Refreshing Hearts One Sentence At A Time
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
Have you ever started a project, and what you end up with is entirely different from what you started out intending to do?
This often happens to me when I’m writing. I start off thinking I know where I’m going, but then God shows me a better answer than I thought I had.
A lot of people are asking, “Why?”
A lot of people are running to blogs, senators, lobbyists, family, hugs, and books to find answers for the intricate intimacies of the human mind and soul.
A lot of people are looking for hope, for light, for positive vibrations rattling across the carpet, for a shiny answer, for a nod that affirms what they believe to be the right answer.
The answer is simple; and then the real answer is even less complicated.
Why do bad things happen? Sin is in the world. Long ago, far away from this chair in which I am sitting, a serpent convinced a man and woman to make a terrible decision.
From here, I intended to go one direction, but then I began really searching. The simple answer is: sin.
But what is sin, really? You’ve heard this word, I’ve heard this word. Kind of churchy. Thou sinner! Thine hands smiteth thee!
Ha! Can I insert a LOL here? It’s my blog, so yes I can.
It’s that terminology that, while true, can be nondescript and annoying. When I get annoyed with a word, I usually look into why I get annoyed with it. Is it because I don’t really know what it means? Other people don’t know what it means? The word is old-fashioned, outdated, or just plain misused? Or overused? Some fabulous words in the English language are malnourished, but this “sin” word is one that, in the Bible-belt anyway, is sitting as pretty as a stuffed pig on a roasting spit.
Sin is the act of defying God. Sin is disobedience. Dictionary.com provides: transgression of divine law; any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior; any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
Thank you, Dictionary, for providing an answer in which the user must also define the meaning of the answer. Sin is also the 22nd letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the 12th letter of the Arabic alphabet, the Akkadian god of the moon, and a symbol used in trigonometry. Since we’re still discussing what Dictionary.com has to offer, a transgression is violation of a law or command, just to clarify so that we’re all on the same page. Therefore, if you sped in your car today, you have transgressed. If you have acted without love toward a neighbor, let’s face it, you have violated moral code. For the record, I am included in this unfortunate category. Not a day goes by in which I continually love my Creator with my entire heart, soul, mind, and strength; and not a day goes by in which I persistently love my neighbors as myself. I didn’t steal anything today, though, that I know of, anyway, so maybe we get some kind of star sticker? A pink one?
In our society, we HAVE to have the best answer, the right answer, RIGHT NOW, right here!! We have to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, the owner of the newest idea or device, the one with the answers, the one with the best words, the one with the best ideas, best attitude, best weight loss, and best abilities to craft.
Or else we are no one, nobody.
While the world whirls by, with laughter, fruit flies, and shiny coins.
And what do we have, then?
Once the whirlwind is over, when the deep, piercing ache rattles your stomach and grabs at your throat, what then?
Do your prayers hit the ceiling? Do questions bounce around your head, or is the silence so large it fills the longing in your heart?
You see, I’ve known loss.
I’ve loved people who have known great loss.
I’ve tripped, I’ve forgotten, I’ve ached; they have wailed at funerals, closed their eyes in sorrow, breathed deeply.
And each time, God was there. How do I know?
How do I KNOW?
I asked myself this last night, and the night before. How do we know that God is here, that God is with us? I can see my daughter or husband and know they are there at the table with me, and I can sense their presence when they are in a separate room because I KNOW they are there, even when I can’t see them or hear their video games playing in the background.
How do I know that God is with me, even when that wrenching ache clutches my spine?
Because the Bible tells me so. The very truth I search for answers my every question.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Sometimes I think I would really like to see an angel or get stopped in my tracks by blinding light and hear that good old-fashioned, “Fear not!”
But then again that could be totally creepy.
God is here, God is there, with you. Acknowledge his name, give credit to his omnipresence. Proclaim his omnipotence and his omniscience. He is the I Am. He works through hugs, warm fires, and the sunrise. He guides us with that small voice, with that good idea, with that waking inspiration.
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:16b-17).
The better answer to some questions is this: We won’t know on this planet, but God is good, and his love is everlasting.
His love is full, his presence real. He is in whispers of joy, golden rays of sunlight dipping below the horizon, the laughter of a little blond baby, the soft petals of dewy flowers, and a deep, long hug from someone who cares. He is in every good and perfect gift.
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15). You see, we choose our shadowed paths. We choose to look down and stumble, insisting our way is correct, negating the simple options, and demanding that we are strong enough. We will never be strong enough on this planet. Not in this earth-suit.
