What Big Ears You Have

We all want to be the fastest, smartest, prettiest, most influential, or insert your superlative here. We want to be the best. But, rarely do you ever hear a person say, “I want to be a great listener.” Let’s be honest it is more often than not our least refined skill. No one’s priority is to be known as one of the best listeners one has ever known.

But I have found that the greatest speakers, smartest professors, and most influential people you will ever meet happen to be impeccable listeners. They listen to sound advice, good council, instructions, desires, and needs. They listen to every detail. They don’t just listen to respond. They listen to absorb and process the information being communicated to them so they can respond in the best way possible.

I will admit I am one of those who struggles to put the world around me (and the world in my head) on hold long enough to listen to a friend, family member, or coworker especially when there is so much that needs to be done. I use to tell myself I can listen and work. I am, after all, a great multitasker. Sometimes I’d even convince myself that they just need someone to talk at  and verbally process their thoughts. They don’t need me to answer their questions, so I don’t actually have to pay attention to the details. I was so wrong…

I had to change my thinking. I have to remind myself that what they are saying is important. It may not always be urgent but it is definitely important. It may not pertain to any of the matters at hand but it may matter later. Most importantly even if it doesn’t matter to me, it matters to them.

The Lord knows this is not something that comes naturally. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” He doesn’t just say be a good listener. He helps us by telling us to be slow to speak and slow to anger – two actions that generally keep us from listening well. We have to make a conscious effort to listen.

Many misunderstandings could be avoided if we would take the time to listen. Our loved ones would feel more important. We would receive instructions that help us better perform our responsibilities. We would glean more wisdom from those who possess it. And if all of those weren’t good enough reasons, the best reason is this: we would hear what God has to say in so many areas of our lives.

So I encourage you to get big ears. Strive to be a great listener. Learn to find importance in what others are saying. It isn’t always going to be interesting and it isn’t always going to be easy. But, it will be worth it.

I Think Something Bit Me

I have a friend that works for Terminix and last week he had to come by our office to check on some ants. He asked me where the ants were coming from but I was clueless. In fact, the office has dark patterned carpet, so I couldn’t even see the ants! He then proceeds to take out a flash light, dim the overhead light, and roll the flashlight on the floor. I thought he had lost his mind. Then he points to the now large moving shadows all over the floor! Camouflaged with the dark color and pattern of the carpet was the pest that was now visible because of the light he cast on them.

Ah yes another life lesson!

Most of us would have been bitten before we ever noticed we were standing in a sea of ants. I know I would. Much like this situation I think people go about life unaware of the “pest” in our life until he bites us. We all know Satan has it out for us but some of his antics are more subtle, leaving us clueless until life seems to bite us. The problem is we sometimes never take the time to identify the source of the problem. Instead we grin and bear it, hoping it stops, while simultaneously letting it drive us crazy and wreak havoc.

I found out that the ants were a result of storing some candy in that office. Some rogue ant decided it was going to venture its way in through a window and then next thing we knew they brought their whole family! The candy was removed but the ants were still there searching for anything that would be left behind. Unfortunately, simply removing the candy did not solve the problem.

I have been guilty of treating the symptoms of my problems instead of addressing the issue itself. Lets be honest, it is way easier to treat the symptoms of what ails us than it is to go to the doctor. For the most part, we know, when we go to the doctor, he’s going to recommend that we make some changes in our lives to avoid a reoccurrence. Sometimes those changes are difficult and require an effort that we’ve not had to put forth before. But when all is said and done we know the change is worth it.

If we would call on God to shed a little light on the issues we are having instead of toughing it out chances are we would identify the problem and eliminate it.

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” – Song of Solomon 2:15

While the scripture from Song of Solomon is referring to things that might destroy and hinder a relationship the concept fits here as well. Often it’s the little things that can spoil not only your relationships, but your day, your attitude, and sometimes your life. If we constantly turn a blind eye to the little destructive things in our lives under the guise of “toughing it out” we run the risk of greater damage than we anticipated. I encourage you to allow God to shed a little light in the troublesome areas of your life and let Him prescribe the solution.

