Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rusty tools

Just before we left for Illinois this last time, my husband, while changing the air filters in our car, discovered that his tools, which he keeps in the trunk of the car, had rusted a bit. The tools are less than 3 years old (a wedding/shower gift, I think, for him) and maybe aren't top of the line, but still, they're pretty good quality. Obviously, they're not an everyday use sort of item or we'd have discovered the rust before now.

This summer, I was getting back on track with Bible reading and prayer time, mostly because my husband had night classes and other obligations that took him out of the house for hours at a time after Isabelle went to sleep at night. Then, we went to visit family and that whole routine went out the window. Now that we're back, I'm finding it hard to get back into the groove. Isabelle's sleeping later in the morning, so as a result, I am, too. My husband's classes just started today, and his weekend job will provide those alone-time hours again soon, but I feel like my faith tools have been locked away in a trunk, only to be pulled out in an emergency, and now they're rusty.

I don't have a clue what to do to refurbish my husband's rusty tools, and I'm almost as clueless about how to polish up my faith. But I know that without the daily use of the tools God gives us to survive in this world, I'm gonna fall apart.

Just an example from this week: I'm now 26 weeks pregnant, and the baby is moving consistently, which gives me great peace of mind. But I'm to the point of pregnancy where I'm now expecting that this child will be born, and I'm afraid something terrible will happen between now and then, making the loss even greater. Not that losing a pregnancy in the early months is easy, I'm sure ... I know not of what I speak and won't pretend to ... but this is where I'm at with my worries and fears. They are fine-tuned, for sure, and I wish for a reversal -- that somewhere along the line I would forget how to worry and fear and automatically exercise my faith in a tough situation.

I guess it's a battle of will. The house is quiet now, so I should take the time while I have it. I think of Paul and his struggles and I'm encouraged: "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15, NASB)

Time to make the tools useful again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beautiful mess

When Phil was deployed to Iraq a few years ago, I reacquainted myself with cross-stitching as a hobby. I remember learning how as a young girl, and my mom and I would often work on projects together. It's one of my favorite ways to pass the time, especially if Phil has sports on TV. I like sports; I just have a hard time sitting through an entire broadcast of them without doing something else. Cross-stitch makes me feel like I've accomplished something.

As I finished up a project recently, I took notice of the back of the work. Frankly, it's a mess -- knots, end pieces, long strands stretched from one side to the other. If a person only saw this side of it, they'd have no idea what it was supposed to be. Maybe they'd get glimpses of the picture, but it wouldn't be clear. Flip it over, though, and the picture comes to life and all the messy backwork makes sense.

Sometimes I feel like all I can see of my life is the backwork, and I wonder, "God, what in the world are You doing? This is a mess." I guess that's why one of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (NASB)

When all I can see is a mess, God sees the whole picture and promises that someday it will be beautiful. As one of my favorite musicians is fond of saying, "It takes a lot of manure to grow a beautiful rose bush."

Here's to beautiful messes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Warning signs

Accident ahead. Expect long delays. Choose another route.

As if a driving trip from Illinois to Pennsylvania weren't long enough, this message greeted us just west of South Bend, Indiana as we traveled the Indiana Toll Road on our most recent trip home and back. By the time I pulled the map out, our first chance at an alternate route had passed. When the sign warned us again just before the second alternate route, my husband and I mutually decided to stick with the Toll Road and see what was ahead.

Lesson learned: If the department of transportation tells you to take another route, obey!

As we approached the final exit before the accident, traffic came to a standstill because both eastbound lanes were closed and all traffic was being forced to exit. An hour later, we had completed the two miles to the exit and were navigating our way through the South Bend/Elkhart area to find our way back to the Toll Road. Our traveling troubles weren't quite over, though. The local road was closed, so we needed to follow a detour, and while on the detour road we saw a sign that said "road flooded." We were beginning to think this was the black hole of Indiana and we would never find our way out.

Two-and-a-half hours later, with a stop for lunch included, we were back on our way, seriously delayed, because we had not obeyed the warning signs in time. It made me think of the warning signs in the Bible we often ignore or don't take seriously.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

I felt like this could have been painted on our car after the South Bend delay. We could have trusted the DOT signs and taken another route, avoiding the delay and the frustration of having to navigate multiple detours. Instead, we plowed ahead based on our own understanding of the situation, which at the time wasn't much. Life is the same way. God wants to show us which way to go, but if we choose to follow our own ways, we might end up stuck, delayed in our dreams, frustrated, regretful or far off the course we'd hoped we'd be on.

Here's the other verse that came to mind: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2, NASB) These were John the Baptist's words just before Jesus started his public ministry. I often think of the wild-eyed, long-haired, "crazy" guy seen in movies holding the sign that says "Repent" while standing on a city street corner and telling people they need to repent. That's not too far off the picture we get of John the Baptist. Either way, the key is the word "repent," which means "turn." Another warning sign we can heed or ignore. Jesus offers us a better approach to life than we can offer ourselves, but it's up to us whether we believe him or not. The result of this decision, though, is more serious than just disappointment with the life we live. It affects our eternity. To choose repentance is to choose to join the kingdom of heaven, both in life and death. To ignore the call to repentance is to choose eternal separation from God.

The good news is, if you're reading this and you haven't chosen a life of repentance, you still have a choice. As long as you live, God will continue to pursue you with warning signs about where your life is headed.

But only you can decide if you'll obey the signs or find yourself not exactly where you planned.

"... I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him ..." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NASB)