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Wisdom Wednesday

Worth

Every day,  I go for a walk around my block. Sometimes I will find coins on the ground. While I was walking,  I thought about all of the financial burdens in my life. How was I going to make it? Which job opportunities should I take and which should I reject? Do I have to push myself beyond my limit in order to barely make it? What am I going to do?

Suddenly, I noticed a shiny object on the ground. It was a penny, but it was beat-up and rusty. I was amazed that I was thinking about financial difficulties at that very moment, and I found money. I knew this meant that God would provide for me.

The first penny I found
The first penny I found

God whispered to my soul: Keep going. I walked a few yards down the road. I was shocked to find another penny…and a quarter! With me, you are worth much more. I picked up the new penny. This penny was actually more beat-up. The quarter was shiny and definitely more valuable than both pennies combined.

God doesn’t just want to bless me financially. In that moment, God showed me my worth. I am not just a beat-up penny; God is with me, and he calls me new.

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Wisdom Wednesday

Climbing the Ladder

We pack into the van like sardines and drive to the field. Most people in the van are eagerly awaiting the chance to go on the zip line. Some already made the decision not to go on, while some are already deciding what they were going to do to make it more challenging. I, however, keep quiet while I secretly beat myself up about being scared. How could I be scared of something I did before, and loved?

I used to enjoy going on high ropes courses. The thrill had been scary at first,  but as I climbed rock walls, did adventure courses in high school, and slid down zip lines, I began to enjoy the feeling of being high in the air. Suddenly,  one year, fear began to consume me. I became so scared that I didn’t want to do anything. I yelled at myself for being so weak and stupid, but my self-condemning thoughts did not take away the pain I felt.

But today,  I made a decision that I was not going to let fear stop me from doing what I enjoyed. I still wonder why God allowed fear to creep into my life (or maybe it was my own weaknesses), but I believe today that God is going to do something different.

Finally, the van pulls up to the zip line site. The supervisors of the camp explain the rules to us,  but my ears are clogged with the reality that I actually have to stand up against my fear. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do a zip line after being so afraid for such a long time. Someone will definitely have to help me.

As my friends tighten the harnesses around their waists and legs, my head begins to spin. I watch as one person after the other races down the zip line with such ease and confidence. Why am I freaking out so much? Why can’t I be confident like my friends?

Finally,  someone hands me a harness. My friend ties it up as I breathe slowly. Strapping on a helmet, I walk up the hill with two of my friends. For a moment, I feign excitement, forcing myself to be glad that I am finally going to do what I have avoided for years.

Once I reach the top of the hill,  I tell myself not to look down. Still, the chance to see a beautiful view is tempting. I look down, and my stomach turns. There is a man at the top of the ladder waiting for me. My friends are waiting on the bottom, cheering me on with each move I make. My other friends are below me, taking pictures and waiting for me to go down to the bottom. God is beside me and within me, pushing me forward. However, I cannot shake the fear that creeps inside of me.

The scariest part for me is climbing the ladder. Once I get on that platform, I will be fine, but the ladder heavily shakes as I inch my way to the top. I am ready to give up as my heart pounds in my chest. With encouragement on every side, I ask God: “What do you want me to learn from this?” He says to me, “I am helping you.” Just as God tells me that, I hear voices. I turn around and see that three more of my friends came up to support me. With each step I put my faith in God, pressing beyond my anxiety. My friends cheer with me, giving me joy as I push myself.

Finally, I reach the top. After feeling such an adrenaline rush, I can barely breathe…all I can do is weep with relief. The man on the platform clips my rope to the zip line and tells me to go whenever I am ready. Without even thinking, I slide off the edge and extend my arms out in complete freedom and full surrender. I go on the zip line two more times, each time with more at ease.

I learned two things from this story. First, I learned that I want to grow without suffering. On this Earth, the Lord promises that we will suffer but that he will be with us (John 16:33). James writes that trials produce perseverance, character, and then maturity (1:2-4). The ladder represented my suffering. I just wanted to fly, but I needed to overcome my fear first (which definitely was not easy!). I had to give control to the man belaying me up the ladder, the rope leading me down the hill, and my Lord who promises to uphold me when I fall (Psalm 145:14). I had to fight my fear instead of passively letting it drag me down.

But I also learned that I could not do it alone. That is what brought my fear in the first place. I learned that I had an inability to climb because I thought I had gained the ability to do it on my own. However, I still needed the encouragement of my friends. I still needed to be dependent on God. And I still had access to friends who cared about me and a loving Father who is faithful and trustworthy.