And here’s the good part.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).
He traveled through time, through space, through darkness, to rescue us from our own plaguing doubt. Jesus gently unpacked our regrettable actions before we even hurtled them at each other. Each reprehensible violation of his law, every willful wrong, the plight of all humans, was swept into a corrected category, coated in a love and commitment so deep, we should only feel his presence with each blink, every heartbeat, and all whispered prayers. And to receive his good companionship we must trust his Word, walk toward his authority, and forgo our own ideal scenarios. Know he is real and act with that knowledge, seeking his truth, learning his wisdom, and imparting his enlightenment.
Sometimes those dark passages become very difficult to traverse. We feel our dignities, our convictions, character, dreams, hopes, and haves slip knee-deep into murky questions and muddled waters of insecurity. I can’t claim to always have my head on straight, or my shield of faith strapped on tight, but I do know that the Lord, the Lord, is the rock eternal (Isaiah 26:4). He’s available when your head is buried in the pillow or when you’re gasping for air.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’…The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ ‘Take a guard,” Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard” (Matthew 27:50-54; 63-66).
When you think of those two images of guards, at the Garden of Eden and the tomb of Jesus, what do you see? While angels with flaming swords towered above sprawling hills, soldiers draped in metal also readied their sharp spears. What were they guarding? Are the angels still there, obscuring our view? Were the guards able to withstand Jesus' mighty exit from the tomb?
What do we guard? Are we at-the-ready, swords sharpened and unsheathed? Do we seek the tree of life? Do we guard the path of those who also seek truth?
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Fury, pressing desire, loss, hostility and burnt out passion tread swiftly upon this planet’s time and space. And yet we are here, in this time and space, to seek Him and guard the way of those who seek the healer, the giver of life, the one who beat death, the Lord of Hosts, the only God Almighty. The cherubim, the Roman soldiers, were there to prevent life. I say we break open those chains, tear into the crusted earth, and make way for those heavy hearts. Where there is darkness, bring light; where there is loss, offer hope; where there is a lacking, extend God's provision and a warm meal.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After [Jesus] said this [to the disciples], he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:8-11).
And so we continue to look up, squinting into the sunlight, hoping to see a glimpse of unfurling clouds. Then we look down, and around at our fellow man, soaking in the colors and sounds of this strange land that we call home. It is not our home, just a landing place. Our rescuer awaits, holding out his steady hand.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the Book Launch party! What a great time for me, and I hope you enjoyed your lemonade, the readings, and your new book! This year brings a lot of paperwork, typing, phone calls, and printed postage labels. I hope you will join me in this continuing journey and see what is in store!
If you like the blogs I post on here, if you enjoy and are encouraged by Sara's Lemonade Stand, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon or as a comment on a blog. Share this site or the book with friends and family, and as always, I have several books on hand to purchase! All books bought directly from me will be signed copies.
Thank you to everyone for your support, encouragement, laughs, likes, follows, and shares! Who knew that terminology would make sense in a sentence?!
I would love to continue sharing the hope and joy of a life looking for God's handiwork. If you have a group who might like to hear the message, I would love to speak with you about sharing some sections of the book or even writing and sharing thoughts on a topic and seeing how God can fill each moment of our lives!
Keep an eye out for upcoming events or blogs. Save the date for Saturday, January 26th, 2013. There will be a book signing at Hastings in Brownwood, Texas. I hope to see you there!
And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, unto the City of David which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child. And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”
And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.And all those who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2: 1-20)
That is the story of the birth of Jesus, as told in Luke 2, King James Version. When I was younger, my parents read this every morning in December until Christmas Day; this was just one of many, many holiday traditions. Others, included in Christmas tradition, were something like: we decorated the tree as a family. Each ornament had to have a meaning that related to either the importance of family or the Bible. Yes. Every ornament. Even the blue bicycle, the twenty or so-odd angels, and the eight hundred wise men. Even last year. I love my family, and I love my Mom and Dad, but I kind of gave them a hard time because, really, how many different reasons can you give for relating the angels to the Christmas story? “This angel was Soprano 1 when singing to the shepherds.” Or, “This wise man was the Camel Water Boy and got really annoyed at Balthazaar’s know-it-all-ness.”
