Change Takes Longer Than You Think

And so the renovation begins.... It has taken longer than I thought!

Lessons From The Renovation

I am finally beginning to resurface to my regular life after it turned upside down and inside out.

What caused such a havoc?

A renovation. And not just any renovation- a kitchen renovation. There are dishes in the closets and a microwave in the living room.

The answer to the question, “Where is the …?” receives the immediate answer, “I. Don’t. Know.” It doesn’t matter what it is. Even as the Mom, I am no longer the encyclopedic index on the location of each piece of minutia in our home. I don’t know where anything is anymore.

And I am pretty sure that is what renovations always do. The whole “out with the old, in with the new” process is just a mess. Going through a remodel has taught me a lot. Besides learning that I have too many glasses and 9x13 pans, I have also learned some things about the whole Romans 12 passage.

Romans 12:1-2- “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

To “be transformed” - a personal renovation. A renovation of the heart.

I want to “be transformed.” I have wanted that since the day I started following Christ. I want to be less of me and more of Him. I look at the processes of sanctification in the lives of the saints and think, “I want that.”

But I don’t think I ever accounted for how… honestly…painful it would be.

As I have seen parallels between my kitchen renovation and my personal remodel I started calling them my “Lessons From the Renovation.” But, since I can’t ever learn something without desiring to share it with someone, I am sharing my lessons here.

Lesson One: It Takes Longer Than You Think It Will

Any change takes time, and often a lot of time. Home renovations are notorious for stretching past their prospective completion date. We started ours the week after Thanksgiving. Two and a half months later we are finally close to done, but that is much longer than we thought it would take. The timeline kept getting delayed as walls were removed to reveal problems lurking underneath. Or there have been more mundane delays like trying to configure the creative financing of a big remodel on a limited budget.

Even now that we are closing in on completion, there are still minor and some major details that are not finished.

Transformation takes a long time, whether a kitchen or a heart.

I started walking with the Lord over 30 years ago. There have been starts and stops. There have been hot and cold periods. There have been times of rapture and times of despair.

Each experience has transformed me in different ways. They have wrenched me away from the “world’s pattern” which kept drawing me in. But I have to be very honest here: I am not near as “transformed” as I think I should be or could be. Those pesky, besetting sins are still around. I still struggle with being impatient, moody, frustrated. I easily get hangry (if I am in a bad mood it is almost always a good idea to eat something and see if that improves the situation.) I say yes to too many opportunities and then get frustrated that there does not seem to be enough time for all my commitments. I fall into ingratitude as I compare my situations with other ones which seem easier or better.

I believe God is transforming me, but after three decades I think I should be further down the road than I am.

My heart renovation is taking exponentially longer than my kitchen renovation.

How Do I Keep Going?

One of my other besetting sins is to get easily discouraged. But when I do, God reminds me of a truth from parenting. When my kids were little and we would need to walk for a long time, they would become weary and start to lag and whine, so I would often just take their hand.

There was something about taking their hand that added my strength to theirs.

As I get weary with the lengthy heart renovation process, and begin to lag and whine, my best bet is to reach up and take the Lord’s hand. Because as God’s unlimited strength gets added to my minimal supply I am able to keep going.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

 

 

The "A" List for 2015

a for blog 2015. Another new year. I wonder what it will hold? I have been alive long enough to look at a new year with both excitement and trepidation. Because while a new year always holds new possibilities, it does not follow that all those possibilities will be fun. Or profitable. Or exciting. Some years are just harder than others, and that is the truth.

I really don't have that much control over many of the variables of my year, but I can control my approach to the year- whatever it holds.

I am a sucker for New Year's resolutions and goal setting sessions. I read blogs on methods for effective goal setting. I especially liked Tim Elmore's post this year. I spent a wonderful hour or two at Panera's thinking through and writing down my goals and plans. The only problem to the long-term success of this method is that I have never had a very good memory. And now that I am over 50 whatever smidgen of memory I used to have has decreased exponentially. So after the hours I ponder and the pages I write I usually forget everything I recorded. But at least my goals look lovely on paper.

I needed another approach. I needed something easy. Something memorable. Something my 50+ year old brain could hold on to.

So I came up with the "A" list for 2015. Maybe if I have everything begin with an "A" I can remember them long enough to hold myself accountable.

Here is my "A" List for 2015:

  1. Attitude: Gratefulness
  2. Activity: Compliments
  3. Action: Write

I feel like a pastor coming up with a three point sermon that all have the same letter! But the reason pastors do that is to make it easier to remember, and hopefully this device will work for me.

