Refreshing Hearts One Sentence At A Time
How do we keep going?
At my workout class yesterday, during the cardio portion, I found myself flopping around like an uncoordinated jellyfish who had been unwittingly hired on as a Rockette.
I’ve been at this workout class when I got the phone call that my grandmother had passed away. I was there when my dad called to say he had lost his job, that my cousin died, and when my real estate agent informed me that our offer was declined. Apparently, bad news calls in the morning.
Sometimes I would continue class, sometimes I just let the tears fall while the wind whisked around me at the park, and sometimes I just continued on with class, because there was nothing left to do but move on to the next stop.
Yesterday when I was flopping around with my discoordinated flapping and kicking, the thought popped into my mind: How do we keep going?
Yeah, so what if I refer to myself as a ‘we’?!
I mean us. You and me. Me and that other girl. That other girl and the blond guy over there. How do we keep going? Why do we keep going?
“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26).
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1,26).
The children of God are not aimless, pointless, fainthearted, or easily displaced. We cling to the truth, to the precious words of our Maker, and continue forward knowing he is good, he is with us, and he will help us endure. That’s where the last step ends and the next step begins, in your willingness to risk the change. Even if you look like a fish out of the water. Especially when you feel like a fish out of the water.
The grass is faded to a dry brown by the harsh sun beneath those golden, sparkly shoes. Stand firm with outstretched hands. Cool air massages the shoulders, wrapping cold hands around the waist as the warm sun lingers overhead. Direct your eyes and aim for the target ahead, barrels locked and loaded, ready for the unknown to shatter within your grip. Pull the trigger.
I can’t tell you how often I am my own worst enemy, my greatest disadvantage, and my own antagonist. I think and rethink a decision, hope and wish, tarry and linger, where instead I ought to act. Some of my best decisions have been impetuous. This new List has somewhat been an option plaguing me. Should I try to attempt this? What will people think? Will people think I am trying to be a know-it-all? What if I can’t do the entire thing? What if I’m too busy and don’t have time?
This whole “life” thing is not for the faint of heart. Just keep walking straight ahead.
Is there only one path we ought to follow? Where do our decisions fall on the scale of glorifying God and living according to his plan? Is there just one correct path? These questions keep coming to mind as I see health and sickness, holidays and organizational tendencies come to fruition. In the realm of funerals and weddings, birthday cakes and budgeting, what is the best option?
Is the correct path the one that asks God to walk alongside, wherever that road may lead?
This past week, my little family of three was invited to a friend’s home for the holidays. I made Messy Potato Casserole, the Thanksgiving MUST (it is actually an any-holiday MUST, as I have found, and any holiday is just not right without Messy Potatoes), and threw together my chocolate chip cheesecake. We can’t visit without bringing a little something, can we?! Chuck, Little M, Chuck’s sister Kay, and I packed up the car and drove to the outskirts of Wichita Falls, Texas, for a gracious, Southern homecoming. There were croissants, roasted turkeys, juicy hams, the biggest pan of stuffing I have ever seen, spicy breakfast sausages, crisp autumn air, giggles from the little girls, dusty gravel roads, black cows in the field nearby, and golden sunsets out the front window. The little brick house was filled with tasty food, hugs for family, and a quiet peace of the countryside. I always love going to the city, any city, with the bright lights and multiple radio station choices, but there is something to be said about the bright white beads of the stars overhead, the whisper of the wind across the fading grass, and the soft groan of the porch swing.
What I’m learning to be grateful for is people. For people who accept you into their lives just because you are around. Without stipulation or agenda, those willing and generous souls speak into my life in more ways than they will ever know. Those people who ask you out to lunch or coffee, their smiles a welcome sentiment, and don’t judge you because you’re a klutz, stammer a lot, and often get right confused with left. And they even choose to let you shoot guns with live ammunition while fully aware of these traits.
These kinds of people teach me lessons, and not just the obvious lesson of How To Shoot A Gun, but the sub-lessons that go along with them. Lessons like: every plot has a subplot, conflict drives story, and action makes a scene.
On this particular sunny day, the wind whipped across the dry field and around my sweatered shoulders, the casseroles baking in the oven, while our group killed off a few hours. My husband’s long-time friend Michael*, whose parents had been so hospitable as to invite us, suggested we use the guns he brought with him. Okay, I’m trying to give you some good imagery for this, but I’m still new to the terminology. That last sentence took me about ten minutes to formulate.
