The choice you need to make this Thanksgiving

Every family has traditions. Even if you aren’t a traditional family or even if you don’t have a lot of traditions, you still have things you do as a family that nobody else does. It’s part of your family culture. And one of the biggest family days in the year happens tomorrow.

Today is the day before Thanksgiving. Maybe that day doesn’t mean a lot to some, but if you come from an old-fashioned type family where you serve a great big meal (traditional or not) on Thanksgiving day, the Wednesday before is more than just a day. It’s the day you spend in the kitchen.

Some families do their cooking/baking on Thursday mornings, but in our family we usually eat pretty early on Thanksgiving day. So most of the prep work has to be done the day before. Even when we’re not serving a traditional meal, we still have quite a bit of preparation to do ahead of time.

But what happens when the prep work and the planning gets to be more important than the purpose for the day itself?

2EW0RA30JPToday’s verses are Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.

This is one of those Bible stories you hear a lot, but it’s one I need to pay more attention to. I have a tendency to be like Martha, especially during the holidays. I get busy. I rush around, crazy and wild, trying to get as much done as I possibly can, and I do it because I want things to be perfect for guests and other family members. I love having people in my house. I love preparing meals for other people, whether it’s in my house or at their house, or just working together with someone to serve someone else. I love it. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, and if nobody does it, it won’t get done.

So my busy little spirit can understand Martha’s irritation with her sister. And it’s not that Martha was wrong exactly. She just got her focus off of what really mattered. The meal wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things. She had Jesus in her living room. And, yes, she wanted to serve Him. Yes, she wanted to use her gifts to bless Him. And that’s exactly what she should have done, but she let the stress of that amazing opportunity turn her into someone she wasn’t. She let the pressure to perform make her say things she didn’t mean.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but has anyone else ever been there during the holidays? You know it’s not about the food or the presents or the decorations, but you let the pressure of the holiday season wear on you until you get grumpy because things aren’t working out the way you want.

News flash. Things rarely ever work out the way you want. So you’ve got a choice to make.

Thanksgiving, and other holidays, are an important time to be together. Maybe you’re with family. Maybe you’re with friends. Regardless, it’s specific time set aside for a specific purpose–to be thankful, to recognize that there are things in life more important than work or money or possessions. More important than whether you have turkey or ham or if you get a slice of pumpkin pie or if have to sit at the kid’s table or not.

When you start feeling stressed out or irritated (and you probably will), ask yourself what’s really important. Don’t get so caught up in putting on a good show or providing a good meal that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place.

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Sun setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

How can you stop being angry?

I don’t get angry easily. It takes a special person to really make me mad. I get frustrated, sure. I get snappy, yeah. But angry? Not usually. Unless the situation is just right or (and this is more likely) my current problem is a result of my own actions.

This happened the other day. Without going into the gory details, let’s just say I got mad. I got really mad. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that upset. And the day didn’t get any better. It just kept getting worse. I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t find a solution. I couldn’t do anything about any of it. And the more I kept messing things up, the more angry I got.

When I get that angry, I tend to shift blame. That’s my first response. Isn’t it everyone’s? It’s not my fault. I’m not the one who such-and-such. Or if he/she would just let me do my job, this wouldn’t have happened. Anyone else ever experience that?

Well, I hate to tell you this, but getting angry about it isn’t the right way to handle it.

Sun setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 1:19-21.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

God has some harsh things to say about anger. He doesn’t say it’s wrong. No, anger can be useful at times to stimulate us into action. But anger can rapidly rage out of control, especially when the focus of your anger is wrong.

Don’t ever make anger your first response. Maybe it’s what you feel first, but that doesn’t mean it’s what you have to express first. First, you need to listen. You need to take a deep breath and slow down and refocus. Then, when you’re calmer, pay attention.

In my situation, I was ready to blow up. Seriously. Those of you who know me know how rare that is, but I was totally on the brink. Absolutely ready to chuck it all in the corner and give up completely.

But a nagging little voice at the back of my brain started whispering louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it. The voice kept asking the same question: “Who are you really angry at?”

It’s a good question to ask when you’re angry because most of the time the people we take our anger out on aren’t the people we’re actually even angry with. They’re just convenient targets.

So I took a deep breath. I hid in a quiet place for a little while until I could think straight. I asked God to take the blinder off and give me courage to face the truth.

I was angry at me. Because I was in a situation of my own making. Unwise choices. Consequences. Nothing earth shaking. Just irritating. And absolutely, 100% my fault. No one else’s.