 

Attitude: Gratefulness

How would it change my day if the glasses I looked through were fitted with lenses of gratefulness? What if I was grateful for EVERYTHING, not just the things I like or the things that seem "good," but for EVERYTHING? What if I was grateful for what other people had and that they have it, even if it is better than what I have?

What if I trusted God enough to actually believe that I have exactly the right items, people, opportunities, and trials in my life?

I want my eyes to be open and my heart to be aware of the abundance of gifts, joys, and blessings that surround me.

So the attitude goal of 2015 is GRATEFULNESS!

 

Activity: Compliments

How would it change my relationships if I look for opportunities to give a compliment instead of using my words to try and fix a problem?   What if I limited my words of correction to really important issues and instead used the majority of my words to speak life, praise, and appreciation into my family's life? What would happen to my heart as I actively looked for the good in people so I could purposefully find things to compliment?

What if I trusted God and His ability to change people's lives? What if I trusted Him enough to let Him be the fixer and I took the role of lover? What if I let the Holy Spirit do His job and just concentrated on my job?

I want my mind and my mouth to comprehend and speak of the good, noble, lovely, excellent, worthy of praise aspects in my loved ones lives.

So the activity goal of 2015 is COMPLIMENTS.

 

Action: Writing

How would it change my productivity if instead of thinking about what I want to write I actually wrote? What if I turned my slow moments into moments of recording what is on my heart? What if I decided what to do and what not to do based upon how it would free me up to ACT on my call to write?

What if I trusted God with my words and their results? What if I was brave enough and transparent enough to write truth? What if I gave up momentary pleasures or distractions to buy myself time to write?

I want my words to build the Kingdom of God.

So the action goal of 2015 is WRITING.

 

There is my "A" list- to be a grateful, compliment speaking, writer. I think that even my brain can remember that.

Now I just need to go and do it.

 

 

Why I Am Not Building My Dream Kitchen

This is what my kitchen looks like now- before the renovation. Eleven years ago we moved into our home in Texas. After moving 11 times in 20 years with the Air Force, we were finally settling down. This home appealed to us with its one-story, Texas hill country look, cozily set on 8 acres. Unfortunately it also had vibes of the Brady Bunch with its dark wood paneling and 70's light fixtures, but those could be fixed. Having enough bedrooms for our family of nine and an extra room for homeschooling sold us. This was the house to make our home.

I did have to overlook a few minor items- like the bathrooms and the kitchen. But I figured in a few years we could renovate those and it would be great. If your life is anything like mine though, you will understand when renovation dreams collide with small realities like budget and opportunity.

I am happy to report that eventually both bathrooms were greatly improved.

And now, over a decade later, we are on to the kitchen. This is an exciting, terrifying, messy, terrific, ridiculous project. Through it I am learning a great deal and some of it even has to do with renovation and kitchens. Most of it, however, has to do with life.

When renovating a kitchen in this day of HGTV and Pinterest it is easy to dream big. But dreams eventually have to run up against reality. Either that or dreams have to run to the bank and take out a loan that could run a small country for several months.

First thing I have learned: dreams are expensive.

So are kitchen cabinets. Like really, really expensive. And farm sinks are expensive, and countertops are expensive, and labor, flooring, and lighting. It is all expensive.

So what's a girl to do?

Well the first thing is to answer the question, "Are you building your dream kitchen?" No. No I am not building my dream kitchen.

What I am doing (and honestly this is more of a consultant role, because I am not that great with power tools) is building a wonderful space that will work well for my family and friends and allow us to practice hospitality and is a vast improvement to my current kitchen.

My current kitchen has linoleum floor that is chipping, drawers that are falling apart, and a mustard yellow countertop that runs twelve inches up the wall as the backsplash. There is not a lot of counter space or storage. But that being said, this kitchen has allowed me to cook dinners for parties of 2-250, has been filled with laughter, has always been where guests gather, and has served admirably as the heart of our home. A magnificent dream kitchen, that is never used, could never do that.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.   ~I Timothy 6:6-8

Second thing I have learned: enough is as good as a feast.

I love this old saying. It isn't heard so much any more, but it says a lot to my heart about how much it should take to satisfy me.

Let me give you a kitchen example. My "dream" sink is a farmhouse sink. I love the retro look with the white apron on the front and the huge bowl to wash massive amounts of large dishes. I assumed that, of course, I would have that in our new kitchen. It was one of my "have to haves." Until I priced it, that is.  A lower end farmhouse sink is a minimum of 4 times the price of a decent undermount stainless steel sink.

Seriously? Yep, seriously.