Michael let us work with his .22mm handgun and revolver. He let me ask questions and watch him load the guns, showed me some safe methods of handling a gun, and showed me how to fire into the pond behind the house. We took turns with the different firearms, aiming at old tomatoes we threw into the pond. The bright autumn sun dawdled overhead, echoes of simple shots popping in our ears, we laughed, aimed low, and I got to cross Item #5 off my list. I really enjoyed the activity, learning how to aim a gun, seeing what a big factor the wind is, and actually testing my aim and skill level in a new way. I had no idea the effect of a gunshot on the ear drums – afterwards my hearing was muted like after a loud concert, but only for a few minutes. Michael’s uncle came out and they shot his gun, a larger .45mm whose shell casing and shot were twice the size of the revolver’s.
Chuck says that the time I shot a BB rifle in middle school doesn’t count, so this was my first time to participate in the activity. There are quite a few endeavors I’ve either been afraid to try, thought was not my “thing,” or feared failing at any attempt. Let’s face it: taking risks is an opportunity for embarrassing moments, falling down, and failing. Risks are also a chance to make friends, gain experience, and learn something new about yourself. I really enjoyed shooting those guns. I nervously held the weapon away from my body, holding my arm steady, unsure of what would happen next. Eh, so I never hit a tomato dead on, but I got close. I found myself wistful for the continued chance to aim at a target. I sure would hate to live my life missing out on excitement because I was afraid to try.
For those experienced shooters, I’m sorry if my beginner’s terminology was offensive, but hey, I had half an hour with a revolver, so that’s a start, right?
Why was this particular activity on my list?
A few months back, a friend of mine firmly stated my husband should know how to shoot a gun, and even own one for our own protection and defense. The statement got me to thinking, because I grew up in a household of females and guns were not in the picture. Barbies and bows, yes; firearms and weapons, not so much. Now that we are grown I believe my dad either owns a gun or is in the process of hoping to acquire one, although I can see how a papa of three girls would want a rifle for intimidation. This isn’t a discussion of the right to bear arms or gun control, but that statement really made me aware of a topic which I had not previously considered. My husband owning a gun? My husband shooting a gun? Well, why shouldn’t I know how to shoot one? Shouldn’t I know different methods of protecting myself, whether with some sort of training like self-defense classes or with a weapon of some sort? Pretty sure Katniss used her hunting skills more than once in the Hunger Games. Why do I maintain the idea that others should know how to take care of me, rather than knowing for myself? Why would I depend on anyone else to know what I need to know?
K and M*
That’s the basic idea behind this list. I want to be prepared, to be aware, to be ready, to fully experience this life. I don’t want to cower in fear or tremble in trepidation. While skydiving did NOT make the list, I may still look into the basics of how it works. After all, if I’m going to be in an airplane, shouldn’t I know what to do if there is crisis? Why would I drive a car if I don’t have some working knowledge of its composition? And could I possibly inspire art and life in others?
Ultimately, I want to seek God in all that I do. What can he teach me about his heart? How can shooting a firearm bring me closer to my Creator? (Without, you know, physically taking me closer to my Creator.) How can learning and doing inspire a love for my Lord that encompasses my actions, motives, and heart?
“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young--
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance--
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Solomon asked God for wisdom. I often pray for the same thing, to more fully understand God’s heart, and to see his hand at work in my life and the lives of those around me. I would be lost without him. But he has given me extraordinary opportunities, and I want to thank him by seeing just where they lead. What an exciting adventure. And as Edward said to his father, “Carlisle, I've never thanked you for this extraordinary life.” Can I turn down the opportunity to show gratitude?
In this new jot down Learning Lane, I seek God’s presence in these items so that I can feel the warm sun on my shoulders, taste the richness of provision, and utilize the mind God has secured.
“The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant” (Genesis 39:2-4).
Even on the broad horizon, where the sun meets the far seashore, God will guide.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Tarry not, look to the horizon, and accept the open road. That’s the answer I am putting in my pocket for now. God gives us options and we choose the one that can display his creativity, his splendor, his provision, and utilize his presence.
And so we stand firm. The grass is faded to a dry brown by the harsh sun beneath those golden, sparkly shoes. Cool air massages the shoulders, wrapping cold hands around the waist as the warm sun lingers overhead. Direct your eyes and aim for the target ahead, barrels locked and loaded, ready for the unknown to shatter within your grip. Pull the trigger.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
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