Tag Archives: joy

Abundant Life in Transition: Springtime pleasure or pain??

“AHHHH! Another inchworm on me!!!”

“I can’t go outside, there are BEES everywhere!”

“ This !@#$ pollen…I’m dyin’, Babe…”

Ah, the sounds of Spring.  If the gorgeous image above has you sneezing and itching rather than sighing and rejoicing, then you’re feeling the pain of many of us as we struggle to come to terms with this season.

It seems so unfair that during the most beautiful time of the year, when the world bursts into splendid color and temperatures are ideal, there are so many other things we have to deal with.  Bugs.  Pollen.  These bizarre inchworms I don’t remember before that are hanging from seemingly nowhere, creating a spider web of every parking lot, backyard, or school campus before terrorizing my kids, hours later, as they discover them on their clothes, in their ears, in their lunch bags…

Too bad Spring has to come with so much…life.

Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? Spring is when everything wakes up, blooms, reproduces, spreads itself around, matures, creates, combines, transforms.  Spring is the process of creating life, and it is both exquisitely beautiful and unbelievably messy.  Spring is the necessary transition that every living thing must go through in order to obtain sustainability.

Spring is temporary, and nothing in bloom or in caterpillar form will look the same in a matter of weeks, or even days.  These things will eventually turn into what they were created to be, but in the meantime, the process can be viewed as either beautiful or an inconvenient, disgusting mess.

This spring, are we going to appreciate the flowers or begrudge the pollen?  In our own lives, are we going to appreciate the inevitable transformations, growth opportunities, and transitional periods we all go through?  Will we see them as temporary, prompting us to both relish the beauty of it AND have strength to get through the messier parts?

This is life.  This is the season we are in.  Recognize it, appreciate it, use it.  Don’t stay inside and wait for something better to come along later- you and all creation have important work to do.   It will beautiful and messy and weird…enjoy the ride, and enjoy the assurance that it’s turning into something fantastic.


Productive Presence in an Unclear Future

I have no idea what the future holds for me.  I know you don’t either (and if you think you do, you’re deluding yourself), but I really, really don’t.  My career path could go in about 6 different directions at the moment, and those are only the paths I can see.  I live acutely aware of the fact that I am one phone call away, at any moment, from having my entire life changed.  I know you are, too.  We all are.

Though we never truly know what lies ahead of us, there are some days where we are more acutely aware of the fact.  For me, these days can be absolutely paralyzing.  I mean, if I don’t know where I’m going, how do I start? What am I supposed to be DOING right now?

These are the days most likely to be wasted by all of us, and we tend to do this in a few different ways: Circle, Wait, or Fix:

  • Circle:  We don’t know where we’re going, so we just start running…only to have to backtrack, circle around, restart.  We know we don’t know what we’re doing, so every effort is timid and half-way, but as a child with a skinned knee will run in circles to distract himself from the pain, we too will often just start running without thinking, without feeling.
  • Wait.  As Dr. Seuss calls it, “The Waiting Place: a Most Useless Space.”  Just waiting for something to happen to us – this can take a lifetime. All of our actions depend on someone else, so anything rocks our world and can have a dangerous degree of influence on our decisions.
  • Fix.  We don’t know where we’re going, but we know we don’t like it here, so that must mean we need to find something to fix…NOW!  We start noticing imperfections in our house, our spouses, ourselves.  We start reacting to these irritants, which only reveal more. We end the day exhausted, unfulfilled, and discontent.

I refuse to do any of those things today, even as clueless as I am.  I know that today is not the day to make any major decisions, start running down any new paths, or solve any of life’s major problems.  I just don’t have it in me.

Today is going to be a Productive Presence Day.  Due to the very fact that I can’t see the future, I am enabled to more clearly appreciate the present, and react accordingly.

So how do we get the most out of a Presence Day?  Love, Listen, and Learn.

  • Love: No matter what our circumstances, no moment spent loving is ever wasted.  Loving who and what is in front of us: our neighbor, our God, our family, ourselves, is the best way to seize the day we are given.  No clarity needed.
  • Listen: When we don’t know the answers, that’s a great time to shut up.  For those of us who find it hard to stay quiet and listen to the wisdom, needs, or even seemingly trivial details of another, these days are a perfect way to start.  Maybe soon we’ll learn to hear the Still Quiet Voice that has the real answers.
  • Learn: While many actions may be wasted if done down the wrong path, learning is not one of them.  Today may just be the day we have the patience to learn about the unknown now that we have the humility to recognize what we don’t know.

