Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Appletree Sunshine

My mom has a whole lot of Christmas decorations. Boxes and boxes of ornaments in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Figurines of all sorts, depicting different sentiments of Christmas, from the spiritual to the frivolous. Many of these decorations never see the light of day, no matter what time of year it is. One decoration that did make its way out of the box this year is a five pointed star, fashioned out of sticks glued together, with white lights laced throughout it. The wood has been stained to a rich, dark color, making the lights that much more vibrant (if only they worked...we must use our imaginations here). My sweet little niece has dubbed this particular decoration "appletree sunshine".

Through the eyes of a child, everything is full of beauty and wonder. Even a simple decoration, with lights that don't even work, can earn a name as blissful and innocent as "appletree sunshine", when looked upon through the as-yet-unjaded eyes of a child.

In other news...

Today was my last day at the job I've been trying to leave for about three months now. It was bittersweet, in that the transition period is less than ideal. My new employer...which I believe to be offering a much better opportunity for me in the long run...was unwilling to hold my position for two weeks so I could give notice to my current employer. I had to either agree to accept the position immediately, or I would have to wait until there were more openings. While I was very reluctant to do it, I finally did turn in my resignation, accepting the new position. I will be starting there next week.

I am looking forward to starting something new in my life. The job I have been doing for the last six months has been far from fulfilling, and I am happy to leave it behind. While I am grateful that I have had work all this time, the fact is that it has not even paid me enough to live on, and being that the company is so new, opportunities for advancement are limited to an "as needed" basis. I am confident that the company will someday be a great company, well established, and able to offer employees opportunities for training, advancement, etc. Right now, though, it is not something that even comes close to fitting my needs. So I am not entirely sure why I feel so guilty for doing what is right for me, and letting the company worry about itself.

This is something I've realized about myself...I am not good at doing what is good for me, if I know it's going to negatively impact someone else. This has lead me to make a series of horrible decisions regarding jobs, relationships, living situations, etc...all because I have this ridiculous tendency to think, "What I want isn't nearly as important as how getting what I want is going to effect everyone else." Yikes.

Everyone I talked to today congratulated me on getting the new job, and on getting out of a position that I have been unhappy with for a long time. So I'm thinking that maybe it's fairly normal for people to do what is best for themselves, and not worry so much about how it effects other people. I'm thinking that maybe that is the more healthy attitude.

A friend of mine told me that this might be a lesson in learning to accept good things from God, even if there are elements of it that are not comfortable. I have been praying for a new job for months, and this is the first real opportunity I've had come along. It's not a perfect transition, but I suppose a lot of the transitions God asks us to make from the wilderness into the promised land are not entirely comfortable. They require sacrifice, humility, and the willingness to do what we know is for the best, even if it upsets the Egyptians.

It is sort of like appletree sunshine. It's not perfect, but it is beautiful.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Peace, be still

It's been a great week. It has been one of challenge, one of unexpected blessings, one of growth. As God so often does, He has used difficult things to challenge me to reach for higher ground in my faith.

I spent the night at my family's house last night, so I could spend time with my niece. Whenever I spend time with my family, or with anyone else lately, the conversation eventually turns to my lingering concerns over my job and its inability to meet my financial needs, and how frustrated I am with some of the choices I am continually faced with as I walk along this path.

My sister and I were talking about some things happening in her life...She is buying a new house, and soon she and her little one will be in a home of their own. It is a very exciting time as they prepare for this new life they will have. As she talked about her fast-approaching move, I felt the pressure of my own circumstances begin to rest on my shoulders. The icy grip of fear began to close around my heart, and I began to feel the hopelessness that has become so familiar lately.

I am at a place in my life of fully realizing the futility of my own attempts to improve my situation in the slightest bit. Every attempt at finding a new, better job has been met with nothing but disappointment. Over the last few days, I've even prayed, with a very anxious heart, that if God does not want me here, that He would make a way out for me.

After my sister and I talked, I retreated to the guest room and laid my case before God. "God, why do You still have me here? With all I've learned, isn't it time for something to break loose so I can move forward? Haven't I been faithful to be obedient? And yet You still have me here. Why?"

Over the last week or so, as the due date for the rent and other bills approaches, and I have no way of coming anywhere close to being able to pay them all, I've been asking God..."Please show me why You have me here. I know there has to be a reason, or You would move me beyond this wilderness journey. You haven't, and I need to know why, so I can get beyond this. I'm growing tired, and I just want to see what You want from me, so I can move forward into blessing."

As I was in the guest room at my parents' house, pouring out my heart to God, asking Him to show me why He was not letting blessings flow in my life, the answer became so clear.

"Stephanie, you still have not learned to be still and know that I am God."

It was that simple, yet so profound. So profound that my fears dissipated literally within an instant, as I realized the truth in what had been put on my heart.

I did not know how to be still. I did not know how to let God be God. I was still hedging my bets...going online every day, fervently looking for any and all job opportunities, believing that if I just had a better job, my whole life would be different. As each job prospect greeted me with nothing more than disappointment, I felt more and more anxious. I watched every penny going in and out of my checking account, as though my paycheck were being dumped into an empty well that would never be filled. I looked to employers as my source, feeling more and more upset with the fact that nobody seemed willing to cut me a break. When the church decided my situation was not dire enough to be deemed worthy of help, I felt an overwhelming sense of despair, as I had come to the end of my rope. I did not...and do not...know what else to do, where else to turn. I have done everything I know to do, and nothing I've done has improved my situation to the slightest degree.

