Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Object in Motion is Easier to Direct

I was discussing with Phil the other night that I was once again confused, not really sure where I was headed or what my plan of action was.  Phil, in his infinite wisdom, told me that it was time to stop testing God and to start moving forward.  He told me I was being like Gideon (in the bible), but when he said that it wasn't with the normal positive connotation I've heard the comparison used with.  Normally I heard what a great man of faith Gideon was, that he tried God and God came through end of story.  I decided though that Phil was right and made up in my mind to keep going.  Shortly after this conversation, our Pastor preached on Gideon.  He started pointing out all the times in his life Gideon not only feared his situation and his calling, but also the times he doubted, he argued and yes he tested.  Even after each test he gave God came back with the same result, he feared and doubted.  It wasn't until it was really laid out like this I realized what Phil was really saying.  

Let me give you just a little back story so you can understand.  I have 2 children, EB and PJ.  EB is 11 this year and PJ turned 4.  4 years ago right before he was born we found out my mother in law had cancer.  Shortly after he was born we discovered my mother had cancer.  Both live very close to us in the same town. Thankfully my sister in law still lived at home and was old enough to really help my MIL.  However the situation at my house was much different.  My mother was very sick and I had 2 siblings that needed to be taken care of and a father that traveled for work and couldn't be there all the time.  Although he was there as much as possible, there were a lot of times he had to be working.  It was during the long nights at my mother's house and needing to be there to take care of her and my brother and sister I decided I needed something to keep my mind off everything and keep my hands busy.  Honestly, I probably should have just taken up knitting, instead being my father's daughter, I started a business.  As I ran my business, I realized I was good at it.  Within a little over a year my family was healthy and my house was filled with fabrics, notions, patterns and so much more.  Within 4 years we had converted a bedroom, sitting room, and 1/2 of the dining room in to work space.  The business started actually making some money, allowing me to bring on a couple of employees that needed an extra hand.  Phil went back to school and will be finishing his AA this winter.  

The business has thrived, but I struggled with whether I should keep going or let it go.  There have been attacks over the years, things that sent many other people into a panic.  New laws that made it almost impossible for small at home seamstresses to continue on, large manufacturers that came in and sucked up all the market share, and of course lots and lots of competition, moms at home that all need to make a little bit of extra money.  Some how through all that, a down turned economy, and global panic, we not only survived but continued to grow.  Still, I wasn't sure.  Should we close up shop, sell off what's here, and call it quits?  Or keep going and see where God can take us?  I just never could see a clear answer.  

So I turned to my old friend Gideon, because God was always patient with him and he always answered him. It wasn't until our Pastor preached though that I realized, God couldn't DO anything with Gideon until he moved.  Gideon wasn't moving, so God couldn't use him.  Oh, but when Gideon finally got it in himself to move, God used him in a mighty, mighty way.  But Gideon had to stop doubting, stop fearing and do something.  It didn't have to me much of anything, but it's always easier to guide an object that's moving.  

I look at my 230# dog and realize that if I want him to move, I'm going to have to some how get him up and going on his own to start, because if he's laying on the ground, dead weight, he's not going anywhere.  

Another example that God showed me this week was while EB was at her riding lesson.  She's preparing for a riding show in a couple months, this will be her first riding show ever.  So her teacher is trying to prepare her.  Mel was explaining the other day that when you are in the ring the judge only gives 1 command at a time.  So if they say, riders walk your horses, you are to walk them.  Then if they say riders reverse, you are to reverse your horse and keep WALKING, you do whatever the command was before you received the new command.  So if it was stop, walk.  You stop walk, stop, but whatever the command you keep going until you receive a new instruction.  

In applying that to my life I have to keep moving.  There has to come a point I stop testing God.  I stop asking God for sign after sign after sign, and I accept that the answer is in front of me.  God's not going to push me into what He has or what He wants me to do; and if I'm moving He can guide me where I need to go.  I don't have to take huge steps, I just have to be moving.  So what am I going to do?  

I'm going to keep moving.  I'm going to get up today, get everything ready, sit at my sewing machine and make some new items.  I'm going to put them up on my site, package the orders waiting to go out, clear out my paypal payments, and get ready for a youth lock in.  I'm going to move, even if slowly at first and see what it is God has waiting for me.  I'm going to let Him direct me.  I'm going to follow the last command He gave me until I receive a new one.  

