Changing the World with the Everyday Mundane

Dear Beautiful Important One:

Yes, I am talking to you!

Sometimes our life seems normal. Mundane. Routine. Boring.

Very little excitement is popping into our daily grind, except when we sleep through our alarm and try to get ready in less than 2 minutes. Which of course can’t be done. Or maybe you count the dog getting sick in the middle of the living room rug as a change of pace. Or the news that your child who was too shy to speak in class, is now the class clown and was sent to the principal’s office three times last week.

Occasionally there is the heart stopping recent hissy fit with the neighbor who was kindly telling you that she was going to report you to the homeowners’ association after she asked if you obtained permission to build that new shed in the back yard. One forgotten small detail you hadn’t thought of.

If your life is like mine, there is a lot of regularity and predictability with a few surprises thrown in, like your car insurance doubling for the coming year or your co-worker getting the promotion and not you. Once in a while, throw in some tragic news, a family crisis, a health concern, and that is life. At least mine. Maybe even yours.

Years go by and it seems you are doing nothing much at all. Unless you count washing dishes and grocery shopping, big things.

One day you figure out how many years you have been changing diapers, and you wonder if your talents have been wasted.

Shouldn’t you be doing something big? Something radical? Something more important than refereeing siblings during car trips across town and potty training the puppy and toddler. Or maybe you’ve had the same job for years and you wonder if you would even be noticed if you quit, or if you would be replaced just like that and forgotten in the first month. Maybe you wonder if your husband would be happier without you, or if the children will really rise up and call you blessed.

Other people seem to be more important. Doing better work. More involved in changing the world. Coming up with radical ideas that better things.

We may feel invisible. Insignificant. But that doesn’t mean we are. No matter how you feel. You are important and doing important things.

When you are changing that baby for the twentieth time in one day, you are serving the least of these. When you are wiping the noses of toddlers and teaching math to a tween, you are imparting knowledge. When you are helping your teen drive, you are laying your life down for another. When you are counting to ten at the sassy remark of your child and not retaliating in anger, you are dying to self. When you are crawling out of bed to care for a sick child, you are giving up your own needs and wants. When you are reading bible stories to kids who seem not to be listening, you are tucking God’s word into their hearts. When you are greeting your husband with a smile after your own hard day, especially when you would rather first complain, you are putting yourself in his shoes.

You are changing the world. One small service at a time.

When you smile at your neighbor, listen to a co-worker’s troubles, pray with a friend, ask the checkout clerk how her day is going, help the lady at the licensing department figure out how to take a ticket and get in line, you are serving, loving, and helping others.

You are changing the world. One small act at a time.

When you apologize for losing your temper, you are modeling a servant’s heart. When you listen to and respect your mate, you are modeling laying down your life for others. When you forgo new shoes, so your child can instead have a pair, you are modeling sacrifice. When you work late to help the boss, you are modeling commitment. When you encourage the waitress, after she messes up your order, you are modeling kindness and empathy. When you praise your child more than you criticize, you are modeling grace. When you realize that the kid at school is a bully because that is all he has known or been shown, you are modeling compassion. When you forgive your parents, who were far from perfect, you are modeling forgiveness. When you give up your plans to accept new plans, you are modeling dying to self. When you help at the food pantry, we are modeling loving the needy. When you begin to see others through God’s eyes, you are modeling his heart.

What you do, your children see. Your mate sees. Others around you see. God sees.   

You don’t need to be known by the news or seen as important to change the world. You just need to be faithful with the small and often taken-for-granted opportunities that present themselves throughout the day. When we give of our time, switch our attention to another, sacrifice our desires and give up our wants, we are doing kingdom work. We are changing the course of history. We are loving and serving those around us and becoming like Christ. We are letting the spirit change and mold us into new creatures.

Multiple times per day we have the opportunity with husbands, kids, co-workers, neighbors, friends, and strangers to show the love of God. To lay down our lives for those in our life. To impact others positively. It is our choice if we will do it.

It is our choice if we will benefit, bless, help, or serve those around us. Just like we choose if we will criticize, demean, withhold love, or not serve those around us. Yes, the ways for us to show love to others in our daily life are often small and seem unimportant. But all those small ways add up to huge ways.

Quit worrying about not doing great big wonderful things. Keep serving others. Dying to self. Loving others. Sacrificing for others. Multiple times a day. This will change today and the future. It will change you and those around you. It will affect eternity.

Each small act changes the world for the better. Changes us for better. Changes those around us for better.