And when God gave me the strength to face that fact, my anger actually went away, and it turned into a fierce desire to make things right again, to never get to that place again, to make the decisions I need to make and act on them immediately.

So who are you angry at today? Who made you angry? Who are you dealing with in your life who you think is the central focus of your anger? Are you sure that’s really the person you’re angry at?

Whoever you’re angry at, figure out a way to sort it out because anger left to simmer gets stronger and hotter as the years go by, and before you know it, that little bitty flame will grow into something you can’t control, a fire that blazes and destroys everything in its path.

Don’t be afraid to discover it’s yourself you’re angry at. Being angry at yourself is actually the best possible outcome because with God’s help, you can change your attitude. And our attitude is usually where everything starts.

Dew on grass blades at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX (photo by my brother)

What my pants taught me about perspective

I cleaned house all weekend. Dusting. Sweeping. Moving furniture. Rearranging furniture. Cleaning and scrubbing and planning and organizing. With my parents moving back in with me at the farm, we decided we needed to do some major purging before reuniting our respective houses of furniture and assorted possessions.

I’ve emptied out closet after closet of old clothes that I don’t wear anymore. Some we just threw away because they were so torn up they wouldn’t have been any good to anyone. Others have gone into a donation stack, and others I think we’re saving for a garage sale.

But I’m pretty sure that my brand new pair of khaki pants from Old Navy ended up in the donation bag. Either that or I’ve hidden them so well I’ll never find them again.

Did I get upset? Well, not really. It’s pretty silly to get upset over a pair of khaki pants. But at the same time, those stupid things cost me a decent amount of money. And it’s not like I enjoy shopping. I go every two years if I have to. If I don’t have to, I push to every three years.

But people aren’t always rational or logical, and sometimes you just get upset about silly things. And it’s in those moments when you have to make a choice about how you’re going to see your situation. Is it a problem? Or is it an opportunity?

Dew on grass blades at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX (photo by my brother)

Dew on grass blades at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX (photo by my brother)

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:11-13.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength.

I really liked that pair of pants. They fit just right. They were just the right length. But is a pair of pants really worth getting upset about when you misplace them?

No.

Come on, it’s just a pair of pants. You can run down to the store and buy another pair. It was nobody’s fault. Sometimes things like this just happen, and we’re fortunate it was only with a pair of pants and not with something more valuable–or irreplaceable. Because I can pop down to Old Navy and buy another pair easily.

So I came face to face with a choice. I could be upset about it and try to pin blame, or I could let it go.

Guess what I chose to do?

Seriously, life is too busy to waste any time fretting about an easily replaceable pair of pants. Sure, the other pants I have aren’t the ones I really like, but I’ve got other pairs of pants. It’s not like I haven’t got other clothes.

The principle works the same in every other area of our lives. We flip out at the drop of a hat sometimes, and if we’d take a moment to think about it, we’d realize we’re freaking out over nothing. Or if it’s not nothing, we’re freaking out over something that can be replaced. Few things in life are irreplaceable, if we’re being honest about it. And it’s those things that we should focus on. It’s those things we should spend our time and effort in maintaining and obtaining.

Perspective. It’s a choice.

Freak out about bad stuff that happens, or look for the positive in it? Every bad situation has something positive in it. I promise you. You just have to look for it. And the more you look for the positive in every situation, the better you’ll be at spotting it. The better you get at focusing on what God is doing in your life, the less attention you’ll pay to the stuff that isn’t going the way you want it to.

I could get upset because I don’t have my new pair of khakis anymore. Or I could be glad because someone at a Goodwill in Wichita is going to get a really nice, barely worn pair of Old Navy khakis for a really excellent price.

What is your perspective? What are you focusing on today? What matters to you this week? Is it something that’s going to last, or is it a pair of khakis you can replace?

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Loving the differences in other people

Stop what you’re doing right now. Think about someone you know who you don’t understand. Not someone you get who does strange things. I mean someone who you genuinely don’t grasp the way his or her mind works.

We all have these people in our lives, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They’re in every kind of relationship. Close. Not-so-close. Distant. And they’re just puzzling. You scratch your head at them because no matter how you try, you just can’t figure them out.