My parents created wonderful activities that brought us all together, like baking and decorating cookies, and delivering those cookies to neighbors with a carol. While this had the potential to be embarrassing, I always thought it was fun, and our friends reacted positively. Then we were usually invited in for a cup of cocoa or to share with those cookies.
A lot of thought and purpose was incorporated into time with family into traditions. There were the Christmases that turned into chaos, such as the one – or two – when everyone came down with the stomach bug or flu. Or the one where my cousin ended up in the hospital, or the one where we didn’t have Messy Potatoes, or the one when I went with my husband, (then-boyfriend) up to his father’s place in Wyoming during the two worst blizzards Colorado or Wyoming have ever seen, wrecked my car, and didn’t get the car back until two months later. But then there were the great Christmases, with the candle-light Christmas Eve services, the gentle hymns, the Christmas morning pigs-in-a-blanket, watching the children opening their presents in giddy excitement, and realizing the great gift of a new baby that first Christmas with my Madeleine. But my baby can’t save the world. She isn’t the creator of the universe; she isn’t my great rescuer. She is a bright light, and a glimpse into the joy and love my Heavenly Father has for me. When Madeleine arrived in this world, she changed my life. When your baby came into your life, your world was changed. When Jesus came, he changed the entire world.
He gave us a real chance for peace, for hope, for a future.
One tactic I have tried – and which miraculously worked – to get my toddler to take a nap, was to sing hymns to her. It’s funny how old school is the best method sometimes, right?! Well, I flip through my hymnal and found that this particular melody gets her quiet very quickly, and as I sing it, and I sing it through the year, the words always ring true for my heart:
“It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.
All ye, beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!
For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophet bards foretold,
when with the ever-circling years
comes round the age of gold;
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song
which now the angels sing.”
In the coming days, I hope you have many moments where you can rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing. If your plans go awry, if your families break out into perfectly choreographed dancing, if you notice empty chairs at the table, if your fridge overflows with leftovers, and if your pantry grows bare, may you feel the peace of God’s love and provision for you. And as the days hasten on, may you experience glad and golden hours, sending back the song which now the angels sing.
God bless us, one and all.
Please join me for a book release party! I'd love to personally invite anyone and everyone for a come-and-go evening at the Southside Church Fellowship Hall, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on Tuesday, December 18th! Stop by for a glass of lemonade and purchase your signed copy of Sara's Lemonade Stand, now being released into stores. There will be readings on the half hour, so come stay for a preview and visit with friends. I would love to see you and talk about this exciting new chapter of life.
Stop by the lemonade stand next Tuesday! See you then!
Currently, I am taking pre-orders for hard and soft cover copies of Sara's Lemonade Stand! Please go to the Contact Me page, or let me know on Facebook or Twitter if you would like to order your copy today. The first 50 will be signed!
A book launch party is in the works, so keep an eye out for that invite! I would love to see anyone and everyone who helped this book become a reality, so that includes almost anyone I've known for the last eight years. God has used some incredible people, circumstances, and events to teach me more than I deserve to know, and I would love to celebrate this occasion with you. I will have some fun gift baskets available at the party for you to purchase as gifts for yourself or friends and family this holiday season. (New Years is a holiday too!
You can pre-order on my Purchase page and I will hand-deliver or mail the book to you as soon as I get it in stock. For those who are Christmas shopping and have to ship items ahead of time, you can purchase books at:
Barnes and Noble
The E-Book will be available soon as well.
I would prefer to see you at the launch party and hand the book to you, so fill out your pre-order form today!
Thank you again for all your support and encouragement!
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.
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Courage has genius, power and magic in it;
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated.
Begin it and the work will be completed.
~ Apples of Gold
Here's the list.
It's a start, anyway! The plan is to take one item per week and check them off as we go. I hope you will join me so we can learn everything together.
Learning How To Do Everything
1. Be smart and pleasant, simultaneously
2. Fly a helicopter
3. Change the oil in the car
4. Ride a motorcycle
5. Shoot and maintain a gun
6. Gangnam Style
7. Know the history of at least three paintings in a famous art museum
8. Be able to drive a Hummer
10. The basics of riding a camel
11. Sail a boat
12. Knowing the history of and visiting the stops from the road trip in the movie “Elizabethtown”
13. How to grow a tomato and actually grow one
14. How to prospect gold
15. Starting a fire without a match
16. Morse code
17. "Hello," "goodbye," "how are you doing," "do you speak English" in 10 languages