Sure, you will fail. Repent, accept God’s grace (which can never run out) and keep trying. God wants you to succeed. He will make sure you do succeed. He does not start a good work and then abandon it. He is rooting for you and helping you. Calling you blessed. Calling you an overcomer.

Be faithful. Love those around you well. Serve them with joy. Cheer them on.

Your seemingly small and insignificant daily offerings will ripple across the pond and change into a giant wave of good.

Give your most important commodities. Your time. Your attention. Your love.

Despite what it feels like, you will be impacting the world in big wonderful ways. Ways you can’t even begin to imagine.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.

Theresa

If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the discussion: What are some insignificant things people did for you that changed you?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

Relaxing in His Love

Watch new parents holding their tiny newborn and you instinctively smile, slow down a little, and feel all snuggly yourself. They cradle their baby so tenderly, coo and smile and baby talk quietly, and without thinking they often start rocking and moving a little bit. It is all so precious and beautiful.

And when they hand their treasured bundle to you, you start doing the same thing. Instinctively you are gentle. And without any warning, your heart swells with love and concern for this little one. When the baby’s eyes open and look at you, full of trust and squinting at the bright lights, you smile back and whisper nonsense. And if the baby smiles at you, or at least moves their lips into some form of an almost smile, well then you consider yourself blessed and brag to everyone that the baby smiled at you.

All this happens almost magically. No one plans it. No one gives themselves a pep talk about being nice to a baby. It just happens. Time and time again and all over the world, this scene plays out repeatedly. Parents and others finding delight in the little one snuggled in their arms.

It’s a beautiful picture of love. The baby is loved just because. Not because she deserves love or has done anything to earn love, but just because she is. The parents and others love her first because she is theirs. Eventually she will learn to love them back.

But it will be with a simple love at first. Hugs and kisses and scribbled crayon layered scraps of paper freely given. Eskimo kisses and gifts of sticky pinecones and offerings of a bite from a half-eaten cookie soggy with mouth juice.

This love starts out one-sided, and grows unequally for years. Maybe forever. The parents will love, care for, protect, sacrifice for, and devote their care and energy to their child for years to come. Maybe the child will grow up and begin to realize how much her parents cared for and loved her after she has children of her own and starts the cycle all over again. And maybe she will never know the depth of love and pride that her parents carry for her. Or the heartache, worry, and anxiety she brought into their life at times.

As the baby grows, she develops her own will. Discovers she has desires of her own. Learns that life has rules and bedtimes and the word no. Tantrums are thrown and anger is exercised and as she gets older she sometimes wonders if her parents are hindering her life and holding her back from fun and adventure.

It will be years before she realizes, if she ever does, that her parents had rules and said no to protect her and keep her safe. And because they loved he so fiercely. And because they wanted what is best for her. Nor did they want her to suffer more than necessary. These rules and times of saying no were not because they were mean and hard and didn’t love her.

Yes, she will at times question her parent’s love, even when they are telling her that they love her. As they are disciplining her. Even as they are providing all the comforts and necessities of life they can offer her.

She will rage and question them and storm about the house and slam doors and rile at times about them. She will try and distance herself from them and then come running back to them. And always, they will welcome her back into their arms and reassure her of their love for her. For a while she will believe it, and then she will wonder again and again as time goes on. Her friends will tell her that her parents don’t love her. That they are trying to control her. That she knows what is best for her life. That they are fuddy-duddy’s.

But despite all the ups and down and what life throws into all of their lives, she will be changed by their fierce love. Molded by their love. Their love will grow her into a beautiful young woman. Their love will change her for the better, just like the absence of their love would change her for the worse.

Do you find yourself identifying with this scenario? Maybe as the parent? Maybe as the child? Well this is like the story of our heavenly father and us. He loves us with a tender and fierce love. Not because we deserve it, or we earned it, or we are good enough for it, but just because we are his. Just like the parents love that baby girl long before she can love them back, and just because she is theirs and now part of the family. They love their baby because they want to and can’t even help themselves.

Do you believe God loves you?

We may believe God’s love for us at first. Or in good times.  Or in the small way that we are able to understand. And then we want this and that and fall on tough times, we hear about rules we dislike and we begin to question his love for us. We listen to the lies of the enemy that we are not good enough. That we are to flawed to be loved or valued. We begin to see the true state of our heart and think we are unworthy of his love and need to earn it. How could he just love us and all because? How could he really love us unconditionally when we don’t even love ourselves?  We wonder how he could like us, maybe even want to help us, if he knew the real us.

Part of the problem is that we grow up and quit being childlike.