By practicing presence in this way, we have no fear of tomorrow, or any chance of wasting today.  But the greatest benefit of living in the present? Making ourselves aware of, and grateful for, the gifts around us- and that is a fundamental part of what’s called “abiding in God.”  And when we do that, everything else is taken care of:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

God is continually asking us to abide in His love, lie down in green pastures, be still and know.  Sounds pretty good on a day like today, doesn’t it?  And what happens when we do this for a while?  Look at the promise:

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)

So today, let’s all just abide; loving, learning, and listening all the while, knowing that if we do this, we will be preparing ourselves for the wondrous answers that reveal themselves at exactly the right time.

Enjoy today- that’s all we have to do.

We Already Have It, We Already Know It, Just Ask.

The morning of December 26th, I asked my kids what they wanted to do.  “Go shopping!” was the universal answer.

I’m sorry, what? Do you SEE all the toys literally at your feet amongst the clutter of paper and boxes? You can’t play with these for even a DAY before asking for more?

We see the ridiculousness of this mentality so easily in our kids, but how often do we see it in ourselves?

As the New Year dawns, we are full of two things: resolutions and clutter. Accomplish these, throw away that.  Acquire this body, get rid of these old things.  Learn this new skill, stop doing that.  Pursue and purge.

And according to most magazine covers, this effort will involve a shopping trip (for organizers now!), a gym membership, and a class of some sort.

What if instead we just started playing with all the toys at our feet?

Yes, the boxes and wrapping paper need to be recycled, and if something is broken in our lives or closets, it either needs to be fixed or thrown away.  We can start with that.  But instead of looking at everything we own and are as being inadequate, why don’t we just start USING what we have?

You have a perfect body already.  You just need to USE it, and it will reveal itself.  You’ve already been given the great advice on how to solve your problem- just take it..  Your shelves are filled with life-changing wisdom and entertainment in the form of books you’ve already bought, just finally read them.  Start with the Bible.

But what if, after we’ve inventoried our house, our bodies, and our lives, we realize we still don’t have enough to get us started?  Stop and Ask.  Don’t go out and shop.

That network of love and support we crave and so often ignore is also supposed to be used, and within it is all the help and advice and abundance we need- we just need to pay attention to it, and use it.  When I didn’t know what books to read this year, I asked my Facebook friends.  Since I don’t have any of them, I’ll ask my local library, who will give them to me for free.  That tool you need to complete your task? One of your friends has it and considers it clutter.

But more than anything else, we absolutely cannot, must not cut ourselves off this year from the greatest resource we have and are ignoring: our God.  Just look at the promises of abundance so many of us (myself included!) walk away from, every year:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)

“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2)

“If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14)

 We cannot spend another year walking away from grace, peace, wisdom, and “anything (good) we ask for” while spending our time, energy, and money trying to acquire it on our own, only to throw it away.  Every gift we need is right in front of us, and being offered to us- let’s just recognize it, appreciate it, and use it!

Knowing THAT makes it a guaranteed Happy New Year!

This week:

  1. Walk around your house, and inventory what hidden blessings there.  What do you already have that you just need to use?
  2. Who in your life do you need to simply pay more attention to? Make a list and start today.
  3. What do you already KNOW you need to be doing to have the life you were meant to have? Don’t go beyond the obvious.
  4. What are your stumbling blocks? Who do you know that can give you advice, guidance, and support on them?
  5. Find your Bible.  Decide today, if you haven’t already, to start using it as a primary resource for everything you need.  If you don’t know how to start reading it, ask, follow a lectionary study, or, at the least, you can follow my quick guide:
    1. For learning the core of the Christian message, read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
    2. For quick, handy advice: James and Proverbs
    3. Other easy, digestible books: Philippians, I and II Corinthians.

I wish all of us a year in which we recognize what amazing gifts we have at our fingertips, and use them to create Love, Peace, and Joy in ourselves and in our world.