Yet, I have spent a lot of time wringing my hands with worry, wondering how I could make the pieces fit together somehow. And then..."Peace, be still."

Be still? But God, I have bills to pay. If I don't pay them, I lose my place to live, my phone, my car...everything. Don't You understand that?. I have this job that doesn't even come close to giving me enough money to pay my bills, and I am desperately in need of a different job and... And You tell me to be still????

Yes, be still and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

I think there are seasons where God calls us to action. I think there are other seasons where God calls us to just sit at His feet, be still, and let Him work. Acknowledge that He doesn't need our help to accomplish anything, because He owns everything. Acknowledge that our own efforts are so small in comparison with what He has planned for us, and sometimes our efforts just get in the way of what He is trying to do.

So, I am learning to be still. It is not easy, because I have been in "survival" mode for so long that I am not sure of any other way to live. But, I know that the challenge God is giving me for this season is to simply step back...completely back...and let Him work. It will take self-control on my part, and the conscious choice to stop hedging my bets by continuously looking for ways that I can make this situation better. There is nothing I can do. It is time to let God be God.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's a fact...I'm an angel!

You Are an Angel

A truly giving soul, you understand the spirit of Christmas.
What Christmas Ornament Are You?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Laura Ingalls and Grains of Salt

So, I am watching "Little House in the Prairie" as I write this. It has always been among my favorite tv shows. When my family moved from Warren to Bellaire, my main concern was whether or not I would still be able to watch it. I was not leaving behind any friends, and I had no favorite activities I would no longer be able to participate in. But I wanted to be sure that I would still be able to watch Laura Ingalls live out her life on the prairie. Now that I'm all grown up, it's part of my routine on my days off. I like to make coffee and be very lazy for most of the morning while I watch the show.

I loved this show so much that my parents actually took me to Laura and Almanzo's real-life home down in the Ozarks. I loved being in the house where they lived, and being able to see some of the things they actually held in their hands so many years ago. It was like reaching across generations, and actually taking hold of a part of them. It was a surreal experience.

However, it was also on this journey that I learned some earth-shattering truths. You see, I am one of the large throng of people who has faithfully watched the "Little House" shows, but read only one or two of the books. I took for granted that most of what I saw in the show was true, and I never questioned it. Imagine my horror when these delusions slowly unravelled.

My disillusionment started when we first walked into the house. Almanzo built the house in such a way as to accomodate for his and Laura's small stature. On the show, Laura and Almanzo are both tall, strong, flourishing adults. In reality, Almanzo was not even five feet tall, and Laura was several inches shorter than that. I realize that it was not at all unusual for people of that time period to be considerably smaller than the average adult now. Somehow, though, I was still surprised to realize just how small Laura and Almanzo really were.

Still, I remained fascinated as we walked through the house, seeing furniture that Laura and Almanzo actually used, looking into the library Almanzo had built for Laura and filled with her books, seeing little figurines, clocks, etc...that had been collected by them over the years. I felt better as we walked through the house. I thought the worst of the earth-shattering revelations were over, and my family and I made our way over to the museum.

Again, we were met with artifacts from long ago. All different things that were owned not only by Laura, Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, but also Ma and Pa, Mary, Carrie, Grace...Things not unlike other things from that era I had seen, but special because they were part of the lives of people that had been part of my life, despite the gap in time between us.

The two women who volunteered at the museum were happy to take us through, pointing out this and that about various items. Finally, we started asking the questions nearly every visitor must ask..."How accurate are the tv shows?". That's when it happened.

"You can't take those tv shows worth a grain of salt."


It started with a simple discussion about the floors in Ma and Pa's house.

"They never had wood floors. They had dirt floors. Those wood floors were something the writers of the show invented."

And then...

"Mary was never a teacher. She never married. She never had a baby. She lived with her family until she died."

I am sure there was more, but that was enough. My illusions had been shattered. "Little House in the Prairie" has never been the same for me since. I still watch the show, and I still enjoy it, although it is peppered with a bit of humor for me now as I see the historical inaccuracies and the plot inconsistincies in the show. (Example: Albert, the fictional child the Ingalls adopt late in the series, becomes addicted to morphine. At the end of the show, when Albert has made a full recovery, Laura's narration explains that Albert later moves to Walnut Grove and becomes the town's doctor. A few episodes later, Albert dies of a rare blood disease. Is his ghost the town's doctor? Did Doc Baker hear of Albert's plans, and decide to murder him? We'll never know.) It is still entertaining to me, but that's all it is...entertainment. I understand that the show was based on a need for ratings and commercial success, and less interested in remaining faithful to Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.

I wonder how often we do this with our faith. We follow a trend, reading the most popular books or following the most current brand of theology, taking for granted that these things are true. We trust them because they make us feel good, they do not present a challenge to us. They are easy to believe because they look so pure. Yet, I am reminded of Acts 17:11, which says, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." How many "Pauls" claim to have the truth...a truth that sounds so good, seems so pure...Is the truth we're being given worthy of the trust we've put in it, or is it like the popularized version of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life..."not worth a grain of salt"?

Monday, December 04, 2006

A song to keep me warm...

"Winter Weather"
by Squirrel Nut Zippers

I love the winter weather
Because the two of us can get together
There's nothing sweeter, finer
When it's nice and cold
I can hold
Baby closer, to me
Collecting all the kisses that are due me
I love the winter weather
Because I've got my love to keep me warm

P.S I do not like winter, and I do not have anyone to hold closer to me to keep me warm, but I do like this song very much. :)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]