 

Bravery

I use to think of myself as brave, mostly because that’s what many thought of me. To most bravery is considered doing something that one could not imagine having to do. I was told I was brave for moving out on my own while still a junior in highschool. I was told I was brave for transferring from a college, where I completed nearly 75% of my bachelors degree in business, to follow the call of ministry in bible college. There are a number of other reasons for people’s assumption of my bravery and at the time I might have actually considered myself brave.

However, in the last several years of my life, I think I have better learned the meaning of bravery. When we think of bravery we think of mustering the courage necessary for making a difficult choice. We consider ourselves brave just for facing the decision, regardless of which choice we make. Until now, I had never examined the actual definition of bravery. According to Merriam Webster’s definition, bravery is

“the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.”

According to the definition one must be making a choice in spite of danger, fear, or difficulty.

If I consider my circumstances, I wouldn’t necessarily deem all of my choices as brave as others have viewed them. When I decided to become independent in high school, I truly felt that I had no better choice. Thus, making this decision an easy one. I’ll admit, being financially responsible and independent during a season in life where most people’s parents were still waking them up for school and doing their laundry wasn’t exactly the leisurely option, but it was the easier option. It was logical. It simply made sense.

Now, transferring schools with over half of a completed degree in business is another story. That decision, my friends, took some bravery. Everything I thought I had worked for was just three semesters away. Life was seemingly great. I was as financially stable as a college student could get (Ha!), active in my church, parted ways with the folly of the “extracurricular” activities that often allure young people, and was supported by friends that were more like family. Honestly, I was scared. This would be a new state, new people, a new school – a new LIFE!

I transferred with nothing more than an indisputable beckon and a promise that God would take care of me in the unknown. It was, in my life, the road less traveled. And, God has done more than promised. He has not only taken care of me but overwhelmed my life abundantly with blessings in every faith-filled step I have taken. Today I am married to the sweetest and most handsome man (I may or may not want some new shoes…). We own a home, have good jobs, are part of a great church, and we are blessed with family and friends. If you had asked me what I thought life would look like six years ago, I could map it out for you and it would have been nothing compared to what I have now. Taking this road has made all the difference!

Since then I have been faced with ample opportunities to make decisions. Some major and some minor. Some quite difficult and others simply logical. Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken is often the go-to for anyone who is facing a decision to take the road less traveled or sticking with the status quo. If in the wrestling of your decision-making I could offer any encouragement, it would be simple. Be logical and be brave. God has provided us with wisdom to make decisions (James 1:5) but when the decision is one that has to be made on faith, be brave. Trust God (Proverbs 3:5). His road for your life is far better than the best one we can ever pave (Proverbs 16:9).

Am I Like Michal?

Our Pastor said something in his sermon last Sunday that really made me think… Michal, King Saul’s daughter, was so accustomed to living in the King’s house that its luxuries were common place to her. She was unlike David. The man after God’s own heart,   understood that it was the Lord that brought him to his position as King. Michal had always known life from the perspective of the king’s house. David celebrated the presence of God. Nothing could diminish the magnitude of God’s greatness nor David’s love for the Lord. Our pastor asked the congregation if some of us were like Michal, so accustomed to being in God’s house, that we don’t get excited about the presence of God.

This thought and looming question stayed with me for a few days. I wanted to honestly consider whether or not I had a heart similar to David or that of Michal. I know  God has blessed me immensely in regards to my family, home, job, and every other area of life. Like David, I know that I would be nowhere near my current position in life had it not been for the work God has done in and through my life. However, I know there are times I am more like Michal- times I struggle to see the presence of God in my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. Have you ever actually had to apply that concept? And I don’t mean when life is going well. I mean when you have had the last straw with the ongoing  family issue or feel like you’ve been the statue more times than the pigeon at work. Or, maybe it’s when you’re watching God fulfill the promises He made to those around you but your time just never seems to arrive.