No matter what ladders I will have to climb, I know that God will give me the support that I need through friends and through his comforting Spirit. And when I make it to the top, I can look down and enjoy the blessings that God has given me.

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Wisdom Wednesday

Do Something! But How?

Lately, Matthew West’s new song “Do Something” has been stuck in my head. Every time I hear it, I want to just put on my superhero cape and save every homeless person and orphan on the planet. On the ride to my school this morning, it came on the radio. The area where I did my teaching experience was a very nice area, but I was wondering if there was something I could do to reach out to the community. This morning, I realized that I hadn’t done anything to really help this area. I showed up to teach, and I went home.

Part of me felt guilty, but the other part of me realized that I help the world in other ways. The supervisor at the school where I taught told me that I was smart, prepared, and encouraging, and that I gave potential ESL teachers a good reputation. I am blessed by the amount of people who are encouraged by my writing. I even do simple things like help my mom around the house.

So…what does it mean to do something?

I don’t by any means want to take away the full meaning of the song by denying the value of doing something big. However, I think sometimes we get overwhelmed by the amount of darkness that there is in the world. We have passions to end sex slavery, cure AIDS, and save the trees…but to be honest, we can’t do that all on our own. We have such high expectations that we begin to lose our motivation. There are ways that we can practically change the world without becoming overwhelmed, or even complacent.

First of all, in order to really make change, question your motives. What are you looking to get out of providing families for orphan children? What do you want to give? What do you want to get in return?

We also have to dream big but start small. If you want to end world hunger, that’s a great dream to have. However, you’re not going to end it by going to a hungry country and simply handing out food. There are practical ways to help, but they require patience and wisdom. Use the resources that you have to find out ways that you can do something.

It is important to remember not to lose your passion. Try to gain support from people who have a similar vision. If no one around you sees eye to eye with you, write down your dream – or make a video or voice recording – so that you can look back and remember the passion you felt for that movement. If you really feel strongly about something, reach out and see what can be done about it.

Finally, use the gifts that God has given you. As an introvert, I have problems approaching people on the street, so I have difficulty doing random acts of kindness. However, I have no problem writing a blog or helping an organization hand out food. There are gifts that are more popular than others, but that does not mean that other gifts are less important. There will be times when you are called to leave your comfort zone, but if God has given you a gift, don’t continue wishing you had something else. Praise God for allowing you the opportunity even to hold the door open for someone. Jesus himself said that even those people who give a cup of water to a child will receive a blessing. Small acts as well as world-changing acts matter in the long run.

Who’s going to stand up with me and do something?

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Marriage

And They All Lived…

“…happily ever after”

That’s how many fairy tales end.  But did you ever notice that fairy tales don’t ever tell the story after marriage?  They don’t even describe the wedding! For those of us who were raised on fairy tales and Hollywood, this classic ending places a picture in our heads. It tells us that we will never be happy until a guy with blond hair and blue eyes comes on a white horse and gives us true love’s first kiss; then we could live happily ever after.  Tell that to all the single women who are completely fine without a boyfriend.

I’m single, and I’m OK with it.  Like, seriously, I’m OK with it.  I feel like this season of my life is best lived single; when it’s over, I’ll find a guy.  But you would not believe how many times I get asked, “So…are you interested in someone?”  When I say no, they still press. “Really?  No one?” Really, I’m not pursuing a relationship with anyone.

I’ve read several articles lately that were more or less titled, “Why You are Single and Why You Should Change.”  Each writer gives a list of ten things that Christian women (especially) are doing wrong and how they can turn their lives around and marry good men.  The writers list reasons such as high expectations, pride, and neediness.  However, they left out one reason: because I don’t want to be in a relationship.  Does there have to be something wrong with me in order for me to be single?  Can’t I just decide that now is not the right time for me to make a commitment to date a guy when, you know, I’m planning on going overseas and teaching English for a year?

I was having a conversation with someone about how happy I was to be single.  She smiled.  “That’s going to change someday.”  “What’s going to change?” I asked.  “One day you’re going to be married with a house full of kids.”  I was shocked.  Am I really not allowed to enjoy this season of my life where I am free to travel wherever I want, whenever I want, without kids, a husband, or a full-time job?  She continued.  “God hasn’t revealed your husband to you because he is preparing your husband to be the godly man that you need.  When you’re both ready, God will allow you to meet each other.”