But just because you don’t understand them doesn’t make them wrong. Have you ever thought about it that way? Sure it’s tempting to just write them off, but that’s not fair–to them or to you. Because if you write off someone with a different life perspective just because you don’t understand them, you’re missing the opportunity to see the world in a different way. And you never know. Maybe his or her different view of God can help you resolve the questions you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Combine harvesting across the street from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Todays verses are 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

We are all different. All of us. Every one. Not a single person is the same. Find two people who think the same, talk the same, finish each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, if you’ve seen Frozen), and you can still put their brains side by side and their thought processes will be entirely different.

That’s the beauty and the brilliance and the sheer uniqueness of God’s creation.  We are all designed to fulfill different roles. We are meant to do different things, and if we start envying the roles of other people, we lose sight of what makes us unique.

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters--Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters–Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

I thought I’d add this photo in for a laugh. These are my sisters. Not by blood but by choice. The four of us are really odd, and for being so completely different from each other, we have a lot in common. We embrace what makes us different from each other. Where one of us is weak, someone else is strong.

That’s the key. Embracing what makes us different. So you’re good at speaking? Awesome. I’m not, and I’m fine with not being good at speaking. But I’m great at putting words together on a page so you can read them to a room full of people. We can help each other. We can work together to accomplish something awesome for God. Instead of focusing on how our differences separate us, maybe we should focus on how we can use our different talents to bring glory to the One who created us.

But it’s not easy. If you’ve ever tried to understand someone  else who is wired completely differently than you are, you know it’s not easy. And that’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the chapter in the Bible about embracing our differences is followed directly by the chapter about how to love each other.

1 Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter. Sounds like a cheesy romance book, I know, but bear with me. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, and it’s all about the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love Christians are to have for each other.

We won’t make it without this kind of love. Without this kind of love, the differences between people will drive them apart. Without this kind of love, a person can’t live. Not really.

So what does this mean for us today? Well, consider that friend of yours, the one you can’t understand. Instead of getting frustrated that they can’t see things from your perspective, try to see things from their perspective. Be kind. Be patient. Love like it says to love in 1 Corinthians 13, and not only will you learn something about that friend, you’ll probably learn something about yourself.

Beautiful iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Accepting the gift of God’s peace

Have you ever had something go horribly wrong and cause all sorts of ridiculous problems? Don’t you hate that? The day can even start out brilliantly, and everything can be going perfectly, and then BOOM! It all blows up.

Well, that happened to me yesterday. The day even started out well. Everything was going fine. And on my lunch break, life blew up.

How do you react in that situation? What do you do?

Beautiful iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Beautiful iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is John 14:27.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

What would we do without God’s peace? I’m telling you, I think I probably would have gone crazy (crazier) years ago without Him. I don’t know how people make it through a day without Him, knowing that He’s got things under control.

But even though I know He has it all handled, sometimes I forget. Sometimes I let myself worry, and once I start worrying, there’s no going back to peace until I smack myself in the head with a board.

Like in this instance yesterday. I flipped out. I didn’t exactly panic, but I sure wasn’t as calm as I could have been. But fortunately, I gathered my wits and banged my head against a wall a few times until my sanity returned. And then I calmly went about fixing the problem.

What’s the lesson? Well, my day got thrown off almost entirely because of this thing that blew up, but I did have time to fix it because it happened over my lunch. The problem got fixed, and everything worked out.

I could choose to focus on the fact that my lunch got interrupted, because it did. And it was inconvenient. I had other things I wanted to do over lunch than fix this problem.

Or I could choose to focus on the fact that this problem happened over my lunch, when I had time to invest in fixing it immediately.

See the difference? That’s God’s peace. He gives it to us in so many ways, and half the time I think we choose to ignore it. But that’s the way a gift works. It’s only effective if you accept it.

So what’s going wrong for you today? Maybe it’s the morning and you haven’t had your plans screwed up yet. Just wait. The day is young. Decide now to face the challenges of the day with a cheerful spirit, trusting that God has it worked out and thankful that He’ll help you through it.

Or maybe it’s later in the day and you’ve already experienced the trouble. Take the time to look at what happened rationally and look for the positive. Look for God’s hand in the situation, and I bet you’ll find it. Something good came out of it.

It’s your choice what to focus on, but I can guarantee that you’ll have a happier life if you can find the positive aspects to focus on instead of the negative ones. Don’t live in denial, of course. You can recognize that life stinks without focusing your thoughts on it.

A sunflower and Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing discouragement with a question

Do you ever get to that place in life when it feels like everything is going wrong? I think everybody gets there at one point or another, and it’s not a fun place to be.

