Friday, October 29, 2010

The Real Things

"The real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


Oh! How I love that quote! One of my teaching partners shared it with me a couple of weeks ago, and I think it's beautiful. And true.

And sometimes very, very difficult to live out.

I want to be honest and truthful.
Every day.
I want to make the most of what I have and be happy with those simple things in life.
Every single one.
I want to have courage when things go wrong.
Every. Time.

But none of that is easy.

It's incredibly tough to be honest and speak the truth when that truth may hurt someone. Deeply.

But really, I think it's even harder to have truth spoken to or about us and to accept it graciously. Phew! Now that's the truth. Not one of us wants to have our flaws and sins pointed out, be it gently or unkindly. Confession: I don't take criticism well. I can hear your shock and dismay as you shake your head in denial. Haha, I jest. But yes, sadly, it's true. Often, it feels like it's an attack on my character (and sometimes it is); other times I feel like I'm "in the right, by golly." (Ooooh, I've been waiting for ages to use the word golly on here!). Regardless, sometimes I don't handle it well, and in those uncomfortable, finger-pointing moments, I *sheepishly looks down at the ground* don't accept what's being said with grace and humility. Instead, my tail-feathers get ruffled. *sigh* I'm a work-in-progress. Thankfully, my Maker isn't through with me yet.
I just have to remember that "He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart" gets to dwell in God's holy sanctuary. (taken from Psalm 15:1-3)

Now, this making "the most of what I have and [being] happy with those simple things in life" business, is what I'm all about these days. I long for simple days and simple things. I yearn for quiet afternoons, lengthy-but-wonderfully-delicious books, gentle music, enlightening and pleasant conversations, tender and encouraging hugs, less technology.

Yes, I said it. Less technology. Okay, okay. I'll concede that technology does have many great qualities. It can be a huge time-saver and a rather truly helpful tool.
If I'm going to be gone all afternoon, yet I need to be available for an important phone call, my cell phone sure comes in handy.
If I want to listen to music as I work out and not totally annoy the people around me while I entertain myself by singing melodically (out loud and out of breath) and jogging on the elliptical, then my iPod saves the day. And the ears of those nearby. Or across the room. Whichever.
If I'd like to wake up on time and not sleep half the morning away, my three alarm clocks sure are fabulous.
And, if I need to do research and cannot drive on down to the handy-dandy library at 11pm, then the internet is the place to go.

But.

But technology is also a huge time-waster and can be somewhat of an annoyance.
Cell phones going off in the middle of movies or plays or church, especially at the most inopportune times, bother me to no end.
IPods are fabulous; I enjoy mine immensely, but I find myself using it more as a diversion than as something that enhances what I'm already doing.
My clocks? Um, they are really very helpful, and I can't think of one reason that they are anything but. Other than, well, the fact that they, by one quick glance, remind me of how late it is, and then all I want to do is go to bed and not finish conversations or clean the kitchen or feed the cats or do anything relatively productive.
And the internet. The internet has so many things to offer that, often, time slips away from us as we peruse news articles, blogs, facebook pages, twitter accounts, emails, youtube videos, you-name-it-it's-out-there-stuff. I could go on and on. So many wonderful, edifying things have been made accessible by this piece of remarkable technology in particular, yet so many terrible, unspeakable things have also been made incredibly accessible. I don't have to list them. You know of what I speak. And, desperately, I wish none of us had any inclination.

Finally, Mrs. Wilder speaks of having courage as things fall apart. As walls crash down around us. I want that bravery. That valor! The cowardly part of me, on the other hand, wants to hide in a closet, to bury myself under pillows, to shy away, to immerse myself in some other marvelously-distracting activity "when things go wrong." I'm getting better. Maybe. I'm trying. I don't grasp pillows quite as tightly as I used to. I only rarely escape to a closet. Hah! Kidding. But, I do distract myself when topics or arguments come up that threaten to topple my neatly constructed wall. And, honestly, it helps to have that pointed out. It's beneficial to be told that I'm distracting myself. Again. It's valuable to have truth spoken even if that truth hurts. So, instead of holding tight to earthly objects, I want, desire, need to cling to Jesus and His unshakeable truth. To remember that as my soul clings to Him, "[His] right hand upholds me." (Psalm 63:8) Because even as my world (tiny as it may be), in those brief moments in time, seems to be crumbling, He is there. Arms outstretched. Hands open and waiting. To catch me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Freedom

Four weeks in. I'm four weeks into the new school year. The kids? Sweet! The parents? Helpful! The long days? Exhausting. Hah, but that's normal, right? Really though, this year is starting out great, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for my classroom!

A few weeks ago, as I was watching an old (I mean old!) rerun of Doogie Howser, M.D. (Go ahead. Admit it. You know you've watched it. For those of us who are old enough, we may have actually watched it when it originally aired...*gasp*), one of the characters was struggling with who he was deep down inside. He began by listing his outward charms, quirks, irritants, but soon realized that those things were only a small piece of who he really was. And I thought to myself, "Who are you?"

Really...who am I?

I think we all ask this question at some point in our lives; though I don't know that I've ever verbalized it. I do know, however, that when I'm asked to describe myself, to jot down a few sentences explaining the important points about me, I have a difficult time. It takes a lot of effort for me to put into words who I am.

Outwardly, I'm a 27-year-old, 5' 1", green-eyed (though sometimes they appear blue depending on the clothes I'm wearing) brunette. I'm a teacher of young children (though this group is not quite as young as the grades I've taught before). In the classroom, I'm a leader. I'm a lover of music, of lyrics, of harmony. I'm a reader of books that sweep me away. I'm an organizer; I love schedules...oohhh I squeal inwardly when checking things off lists! I adore orchids, but I can't keep them alive. Not one single one. I'm an admirer of pink but a wearer of mostly black and brown. I'm a daughter. I'm a sister. I'm a fiancee.

Inwardly, I'm contemplative. I'm thoughtful. I'm purposeful. I'm introverted. In life, I'm a follower. I'm considerate of others' feelings. I'm conscious of how others view me. Of what they think of me. I'm an obey-er of rules. I'm a planner-of-the-future. I'm a listener. I'm a little lazy. I'm a worrier.

But, you know what? None of that really matters. In the grand scheme of things, my outward traits and my inward characteristics don't really mean all that much. Yes, others see me, know me, and judge me whether they do so intentionally or not. But their judgments don't matter.

I found God again tonight. This evening, as I bowed my head in prayer while sitting on the floor confessing my sins, I remembered that He is WAY bigger than my problems and failures and flaws and transgressions. Confession, though it's incredibly painful and humbling and embarrassing (hah...like God doesn't already know what I've done or said or thought), is so freeing. Before it's confessed, sin has this incredible hold that feels like a crushing weight; it feels so overwhelming and so unfixable. And, that's exactly what satan wants us to think. The king of lies wants us to believe that we screwed up royally and are no longer able to receive forgiveness from the One who reigns. Confessing out loud takes away the sting, the bite, the power that sin had. Because our God is greater. He's greater than any sin I commit. He's stronger than any problem thrown my way. He's awesome, and He reveals satan for the deceiver he is.

James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

The moment I confessed, took hold of my failures, and poured out my transgressions to my Creator, I was forgiven, made righteous in His holy sight, and most importantly I was healed. Sin lost it's power over me.

Our God is faithful!! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

So, does it matter how tall I am, what color I wear, whether I'm a leader or a follower, or which internal positive and/or negative traits I possess?

Nope.

What matters is

I'm a sinner,

saved by grace,

forgiven by God,

redeemed by the
blood of the Lamb,

made righteous.

I'm a Christ-follower. And, I'm free.