Now, I partly agree with this.  But there’s an error that I really want to discuss before I just let this slip from my mind.  After being raised on fairy tales where marriage is the end, our society has become a place where marriage is the end of our stories.  We get married; the end.  If we want true happiness, we must find our Prince Charming and have a fancy wedding in a pretty dress.  And God spends all of our lives preparing us, growing us, shaping us, molding us…so that we could find the man (or woman) of our dreams.  And that’s it.

I’ve seen this taken various ways.  People feel like they have to live the good life first before they settle down and find a spouse.  They feel like if they get married, their lives really will be over.  So they sleep around, drink, and don’t really make any commitments.  Then you have those who do not want to do anything until they find their spouses.  They hold off plans, and they create agendas around when they want to get married.

I think society places a great weight on marriage, and while I am not against it, I believe that there is a time and a place for it.  We do not prepare ourselves for marriage; God prepares us for holiness.  We are not successful because we are husbands or wives; we are successful because we give glory to God.  One of my mentors told me an amazing statement that I will never forget: “Eve was called ‘woman’ before she got married, before she had sex, and before she became a mom.”  That means that something more than just what she did made her a woman.  She was a woman because God created her; her identity was found in Him.

Therefore, while it is not wrong to get married, it is also not wrong to be single.  If Mr. Right hasn’t come along yet, don’t worry.  God will use you just the way you are, as long as you are willing to commit to him.  Marriage is a season of your life that may feel like forever but is not the end of the story.  Sure, we will all live happily ever, but not because a man comes into your life to make it better.  We live happily ever after because a man did come into our world, died on the cross for our sins, and has promised to prepare a place for us after death.

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Wisdom Wednesday

Without a Name Tag

Here comes another metaphorical post.

I walked into work one day without a name tag. At the cash register,  it was easy to see that I was an employee because I had access to the equipment that only employees can use.  But when i leave the register,  it is more difficult for people to distinguish me from a customer. Surprisingly,  that whole day, people approached me as an employee. They asked me questions about the store and about where to find things. Some people didn’t even ask me if I work here.

Here’s how people knew I was an employee of the store:

1) They saw my confidence. Having worked there for several months, I learned a lot about where things go, how to handle customers, and what to do when we have a slow day. I walked around the store knowing where clothes went, how to organize clothes on the rack, and how to fold clothes on the table. Most customers do not know how to do those things.

2) They saw my actions. As I did everything that I am supposed to do at work, people noticed. They had seen me behind the cash register, so they knew they could ask me a question even though I was away from the cash register.

3) They saw how I interacted with other employees. When we see each other all the time, it is easy to become close. I talk to my co-workers in a very informal manner. We joke around and help each other with our tasks. Even new employees talk to their co-workers in a certain way. Customers recognize who is an employee when they see the way that employee interacts with other people.

That age-old expression tells us not to judge a book by its cover. There is so much more to language and appearance than the way we look. What message are you portraying?

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Wisdom Wednesday

The Fine Print

One time I was at work and my co-worker was ringing up a customer. This customer had a wide variety of t-shirts. As my co-worker was ringing them up, the shirts were coming up as 12.99. Suddenly the the customer recognized that there was something wrong. “Excuse me,” she said, “the those are not 12.99. The sign says they were 9.99.” My co-worker replied: “I’ll be right back.” She ran over to the table where the shirts were. They were folded on a table with tank tops right next to them. The sign on the table read: “9.99” In small letters underneath the big bold price was an indication that the tank tops were 9.99, not the t-shirts. My co-worker ran back to the register and explained the situation. The woman huffed a sigh of defeat. She said that it was very deceiving to put a sign right next to a product when it was a price for a different product.  My co-worker replied: “Well, you should have read the fine print.”

I wish I knew why stores did that. Logically,  I’m guessing there isn’t enough space to put two different products on two different tables with two different prices.  However, when my co-worker said that, I paused for a minute. I thought about my own life. How many times do I put in big bold letters what I want others to know, but then I hide what I don’t want people to know? I shout: “Here I am, happy and perfect!” But I whisper: “If you want to get to know me, you have to accept the terms and conditions.”

For a long time, I would hide my problems and insecurities from other people. I did not accept help from anyone. On the sign that I displayed on my table, I put up a front. I put in bold letters: “I’m worth knowing, independent,  and successful. Look how great I am!” However, in small print I would write, “Please help me. I need love and attention.” In a way, I was deceiving people. I had a smile on my face, while I was breaking on the inside. After several years, I’ve learned the value of practicing the discipline of honesty. God has set me free by giving me a new identity. I am no longer a worthless sinner; I am an important child of God.  In addition, my friends have supported me and I have found a safe place in sharing how I feel. I do not need to hide who I really am or how I feel, because I know that I am loved and cared for anyway. The messages I put in small letters do not affect my worth.