So what did I go with? I went with the undermount stainless steal sink that is wonderful. It is a single sink so I can wash my big pans with ease and when I have grandbabies it can serve as a kiddie pool. It will be fantastic and I am super excited about it. It is as good as a feast, maybe even better. Even if it is not my dream.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11

I am going to spend my dreams well.

Instead of going deep into debt to have things "just right" and "picture perfect" I am going to be extremely grateful and supremely pleased with my wonderful new kitchen.

I am going to cook big meals for lots of people and I am going to serve coffee and gluten-free cookies, or cook massive pots of chili, or whip up a batch of pancakes, or make the stand-by Alfredo sauce to go on, well, anything. Because everything is better with Alfredo on it.

I am going to make my kids their favorite birthday meals or cook something to take to a sick friend.

I am going to spend my dreams on something eternal.

And I am going to be very content.

Contentment is a far better accomplishment than a dream kitchen.

 

 

What I Learned About Sin From Being Gluten-Free

It is now all the rage to eat gluten-free.bread 2 I would like to be perfectly clear. That is sort of stupid. I mean why substitute cardboard in the place of bread if it isn’t necessary?

I know of what I speak. I have eaten gluten-free for eight years. And while the gluten-free options have greatly improved, they still can’t shake a stick to bread. Especially hot, steaming, soft bread, fresh from the oven, slathered with butter that is slowly melting into all the spongy crevices. Oh, the taste. Oh, the aroma. Oh, the joy.

Ok, I will stop drooling now. But you should understand that there is nothing I love to eat more than bread, not even chocolate. Bread is my favorite food, and the only thing worse than not eating bread is the way I feel after I eat bread.

I won’t gross you out with the details of what happens when I eat bread. Suffice it to say, it isn’t pretty. While my mouth and taste buds thoroughly enjoy the delicious delectableness of all things bread the rest of me rejects it with vehemence.

I will go months without eating any bread. And then it happens. I take a taste. It is like Pooh Bear’s attitude about honey, “I don’t want to eat it; I just want to taste it.” It is the moment of the taste that conquers me, because as I resist all the voices in my head reminding me of what will happen if I keep eating this deliciousness, I listen instead to the lies that a few bites won’t do any harm. Just a few bites. A little bit. Not very much.

But the catch is this. One bite of bread awakens all the desires of bread consumption in my epicurean mind. I start craving bread and eating bread, all the while denying the reality that is most certainly marching down the road toward me. When the pain, bloating, and general miserableness hits me I have no one to blame other than myself. I knew what was going to happen.

I have learned a lot about sin from being gluten-free, because it is a revealing picture of the same destructive cycle working in other parts of my life as well.

I am not going to tell you what my besetting sins are. And I won’t ask you about yours because it doesn’t really matter. Some people deal with really destructive ones like alcoholism, pornography, adultery, gluttony, etc. Many people deal with ones that can be less obviously destructive yet just as painful to those around them, like being impatient, angry, unkind, judgmental, slothful, cynical and more.

Just as the results of my eating bread are too unpleasant to describe in this blog, so it is with our sins.

We don’t talk about them.

We try to deny they occur.

They embarrass us.

We try to pretend we don’t deal with these things.

breadAnd like the first of taste of bread awakens a desire for more, so is our struggle with sin.

We don’t want to eat sin, we just want to taste it.

We deny the Voice that reminds us of the better way and of the consequences that will most certainly follow.

We listen to the lie, “just a little bit won’t hurt" or "I will be able to deny my desire for more."

And before we know it, we are knee deep into destructive behavior that is painful to ourselves and to our families.

Will we ever learn?

Paul states, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:18, 19

What have I learned about sin from being gluten-free?

  • While sin may smell good and the first taste may be delicious, the cost is never worth the momentary pleasure.
  • Sin has definite harms that will be manifested in my life that will effect adversely myself and everyone with whom I live.
  • Just because someone else can do a thing and not be harmed does not mean that I can do it and not be harmed.
  • It is impossible to taste without eating.
  • It is impossible to eat without digesting.
  • It is impossible to digest a harmful thing without damage.
  • It is never, ever worth it.

Remember that last one: it is never, ever worth it.

 

 

Following Jesus- It's Not That Complicated

Mom and daughterI remember telling the Lord when I was a teenager, "Lord, if you call me to be a missionary, I will go. But please not to the Amazon. With the snakes. And giant insects. And swamps. Please God- just not there." I mean, I had seen "Swiss Family Robinson" when they are trudging through the swamp and are attacked by the giant snake. I wanted no part of that. God never called me to the Amazon.