In some instances, we really do make our own trouble. The issues we’re facing in life sometimes stem from our own bad choices, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the world is just broken. Sometimes people are just broken, and there’s no explanation for it. And, what’s worse, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. .

I think it’s harder to deal with the fact that you can’t fix it yourself than it is to deal with the actual problem. But I’m a fixer. And realizing my own helplessness is discouraging.

So what you do when you reach the point in life where everything is breaking and none of it is within your power to repair?

A sunflower and Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A sunflower and Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 43:5.

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

I post on perspective a lot because it’s something I struggle with. My brain runs so fast, I tend to jump from topic to topic to topic in rapid sequence, and if I don’t have a healthy perspective on life, the universe, and everything, my thought processes can easily spiral out of control and land me in a useless heap of negativity.

I love this verse because it starts with a question, and questions always get my attention. They’re good questions to ask yourself when life goes wrong.

Why are you discouraged? Why is your heart sad?

Don’t just let them hang. They’re not rhetorical questions. Why? God wants to know why. He wants to know what’s troubling you. He wants to know what has happened in your life to make you so sad. So tell Him.

There’s something cathartic in talking to God and telling Him what’s bothering you. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just getting it off my chest, but I always feel better after I tell God what’s bothering me.

Maybe it’s because when I hear what’s bothering me said out loud, I realize that it’s not that big of a deal anyway.  Even my great big problems are nothing compared to God and His power and His grace. God can fix anything. God can help me accomplish anything. God can turn hearts around and change lives.

It’s important to remember that. It’s important to remember who God is and that even if your life is so broken you can’t fix it, He still can.

So why are you discouraged today? Why are you feeling sad? I know a lot of people who are, and I’m sad with them for a host of different reasons.  Ask yourself why. Then tell God about it. As you tell Him, just remember who He is and who we are to Him, and remember that there’s nothing He can’t do. He’s already won this war, and even if our lives down here don’t turn out the way we want them to, He’s making a place for us with Him. And that’s the life that matters more, the life to come, the life that will last forever.

So cheer up. Put your hope in God, and praise Him for being who He is. He’s got a plan, and it’s good.

Wheelbarrow full of snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Fight discouragement with praise

 

The National Weather Service tells me I have a foot of snow outside at the moment, but one thing I’ve learned living out here is you don’t know exactly how much snow you’ve had until you go out walking in it. From the windows it’s deceptive. Yesterday, I was out walking around when we only had 8 inches, being doubly thankful I have a job that I can work from home, and I managed to end up in a drift of snow that was a lot deeper than I expected it to be. It came up past my knees. Compared to the rest of the landscape, the drift didn’t seem obvious, but it was there, and it slowed me down enormously as I was trying to walk.

Life is kind of like a yard full of snow drifts. You don’t always know how deep they are, and if you aren’t careful you can end up stuck.

I’ve been posting this week about discouragement, and I ran into a verse this morning that really encapsulates everything we need to do to fight discouragement in our lives.

Wheelbarrow full of snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheelbarrow full of snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Isaiah 12:4-5.

In that wonderful day you will sing:
    “Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
    Let them know how mighty he is!
Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.
    Make known his praise around the world.

I’m going to make this brief because my home office is still freezing in spite of my little electric heater. I’ve been working for fifteen minutes, and my fingers are already going numb. (Please excuse typos if you see them!!)

Discouragement isn’t something that we just have to accept and move on with. We don’t have to live with discouragement, and God has given us all sorts of weapons to use in the fight against it. One of those weapons is truth. Knowing God’s truth will help us face the lies that discouragement whispers to us, but another weapon is praise.

Praise is hard on a good day, let alone on a day when you feel lower than low, but praise is one of the best things to do when you don’t feel like it. Worship takes your eyes off yourself and puts them on God, telling Him how awesome He is, how wonderful He is, and thanking Him for everything He’s done in your life.

Yes, maybe your life sucks right now, but it’s not as bad as it could be. Seriously, think about it. Take your worst moment and you’ll be able to find something positive about it with God’s help. Our lives are never as bad as they could be, and that’s God’s grace.

So in those discouraging moments, those moments where you end up stuck in the snow drifts, step back and praise God. Focus all your energy on telling Him how great He is, on telling others How great He is, instead of how difficult your life is at the moment, and something miraculous will happen. Your situation won’t change, but the way you see it will.

And, if you ask me, life is less about what happens to you and more about how you respond to it. So if you can face difficulty and discouragement with a smile and still keep praising God in the darkness, you’ve won the bigger battle anyway.