As my co-worker blamed the customer’s confusion on her inability to read the fine print, I began to realize how wrong it is to put up a front. Is it really OK to have a fine print, or is it deceiving? Are we really going to make exceptions to the rules? Or are we going to tell people honestly, “This is what’s going on”? Now of course there are limitations to this. I wouldn’t go around sharing my life story to every person I meet. However,  at the same time,  I want to be honest with people. I want to encourage people by sharing how God has rescued me from the bad in my kife. By sharing my weaknesses, I am changing the big bold letters to say “Glory to God.”

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Wisdom Wednesday

Stop Light

The following blog post is 99% metaphorical.

As I left the school today, I groaned at the time. 3:40.  By the time I hit the road, it would be rush hour, and there would be no chance of me getting home before 5.  The commute to the school is never that bad.  Sure, sometimes there will be an accident or construction on the road, but usually I make it to the school in less than an hour.  But for some reason, no matter what time I leave the school (especially during rush hour), I do not make it home at a decent hour.

I turned up the radio and drove to the main road.  I managed to get to the highway entrance without hitting any lights.  As I raced my car down the highway, I thought I actually had hope in getting home early.  Then, all of a sudden, there is a sea of red lights in my path.  Every car was completely stopped.  My car jolted as I slammed on the brakes, barely missing an accident with the car in front of me.  Well, there goes my opportunity for fun.  Did I mention I was thirsty, in desperate need of some watermelon?

If there was any chance of movement in the next lane, I would quickly change lanes to get at least a foot farther than where I was before.  I kept moving, I kept going, not being satisfied where I was.  But no matter where I moved, there was traffic in my way.  I couldn’t go far.  I had to simply stay put and wait for the traffic to end.

I rolled my eyes as each exit sign slowly passed by my view.  One exit closer, ten minutes later.  My mind replayed all of the people who have complained to me about rush hour in the past.  Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as some people have made it out to seem, but it still wasn’t a pleasant experience.  Thirsty, hungry, and tired, I could not even sing along to the music on the radio.

As I listened to the radio, the song “One Thing Remains” came on.  I decided to sing it out loud, because it talks about dealing with trials.  I sang each word, enunciating each consonant.  The traffic didn’t go away, but suddenly, I began to laugh at my predicament.  Here I am, sitting in a car, after having a great class with my students, having had the opportunity to practice what I have learned in my TEFL certification class, and I am complaining!  How long would I really be in the car, two hours at most?  Why would I let two hours ruin my whole day?

To cope with the rest of the ride, I did a few things to lighten the situation.  First of all, I continued playing music from a CD.  I used my steering wheel as a drum.  I found harmonies to the songs on the radio.  In the end, although I was by myself, I laughed at the ludicrousness of the whole situation.  I didn’t care if other people were watching me dance. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that my laughter and joy would catch on so that they had no reason to complain.

Secondly, I looked to the other side, to the people who were going in the other direction.  They really were at a dead stop, while we were at least crawling.  I know it’s bad to laugh at the misfortune of others, but I at least had to enjoy the fact that I wasn’t as unfortunate as the drivers on the other side of the road.

Finally, I thanked God when the road actually began to clear.  It would have been easy for me to say, “Well, it’s about time!”  However, I knew that, at that time in the day, the roads should have been jammed until my exit.  After all of my complaining and expecting, I made it home in a little over an hour.  I was home before 5.  God showed me mercy on this hot, thirst-inducing day.  All I could do was thank him that my experience wasn’t much worse.

Before I finally got home, there was a stop light that almost brought me over the edge.  There were at least ten cars waiting for the stop light.  Seriously?  I had one more little obstacle blocking me from making it back to my house.  Just as I was about to find a detour, I stopped myself.  I made it this far; why wouldn’t I stick it out until the end?  I waited a few seconds for the light to turn green.  I shifted into the turning lane and made it safely back to my house.

If you are dealing with a frustrating situation, how are you going to respond?  Are you going to complain and try to avoid it, or are you going to make the most out of it?  Wait it out, and see what you can learn from it.  Sometimes, we can’t avoid the traffic in our lives, but we can still dance in the midst of it and appreciate what we have.

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Wisdom Wednesday

Be All in…Until It’s All Over

The summer is halfway over, and I am moving on to different seasons in my life. I have been waiting to finish my TEFL certification class. My seasonal retail job is almost over. My English conversation class is having its last meeting this Wednesday. I’m going to be tutoring a woman for a few hours a week. Great things are happening!