In fact, He never called me to be a missionary at all, ...at least not to foreign lands.

But He did call me to be faithful here and to be following Jesus wherever He might lead in the every day and the mundane. He called me to feed the savages in my kitchen and proclaim the gospel to the heathen in my living room. He called me to open a school so I could not only teach the infidels to read, but also to love reading His Word. He called me to be a medical missionary to the countless bumps and bruises, dislocated joints, asthma attacks, fevers, and occasional fake sicknesses brought on by the desire to skip school.

Following Jesus- it isn't actually easy, but it's really not that complicated.

It is like the incidence in Scripture when Jesus is washing the disciples' feet. John 13 contains this remarkable story- a story where the God of the universe gets down on His knees to demonstrate to us what real love looks like.

Jesus must have astonished every disciple as He took on the job of the lowliest servant and started, one by one, washing their feet. But when He got to Peter, Peter flat out refuses to have Jesus wash him.

Jesus responds rather bluntly, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me." (ESV)

So Peter brilliant responds, "Not my feet only, but also my hands and head." (ESV)

Oh, Peter. Oh, me.

How often do I first fight what God calls me to do and then when I agree make it ten times harder just to prove my devotion?

I wonder how the other disciples were responding. I wonder which ones were rolling their eyes at Peter thinking that Peter always had to one up everyone else. And maybe some were thinking about what else they could have washed to prove they actually could follow Jesus more than Peter could. Could there have been one or two disciples who felt guilty because they were going to simply obey Jesus and now they were worried they hadn't done enough?

But Jesus didn't need for Peter to make it harder or more. He just wanted Peter to obey.

Jesus said, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except his feet..." (John 13:10, ESV)

Of course it was hard for the disciples to humble themselves to allow Jesus to wash their feet. They had to lay down their pre-conceived ideas, their pride, their arrogance. It also must have been daunting to realize that if Jesus was washing their feet then He was probably going to expect them to do the same to those they served.

Following Jesus- it may never be easy.  But it is simple.

Today I promise to lay aside my pride, submit myself to Jesus, and simply follow where He leads.

May my mind never be "led astray from the simplicity and pure devotion to Christ." (II Cor. 11:3)

It is just not that complicated.

Of ISIS, Ebola, and Who Is Really In Charge

He who rules the stars is capable of ruling my today. Is it my imagination, or is the news feed full of seriously bad reports lately?

I am 50ish... and cannot remember a point in my lifetime where the news reports were as bad, where the threats were as numerous, or where the enemies were as prolific.

Watching the news can involve watching another western prisoner of ISIS be condemned to a horrific death, or a report of hundreds of school girls being kidnapped by ISIS in Iraq or Boko Haram in Nigeria.

And the bad news is not just over seas. Now Ebola, which has ravished parts of Western Africa, is on our soil, infecting our citizens, and the fear is palpable.

And in America, where various sects, denominations and religions have fled for centuries to escape religious persecution, the attack on Christianity has begun in full force. Pastors' sermons are demanded in court and business owners are punished if they want to try live what they believe.

And all this leads to the question, "Who is really in charge?"

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountain quake at its swelling pride. Ps. 46:1,2

I have to be honest. I wish it wasn't like this. I wish I could look at the world and imagine it being even better for my kids and their families in the future. I so look forward to having grandkids someday, but now I have begun to feel fearful for them. What kind of world will they be born into? What kind of America? One where they can live their Christianity out loud or one where they will live as part of the underground remnant?

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Ps. 46: 4-7

I feel much like Frodo, when weary and discouraged from the difficulty of the journey and the constant battle to live his calling, says, "I wish none of this had happened."

To which Gandalf wisely responds, "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."  (Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers)

I, my children, and my future grandchildren will live in the times given to us and we will have to decide what to do with these times.

And in the midst of "these times"- of roller coaster stock markets, of wars and rumors of wars, of plagues and diseases, of natural disasters and man-made disasters - I HAVE to remember Who is in charge.

God is in charge. All the time. Every moment. On the throne.

He is not on holiday. He is not looking away.

Come, behold the works of the Lord... "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Ps. 46: 8, 10, 11

My hope is not in financial stability. It is not in personal security. It is not in conflict free living. It is not in peaceful resolution of differences.

My hope is in my Rock, my Stronghold, and my Refuge. (Ps. 62:5-8)

So ISIS, you can have my head. Ebola, you can have my health. "Tolerance," you can have my freedom. Economy, you can have my finances.

God is still in charge and I choose to rest only in Him.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Ps. 62:6-8