I would be lying if I said I have come to a place in my life where I initially always find something to be grateful about. There are moments when the attitude of my prayer is similar to a child who hasn’t gotten their way. Sometimes I am jealous of other’s success. Sometimes I don’t even want to talk to God because I am just that irritated with the current state of my life. I hope, however, that at no point in my life, I get to the place where I can’t praise the Lord. I pray that He continues to give me subtle reminders of the goodness He’s shown me especially when it is most difficult to remember.

God is worthy of praise regardless of our current situation. No matter how difficult our circumstances are, I encourage you to take a good hard look at where and what God has brought you out of. Even though things look rough where you are, He still deserves the praise for what He has already done. You and I are truly blessed, so keep your head up. I know, that when in the presence of God, you and I have enough reasons to find as much joy as David did.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I love flowers! I mean… I LOVE flowers. I really love them now that I take singulair too. My favorite flower is the African violet. I’m not so sure it is a flower as much as it is a plant that has flower blossoms…(again not really sure, I’m no horticulturist), but it is beautiful and unique. It has soft, fuzzy leaves like the lambs ear plant we loved to touch as kids, but it has vibrant purple blooms.

I have never been great at keeping any type of plant alive. As much as I love flowers, I am not crazy enough to start a garden. I would be setting myself up for failure. Although I clearly don’t have a green thumb, I have had an African violet and it taught me a little life lesson.

Gardners must take special care to provide each type of plant with exactly the right amount of everything they need. For example, the African violet needs carefully monitored sunlight or it can get sunburned. Yes sunburned. And you can’t just poor water on it either. The best way to water it is from the roots up by placing it in a another pot of water but only for 30 minutes. The water has to be room temperature and not too soft and not too chlorinated. When they have outgrown the pot they are in they are carefully moved from one pot to another. When properly cared for they will grow full, healthy, and beautiful.

This made me think of the saying made popular by Mary Englebreit, “Bloom where you are planted.” In order to bloom where you are planted you must have proper care and sustenance. God gives us exactly what we need when he plants us somewhere. And, when we have outgrown our “pots” so to speak he carefully moves us without doing damage to the progress He has made in us. Plants don’t move themselves. The gardener moves them. This is something I have a hard time remembering…

When I get anxious about the future, I anticipate a time to move, and it often doesn’t happen when or as I would expect. In the past, I tried to take things into my own hands and it always had some negative reprocussion; whether it was stalling longer in a season than I needed to or damaging relationships I ended up needing. But, just like the gardener tends to the needs of each and every individual plant in his garden, God tends to the needs of each and everyone of his children. He knows just what to give us and when it is time to gently move us from one season to another. If we allow God to be in control of our needs, our lives will continue to grow beautifuly and healthily into its fullest potential. So, take heart! As someone wise told me, “Remember that this is only a season.”

Fondue Life

If we are honest with ourselves, as much as we pretend we have it all together, we know we don’t.

I’m young and let’s be real I can be pretty dumb. I am strong willed and a little intense (seriously an anonymous description of me in college). But I am taught to show you my maturity, and intelligence. I am taught to show you that I am determined and passionate. But I think we forget that it takes real life trials to mature and often sharpen the dull areas of our lives. And, that “determination” and “passion” can be very unbecoming in the wrong situation. We seldom walk into life being excellent. It is a slow development. And if you’re like me, it feels like the slowest development.

I started this blog because I need somewhere to be myself. And quite frankly, sometimes I am a lot like fondue- cheesy, spicy, and occasionally messy. Some days my life is like a page out of The Notebook– one of the cheesiest of love stories. Other days my life is like accepting a friend’s dare to eat a hot pepper- it’s intense; not the greatest idea or experience at the time, but we can laugh about it later. And then there are the days that are just messy- the days we pretty much fail at life. The redeeming factor is that God’s grace has been and always will be enough to clean up my mess.

The neat thing is, like fondue, when you put cheesy, spicy, and messy together it’s actually pretty good. Likewise, this life I am blessed with is pretty good. It’s GREAT really!

So, if your life is cheesy, spicy, and a little messy (like mine) you are not alone! Don’t give up! I don’t know about you, but… I, for one, want to taste (and see) that the Lord and this life is still very good (Psalm 34:8).