Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Am I Being Changed?

Do you ever have those moments when you wonder if God is doing anything at all in your life? Are you being changed? Are you growing spiritually? Do you see prayers for your own life being answered?
For several years and still today, I have been praying off and on for growth in a specific area of my life. Beginning this year, this prayer became one of the most important for me in this season of my life. I am sure that I probably uttered it before the Lord almost every day. However, I did not see much progress. If anything, I sometimes felt as though I was slipping backwards in this area, until just a few months ago.
I received one of those e-mails. You know the ones – the “Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Me” surveys. This one was a little different though. It was a bunch of questions you were supposed to answer about the sender. Once you were done, you send it back to them and onto several other people who also didn't have the time it takes to fill out one of these surveys.
Given that it came to me from an old friend that I just recently reconnected with, I played along and filled it out. Besides, it was fairly short and I didn’t pass it on to anyone else. :-) (...and she is probably reading this. Sorry, Babe. You bless me!) She quickly responded back to the survey with her answers about me. About halfway down the list, I paused. Her answer to one of the more personal questions about me was an answer to the prayer I had been praying all this time. What I couldn’t see in myself, for lack of patience, stillness or simply unrealistic expectations, she had seen in me. This survey I saved.
It’s crazy how frustrated I still become with myself when I don’t see change in an area that I am actively working to improve upon. Yet God in His unmistakable goodness, reminds me along the way that He has not given up on me. Though I may not see results as I would prefer, He is pleased with my heart and points out that there is more to see than meets the eye. I love that about Him! This gentle pat on the back gives fuel to my petitions and encourages me all the more, to pray that I would see as He sees, even when the subject is me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Confessions of a Re-gifter

Once when I was visiting some friends, before I left they gave me a gift. When I got home and opened it I saw it was a very nice candle. I love candles but what was I going to do with another one? I keep some on hand for gifts and I really didn't need it or have anywhere for it to go. So, I thought I'd regift it. Yes. I confess. I am a regifter, and not at all ashamed of it. I have a "gift closet" where I keep gifts on hand that I've purchased and some I intend to regift. BUT in my defense, I do so for two reasons.

First of all, being the efficiency expert, I think we hold onto way more stuff than we need. How can I continue to help others downsize if I can't let go of some things myself?

Secondly, I am a teacher. As if that reason weren't enough, let me clarify. At my school, we receive lots of gifts - nice gifts at Christmas time and others during the year. I once received a cake from a well known bakery on the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!! Can you imagine if I held onto every gift I received every year? What would I do with all that stuff?

Those of you who know me well already know that I don't regift everything. I love making things for people as opposed to buying gifts. However, my feeling is when I give someone a gift, what they do with it once it leaves my hands is up to them. If they regift it, it's their's to give away. So, with reasons for why I'm a regifter set aside, I will continue.

As I was thinking about who I could give this really nice candle to, I heard the Lord say, "Don't give that away! Keep it for yourself. Why do you do that? That gift was meant for you and while it's sweet that you want someone else to have something you may have in abundance, that person meant for you to enjoy it. I want you to enjoy the gifts given to you whether you think you should keep them or not. Whether you have need of them or not. Whether you have room for them or not. They thought of you when they made it or bought it, so receive it as it was intended - a gift for you."

That was rather eye opening. I never really thought of it like that before. Then I started thinking about how easily I overlook some of the gifts the Lord has given me and gives to me every day. What gifts have I placed in the gift closet only to collect dust? Pondering this even now, I can see the gleam in His eye as He offers them to me -- eagerly waiting as I open them to see what He picked out just for me.

Have you ever considered that? God watches us to see how we will respond when we recognize His gifts being presented to us. A sunset. A child's laughter. A friend's funny personality or their warm hugs. Your creativity. Your ability to love in all things. Your keen sense of direction.

Now, I reconsider all gifts. Someone thought of me in love and made me a priority on their list! I'm glad the Lord thought of me enough to include me on His. Aren't you?

ADENDUM...

A funny thing happened not long after this story occurred. I received the most bizarre gift from a dear, dear friend. They were so excited about watching me open their gift - just sure that I would love it. Bless their heart! I had no idea what they were thinking. It was one of the weirdest gifts I had ever received, but I kept it because of this story and because it apparently meant something to them. Months later I figured out they had given me this gift as a reminder of something very profound that happened to me just a few weeks earlier that only they and a handful of others knew about. How very thoughtful! I would've been devastated had I given away that precious gift.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Another Lesson from Tiger

Sometime back I was dog sitting for some friends who had several dogs and cats. The one dog that stays inside is mean and also the smallest. My dog Tiger, was with me that week and he stays inside with me too, but he is by no means a small dog.

During the 10 days that I was there, the mean little dog took every available opportunity to aggravate Tiger. Anyone who knows Tiger knows that he is just a big strong ball of loving energy! He loves everything, both animals and people and he only wants to do two things -- cuddle and play. On numerous occasions while we have been here, I have had to stop him from trying to play with this other dog. He would make an attempt to play and the mean dog would simply growl and lunge at him.

Well, when I got home tonight and let both he and the other dog out, of course it began again. Tiger wanted to play, but the other dog did not. I'd had it. Enough already! So I said, and yes, these were my exact words, "Tiger, why do you keep pursuing him?"

I actually stopped dead in my tracks after I finished that sentence. Immediately, I heard the Lord say, "It's because of love." Okay, now barring the fact that we are talking about two dogs here, can you just see that picture? What must that kind of persistence look like in human form?

This lesson was so very prevalent in my own life at the time and yet even still, today. I had also listened while friends shared their struggles with me about this issue as well. Sometimes loving is hard, but it is also a choice. We can choose to give up trying to love others because of how difficult they can sometimes make it for us, or no matter what, we can keep loving.

Not long ago, after a particularly trying time with someone, I told the Lord, "Okay. I give up. You're going to have to show me how to love them because this isn't working." I had done all I knew to do in the way of love and yet their response back to me was anything but.

Later that evening, my heart was drawn to I Corinthians 13 because I knew the answer was there. From The Message, verse 4...Love never gives up. Wow! I got that message loud and clear. It would have been so easy for me to walk away because I knew I had given it everything within me to love this person, in spite of their treatment of me. I would've felt justified in doing so too.

However, that is not the way of love. Sooner or later, I would've also felt the coldness of my heart beginning to give way to deeper more detrimental consequences that come from not walking in love -- bitterness, resentment, woundedness, perhaps even anger. I've got enough issues! I don't need all that stuff too!!!

That is the bottom line though. Isn't it? As a friend of mine used to say all the time, "We all have issues and we all need counseling." I'd like to modify that a bit and say that, we all have issues and we all need someone to love us through them!

The truth is, people sometimes respond to us out of their woundedness, their pain, their fears and even their disappointments. Yet we have a choice. Will we continue to love or will we choose to walk away and give our love to those who won't fight as hard to receive it? I love what The Message goes onto say about love.

"Always looks for the best. Never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies."

I want to love like that. My dog does! Isn't he amazing?