Small children believe their parents when they are told they are loved. They don’t fear they have a black heart needing to be hidden. They don’t think they need to earn their parents’ love. No, they delight in their parents’ love and try to please them. They don’t worry about being enough of anything. Not being enough has never even occurred to them. They delight in their parent’s praise and smiles and never think that their scribbled pictures or lopsided summersaults are not good enough. And when they throw a tantrum or are naughty, they assume their parents will love them once again just like before.

Comparison and envy has not moved into their childlike hearts and made them yet doubt. Fear and the need to perform has not occurred to them yet. Worry and anxiety for the future has not even entered their minds. Bitterness and distrust has not taken root. Their parents have always been there and always will be. They have a childlike faith, trust, and love.

Small children do not look at all their externals: the size of their house, the size of their paycheck, the brand of their clothes, their mistakes and disorganized day, or their sins and wonder if their parents still love them. A difficult day does not mean they have lost their parent’s favor. Each day is a fresh start. Their memory is short.

Part of the problem is we grow up and quit being childlike.

We grow up and start looking around at our stuff, our circumstances, our current day, our trials or unanswered prayers and wonder if God loves us. We don’t look to his word, his faithfulness in our life, his promises about our future, or count our blessings and rejoice and know that nothing can separate us from his love as his child. Nothing. No bad, horrible, long, black day. No meltdown.  No trial. No death of a loved one. No child not born. No prayer not answered. No bad hair day. No lack of money in the bank. No questioning of him in prayers. No periods of us turning from him. No dark sin. No addiction. Nothing. Nothing in this life. Absolutely nothing can separate us from him and his love for us.

But we don’t believe it.

As we grow into adults we are told that nothing is free in this world, and we assume that also means God’s love, grace, and freedom. We are told that we should be beholden to no one. If someone gives you something, you give them something back. So we assume we need to somehow repay him in exchange for his love. Maybe we can get our act together and be good and eventually earn his love. We wrack our minds trying to think of ways not to be beholden to God. And then we want to make the formula for him to love us as complicated as an Algebra II problem with 15 steps. Or maybe even an equal equation, but we can’t figure out how to do that.

We hear his love is free for the asking, but it is hard for us to ask for something and stand there with empty hands. We want to be the giver. To have some control. Because it is harder to take, than give.

Eventually we know we need him, so we take a little love, and then rush to pay him back through leading bible study and helping the homeless and wearing a shirt that says, “Are you saved?” And he stands there with free love dripping out of his hands, wanting to give us more, but we say we have enough and rush on trying to even the score we have with him.

And all along his love waits for us.

Part of the problem is we need to become like little children.

Small children are confident in their parents’ love for them. They believe their parents and place their trust in them. They don’t realize the love score (or scale) is uneven. They don’t try to earn love. They just accept love and never question if it really is free? If it really is necessary? If it comes with strings attached?

Let us become like little children. Let us be confident in our father’s love. Let us believe him and bask in his love and quit doubting it. Let us accept it as the free gift it is meant to be. Because if we relax in his love and believe that nothing will separate us from his love, just think how we will change. We will be calmer. We will worry less, stress less, doubt less, and rail against him less. Confidence will be one of our virtues. Because we will know he has got this. Even when it doesn’t look like it.

If we as imperfect humans love our children as much as we do in our conditional flawed ways, how much more does our father love us?

Relax in his love. Bask in his love. Trust his love.

It will change you. It will shape and direct you into a better child.

Just like your love shapes those around you into better versions of themselves, his love will shape you into a better you.

Live like you are loved. Because you are. Now and always.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.

Theresa

If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the discussion: How can you become more childlike?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

The Illusion of Control

When we were dating, my hubby-to-be said that no child of his would pick their nose.

How this conversation came about, I don’t remember. Maybe we were talking about pet peeves, or maybe we were stopped at a stoplight and there in the next car was a picker. Or maybe there was a small child nearby with his finger up his nose, grossing out my hubby-to-be.

I remember saying, “Really?” After all, I felt I had a bit more experience on this topic. I had a brother and sister 16 and 13 years younger than me and I had babysat little ones. In my mind my experience stacked up pretty high, compared to his lack of experience

“Yes. No picking,” he said with authority.

I remember just laughing a little and saying, “What are you going to do? Put corks up their nostrils?”

I was wise enough at that time to realize that you could no more stop a child from finding his nose hole, than you could keep water from leaking out a cracked cup. But I was not wise enough to realize how little control I had over the rest of life.

I was young and believed that with my daytimer and careful planning I could control my life. Certainly, my day and week. This is what I had been led to believe and what I thought was true.

