve given it to something already.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t guard it, or that you shouldn’t guard it.  Because you should.  Definitely.  Crazy thought – you even should guard it AFTER having given it!  In fact, hopefully whoever you give it to should help you guard it, and you should help guard theirs.

So guard it!  Your heart is the single most precious thing you’re responsible for.

Now, the question I wish someone would have addressed in all those talks I sat through – HOW?!?

I think, as simple (and impossible) as it sounds, the key to guarding our hearts are in our thought patterns.  We are, after all, commanded to think about only things that are good, pure, honorable – all that jazz (Phil 4:8).  That’s a HUGE part of guarding your heart.  Watching / listening to stuff that wouldn’t make you blush if Jesus walked in the room (I know that’s cheesy, but it works) .  And that doesn’t mean only watching stuff that is morally-right, or singers that don’t use cuss words.  It’s more along the lines of in what condition does that song/movie/show/person leave you in when you’re done listening/watching/hanging out.  Are you generally encouraged and challenged?  Or are you angry/frustrated/scared.  How is your heart feeling?  Taking stock of how the world around you affects you – that’s guarding your heart.

Be vigilant*.  Be strong.  Stand True.

 

* (I know – old-school word you have no idea what it means – go look it up!)

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