18. Make a functional radio
19. Sew a dress for a little girl
20. To recognize most constellations in the Northern Hemisphere.
21. To be able to share the gospel and my testimony easily and daily
22. The ins and outs of being a personal shopper
23. Fashion for all!
24. Tap dance the “Moses Supposes” dance routine from Singing in the Rain
25. Cook one dish like a gourmet chef
26. Chop onions or carrots like a chef
27. Cake decorating / cookie decorating
28. Speak at a conference
29. How to fully utilize a food processor
30. Change a flat tire
31. Be a back-up singer
32. Learn how to drive a race car
33. Be gracious in all things
34. Engines and how they function
35. Learn how to build a rocket
36. Learn how rock stars can still talk after a concert
37. To see beauty in all things
38. Whittle a figurine
39. How to rappel down a cliff
40. Metabolism – how and why it works
41. Scuba diving
42. Cancer and how to beat it
43. Pick a lock
44. Cook a brisket
45. How blood works
46. Make your roommate stop snoring
47. Herbal remedies
48. What’s good or bad to eat in nature
49. Survival techniques
50. To always see God's providence
The other day, well, to be honest, many times over the course of this last year I have thought, “It sure would be useful to know how to do that.” Whether the task was treating illness, cleaning my home, or figuring out some project for my multimedia business, I came back to the thought that I would just be better off if I knew how to do “that,” whatever “that” may be.
Mulling over this idea for the past week, I’ve come to a conclusion.
A friend of mine recently quoted his favorite line from the play Harvey. “In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”
I recommend pleasant as well. I aim for pleasantness, for showing good hospitality. Sometimes I achieve it.
However, today is one of those days where this town feels like a gray blob, sucking the air from the galaxy, shooting down the sunshine before it has dawned. If you know me, you see my busy schedule, my constant activity, my occasional seemingly flakiness. The long list grows weary, my energy wanes, and motivation storms out the front door, slamming the hollow wood panel shut behind her…particularly on days like this. Quite often I can overcome the ache, but today I need your help.
In an endeavor to aim for the stars, to make dreams come true, and set a fun goal for myself, I’m going to try to learn everything.
I invite you to join me. Today is the beginning.
I’m all about attainable goals, right?! So the first step is making a list. Let’s compile a list of Things To Learn.
“But, Sara,” you may be thinking, “You can’t learn EVERYTHING.”
Eh, okay, so I don’t expect to learn how to play every instrument, excel at every topic, enjoy every sport, and maintain every profession. Surgeons are experts for a reason, and I highly respect their vocation. But aside from the gigantic assortment of variety on Things To Learn, I want to at least have some knowledge about the subject.
“What kind of time frame are you thinking?” you may also be asking. Hey, slow down. Let’s get there when we get there. I am just one person.
“What do I care?!” you may now also be pondering. Well, join me on this journey, and I will share on here so we can learn together. I’m not talking Pinterest ideas, such as How To Cook A Turkey 50 Ways or Organizing The Entire Home In 30 Days. Nah. But let’s start a new journey together, an adventure, and start living and learning.
I know a bit about poetry. I love a good poem. Reading through this poem recently, I was so inspired to actually begin this undertaking. Stick with me here, and explore Tennyson’s world:
“It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
~ Lord Alfred Tennyson
One does not think of the typical “stay at home mom” to be a warrior, a strong heart, a seeker, and an artist. Let’s face it; those four words are a ridiculous label for the job description. A mom is a fighter, with strong arms and fortitude; she is a teacher, a supplier of needs, a helping hand; a complicated mess of love, exhaustion, dignity, and emptiness. And this momma wants something extraordinary to happen. I will not let my shortcomings, lack of knowledge, and weak backbone overcome.
Plus, I think this will be fun.
I would love your input on ideas of Things To Learn. Please feel free to comment, contact, or email me with ideas! Ask your friends what they want to know or share a topic in which you are interested.
Here is my list so far:
1) Be smart and pleasant simultaneously.
2) Fly a helicopter
3) Change the oil in the car
4) Ride a motorcycle
5) Shoot and maintain a gun
6) Know the history of at least 3 paintings in a famous art museum
7) Be able to drive a Hummer
9) The basics of riding a camel
10) Sail a boat
11) Knowing the history of and visiting the stops from the road trip in the movie “Elizabethtown”
12) How to grow a tomato
13) How to prospect gold
14) Starting a fire without a match
15) Morse code
16) "Hello," "goodbye," "how are you doing," "do you speak English" in 10 languages
17) Making a radio
Life piled on life were all too little. Now let’s get to brainstorming!