While I was single, I did feel I had more control over my life. My direction and choices.

Then I got married and had kids, and, well, you know what happened. My sense of control ebbed from my hands. Plans were changed. Schedules changed. Surprises popped up time and time again.

Controlling the day or the Week was all an illusion. An elaborate magic act that never turned out the way I thought it would.

Murphy’s law is alive and kicking sat my house. If it can, it will. And if it doesn’t, I may just jinx the results myself. I have come to realize that if I write it down on the calendar or in my daytimer, it does not mean it will happen, get accomplished, or abide by the time rules I was expecting.

My doctor’s appointment may be at 2:00, but the doctor often comes sliding in at 2:45. And sitting there wishing he would appear earlier has never worked.

I may plan to do A, B, and C tomorrow, and then in the middle of the night a child comes down with some stomach bug that involves purging one’s stomach most of the night.

I plan to rake leaves, and then it rains. I think about sitting down and relaxing and the phone rings with someone needing a listening ear. I plan to go to bed early, and a child needs mom time. I schedule 5 hours to sew a toddler’s dress, and 11 hours later it is done.

Now this doesn’t mean that chaos reigns at our house. No, I control enough things just enough of the time, or maybe I should say that I get enough things done on my to-do list and abide to or fulfill enough things from the calendar, that I sometimes feel I can control my day. Maybe even parts of my life.

And then something happens. I burn dinner. I have one of those days where I seem to accomplish nothing. The calendar falls apart. More interruptions abound in my day than dust settling on a sun splashed table. Emergencies poke their annoying head into my plans. I have to laugh once again at how little I can control my life.

I have this silly little notion that it is MY time. MY life. MY plans. When in fact it is God’s time. The time he gives me is a gift. And it is no longer my life, but I am bought and paid for and serving a new master. One who is a better planner and scheduler than I am. And as for my plans, well that sounds like I am the only person living in this family. Maybe this neighborhood. Yes, when I say my plans, it sounds a bit selfish and as if I am not taking others into consideration.

We live in a society where we are told we can plan and organize and control our life. Our future. Buy this daytimer. Use this organization system. Set these goals. I am not saying any of these things are wrong or bad. I use these things. But I need to be careful that I don’t really buy into the idea that I can really control my life and future. Because if I do, I may end up frustrated when my plans get thwarted. My day re-arranged. My goals changed or delayed.

I need to be open to new plans. New goals. New directions. I need to trust that God has got this under control. That his ways are far better than mine.

Because the idea that I control anything is an illusion. An amusing joke. I can’t even control myself, more a less my day, my future, my children or hubby or anyone else.

But I am not called to control anything . . . but myself. 

Paul talks about self-control. Not controlling our day. Our years.

Controlling myself is a far harder task than trying to control my week. Maybe that is why I would rather try and control my day and time. It seems easier and more manageable than trying to develop self-control or trying to control myself. Self-control involves controlling my tongue, emotions, words, thoughts, and deeds.

Self-control is hard. It is not a goal I can accomplish in a month or two and cross off my to-do list. It is not even something I will ever master in my life time.

It is a day by day, hour by hour task. One that seems almost an impossible task at times. One we can not do on our own. We need help to develop self-control. God gives us help in the form of the helper, or the Holy Spirit.

No, I am not called to control anything . . . but myself.

I am called to develop self-control. I am called to place the reigns of control I have in my creator’s hands. I am called to see my time as his time. I am called to change my plans to his plans. I am called to enjoy my days and weeks, not control them.  I am called to love others, not control others.

Strive for self-control, not control of your life or days.

Strive for God’s timing, not your own.

Make plans and goals and set items on the calendar, but hold them loosely and be open to them being changed.

Develop a sense of humor so you can laugh back at the illusion of control and when it falls into pieces. You will be less frustrated when Murphy’s Laws or surprises show up to poke holes in your calendar and toss your afternoon plans out the window. Or when your future looks different than how you planned.

Or when your plans for having children who don’t pick their noses . . . goes astray.

Because I think you know what happened. Well, you do if you have any experience with children and trying to get them to do or not do something.

They are as hard to control as ourselves.

Back then I was laughing at his comment that no child of his would pick their nose. But now with the passage of time, I am laughing with him. Because I have said so many things with authority and conviction that were about as silly as what he said.

When it comes to ordering your future kids, you need a sense of humor, because we really have no control over that.

You know what kind of kids we had, don’t you?

Of course, you do.

The same as most everyone else. Pickers.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important. 

Theresa

If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the discussion: What are your thought on controlling life? How successful have you been?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).