Lately I’ve become more demotivated at my job because I know that I am leaving soon. You can only fold clothes so many times before you realize that you’re really not making a huge difference working there. Yesterday, as I was cleaning a clothes rack for the tenth time, I realized that, at the beginning of the summer, I was so joyful and excited. Because of my job, I’ve paid off a chunk of my school loans already, and I’ve still managed to see my friends for the most part. My job was a gift from God to financially support me and to spiritually grow me. In the beginning of the summer, I had prayed before work, skipped into the mall with a huge smile on my face, and helped customers like it was my favorite hobby. As a result, my co-workers would be encouraged, and they would comment on my positive attitude.

As my job became more and more of a chore, I began to lose sight of the fact that my job was a blessing. I would count down the hours until I could finally clock out and do what I wanted to do. However, as a result, I wasn’t as encouraging to my co-workers. I did not want to help customers. I became more irritable about this temporary season, that I knew would not last forever.

Moving from clothes rack to clothes rack, I meditated on the fact that I was not as motivated as I was when my manager first gave me the job. I realized that I had forgotten that God was the one who had truly blessed me with a job. I saw my job more as a trial and distraction than as a task that God had given me to accomplish. During the hot summer days, God had told me to work as hard as I could. I felt him leading me to push myself to help the store reach its full potential. I knew that I could not change the whole store or compromise my boundaries, but I also knew that my positive attitude and hard work was making a difference in at least one person’s life. Each day, a different person would come up to me and thank me for helping with something. Each day, God confirmed that I was at that store to do more than simply make money.

In these last few weeks that I have working there, I want to remember the joy and energy that I felt when they first gave me a badge and locker key. I want to go above and beyond what is comfortable for me and make a difference in someone else’s life. God has not released me from this job yet, so I will continue to do what he asks me to do until I clock out for the last time. I’m going to be all in, until it’s all over.

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Wisdom Wednesday

first world problems

I’ll be honest with you: there’s a lot in my life that I can complain about. My job has made it almost impossible to see my friends. My homework has made it almost impossible to find time to breathe. My teaching practicum–which is required for my class–is located about 40 minutes away from my home…without traffic. I’m not in control,  and it makes me want to complain.

There’s a popular hash tag on twitter: #firstworldproblems. This usually implies that there is a problem someone has that normally would not be a problem, but because we have become so spoiled and dependent on stuff,  the situation is a serious crisis. A first world problem could be that my phone died while at my friend’s house, or that we ran out of chocolate pudding so now I have to eat jello for dessert. Hey, at least you HAVE a phone. Hey, at least you HAVE dessert. Even more,  at least you have food!

It seems that we have begun to take these gifts, these blessings, for grsnted. We expect our cell phones to work at all times. We expect dessert after every meal. We expect our jobs to perfectly fit into our schedules. We expect homework to take ten minutes. We expect control, and we expect instant results.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works. There just aren’t enough resources to support everyone’s desire. That’s why we have to sacrifice. That’s why we can’t always get what we want. That is…we  can’t always get what we expect.

But you know something? God will always give us what we NEED. One thing God always offers us is joy. Even if we don’t see the positive side of a situation at all, God can provide the joy that we need to propel through it. Even those without food or money can feel the hope, joy, and love of the Lord. I have every reason to be happy.

I have a job; in the crazy economy, at least I have a way to pay off my loans. I’m preparing to teach overseas; the fact that my homework us challenging and time-consuming gives me hope that it will prepare me well for the future. I LOVE what I am doing for my teaching practicum. I have the ability to see God’s faithfulness as he provides a parking spot for me, and he practically clears the way so that there is no traffic when I drive during rush hour. Life is nothing like I expected, but it’s everything that I could ever want…and more.

So instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I’m going to be thankful for what I do have. If I’d focus on the negative, I’d miss the blessings of the positive.

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Wisdom Wednesday

Introduction: Why to Avoid the Pity Party

After reading the devotional that I discussed in my previous post, I realized that the world has a lot of negativity and stress.  It seems almost overwhelming.  It’s like there’s a huge pity party, and everyone is invited.

There’s negativity in the news, in the work place, and even in the home.  It’s socially acceptable to complain about everything and anything that makes us mad.  But then again, why would you want to spread negativity?  Isn’t it better to be positive?  Yes, but it most definitely takes work.

For the next few days, I will be discussing the positive effects of, well, being positive.  I will use examples from my life to talk about why it is better to look on the bright side of things.  I will also talk about how being negative can hurt yourself as well as hurt others.

Thanks again for your support and encouragement on this blog.  As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.