I like watching One Tree Hill. I admit it. I enjoy the writing:
“You gotta open up your heart to somebody. You gotta let someone discover how staggering you are.”
I think we all deserve to be told that at least once in our lives. We spend so much time trying to make ourselves better, improving upon what we are, that we don’t see how fabulous we currently are. We are quite often small and insignificant, a little overweight, clumsy, and forgetful, but we were made by flawless hands. We were created in the depths of perfection, in the shadow of unspoiled eyes.
You are staggering.
It doesn’t matter if you can name your faults or claim your failures. That’s beside the point. David was just a kid going up against a 9-foot tall sack of muscle and hair, and look what he did. He owned his place with his Creator, saying, “Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:46b-47). I’m guessing he said it rather loudly. I would. I mean, that is a well-phrased group of words. If you got something good to say, be loud with it.
The battle is the Lord’s. That insurmountable guilt, the fear, the melancholy, the grime between your toes, the dusty floorboards; eh, it’s just a little housework to the one who made it all. I’m not a big fan of housework. And I’m not sure why dust exists, I mean, really, gross. I guess dust exists to remind us of our vice and folly, and that even as we continue to wipe the shelves and chair legs, so our Father wipes away our tears. Wipes away our scandals, wipes away our fears.
But He made us, he keeps us, and maintains our presence if only we stay. And I think we need to quit reminding ourselves that we aren’t worth it, that we have to keep improving. Because it’s not really up to our abilities. We can’t earn the privilege of being staggering. Jaw-dropping. On fire. Compelling. We are God’s workmanship, created to do the good works he prepared for us to do. The good works may not always feel like fun works or easy works, and they may not be in the place where you want your work to be, but they are prepared specifically for you. Very often I wonder about my work and if I’m doing any good at all. Because sometimes as your toddler pushes the power button on the computer as you are completing an order and you just want to yell, or when the husband leaves his shoes in the middle of the room even though you specifically put a basket for shoes by the door and you trip over them while carrying hot coffee, or when you notice you are saying something obnoxious and don’t stop yourself in time, it feels like pointless failure. That’s when we need some kind of reminder that this world around us isn’t the last word.
Pick up a rock and throw it. God will aim it and finish the task.
I need to make myself a sticky note and write that on it. As a stay at home mom, there are a lot of quiet moments when the daunting tasks easily overwhelm. So I put quotes or Bible verses around where I will see them when I need them the most.
“All of your toil is ever before him.” ~ Beth Moore
“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
“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:26
“But all this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:9
(Apparently the Corinthians speak to me.)
But here’s another one that applies just as well, courtesy of One Tree Hill:
“The greatest rewards come from doing the things you fear most.”
Sometimes those imaginary monsters like The Laundry Pile or Vacuuming or Asking For Forgiveness or Losing Weight or Getting Out Of Bed need to be told who’s boss. It doesn’t matter how tall our adversary; it doesn’t matter how musty, ponderous, or devastating it may seem. It is all incredibly small compared to the Lord of Hosts. You know, a synonym for “host” is “master of ceremonies.” The person with that job knows the show inside and out, front to back, and has a backup plan if there are technical difficulties or someone isn’t in place at the right time.
David also said, “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies – you have defied him…The Lord will hand you over to me. Today, I’ll strike you down, cut your head off… Then all the world will know that Israel has a God… He will hand you over to us” (1 Samuel 17:45-46). Take that, toilet grime. Take it and eat it, clumsiness, ache, hunger, rejection, despondency, and loss.
Remember it, wear it in your heart, and do not lose grip on the most powerful weapon that we will ever have to face the day, to continue on; he is our Creator, our great love.
He is staggering. And he made you, just the way you are.
There’s a song that I heard (probably on One Tree Hill) that the lyrics apply here:
Anything to make you smile
You are the ever-living ghost of what once was
I never want to hear you say
That you'd be better off
Or you liked it that way
But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do
No one's gonna love you more than I do
(Band of Horses)
And shouldn’t we remember that. Our great Host, our Maker, our Only One; no one is going to love you more than the one who designed you. If you are caught between a grassy field and a desert, drowning under the waves, or wedged into a dark hole, look up. Pick up a rock and throw it.
You are, after all, staggering.
Take the hand of the one who made you and walk in his steady stride, until the giants fall away.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
Sara's Lemonade Stand