I believe God has put the answer in front of me.  That He is directly me, that I should keep going.  That in the end there is a blessing I won't be able to contain. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

There is Treasure in the Hidden Talents

There have been entire years upon years where I sat in my house thinking what could I do?  I would sit and think about all the things other people were doing and one by one check them off as not possible for me.  Let's see.  I can't sing, I can't play an instrument, I can't teach a Sunday School class, I don't like large crowds (especially of adults), I can't get up and give speeches or talk in front of people.  I'm not a wonderful cook, I can bake, but nothing extraordinary, I don't have a gift with people.  Really what could I do?

I would sit in church and listen to the preacher going on about how everyone has something they can do, and the Kingdom of God needs workers.  Everyone has a talent, some are more talented than others, but everyone has a talent and you have to share it.  I spent many hours praying God would reveal not just a plan for my life, but what on Earth it was He had given me.  I often felt desperate to figure out what my talent was, but often my efforts were to no avail.  I just couldn't figure it out.  I felt like the swan looking around at the ducks wondering where I fit in.  I would look at all the ducks and think to myself, well this one has a beautiful quack.  I can't quack like that.  That one has wonderful feathers, but mine are pretty raggedy.  This duck over here is an excellent swimmer, I'm not great at that.  And each time I would become more and more discouraged.

I wanted to use my talent, I just couldn't figure out what on earth it was.  So I kept looking.  Then recently it came to me.

Back in Bible days talents weren't what you could or couldn't do it was a measurement of money.  I have always thought of talents as coins.  When you look at a coin it has it's own distinguishing markers.  It's own little nicks and marks that make it uniquely itself.  Each one is a little different, which is why I think in part, at least, Jesus choose to use them in the book of Matthew.  The more I thought about this concept the more I realized each talent is different, as different as each person that holds them.  And I started seeing my talent may be something off the beaten path.

As I searched I realized my talent was in front of me the whole time, I just had never realized there was an application in the kingdom.  Then as I realized that, I started seeing the unusual talents of others around me.  See, talents are always singing, teaching, or speaking.  Some talents are hidden, sometimes father beneath the surface.  As I thought about it I thought of the analogy Jesus used, calling the church the body of Christ.  When you think about the body, the same concept applies, there are LOTS of body parts that no one ever sees.  Little pieces that are hidden away.

So as I thought of this, I came to the conclusion that it's not finding your talent, but recognizing it.  It's being OK with your talent being uniquely yours.  Some talents are things no one ever thinks of, no one would ever say, "Oh wow look at the gift God gave you".  They are little things, hidden away, in secret places no one ever sees.  Oh but when you bring your talents out of hiding what a blessing.  What a treasure waits for you and the kingdom.  The things that can be accomplished, the souls that can be saved.

So, I'm sure you are thinking what is your talent?  What is it you can do that's so great?  Honestly, there is nothing that I can do that's so great, but it's the fact I choose to use what I can do everyday to go further.  But that doesn't really help you figure out what your unique talent is does it?

Your talent is whatever it is you do, whatever you love, whatever you enjoy and gives you a sense of satisfaction.  When you find that thing, then you can take it and go out and share it.  The treasure comes in the sharing, not in the holding or the having.  Everything has the potential to be a talent.

Maybe you just happen to be a really good fisherman or hunter.  (Wait give me a sec, don't turn it off yet, I haven't lost my marbles).  What on earth can you do with that?  Well have you ever looked around your church?  See those little boys sitting all by themselves?  Maybe they are the ones causing all the trouble during service, ever consider they need a friend?  Maybe they need a mentor, someone just to take enough time to make them feel like they are important and that they matter.  Why not share your talent?  Then lets not get started with when the world collapses and we have no more grocery stores and have to hunt for food, you certainly have the advantage there (and I want to be your closest friend :)

Maybe you are the world's best seamstress.  Seriously?  Where does that fit in?  Well, look around, the more people you talk to the more you will hear, I've always wanted to learn to sew.  It's a lost art that not only our youth, but our adults are starving for.  There are lots of applications to use a seamstress in the kingdom.

As I was sitting and thinking about this the other day I realized, it's not just about my talent.  It's about helping my daughter and son realize theirs.  I don't want them to go through years and years not knowing what God has for them.  Wondering around in the wilderness of life not sure where to go.  I'm going to be completely honest here, my poor daughter can't sing.  Now, perhaps at some point her voice will develop and she will be the best singer in the world, but right now not so.  I'm OK with that and I don't plan on forcing her to sing, my plan is rather to encourage her to do what she's good at.  At the moment she's loving horse back riding, and she's GOOD.  She's really good and she loves it.  Now what on earth does riding have to do with church?  Honestly, right now, nothing, but that's not to say one day she won't be a missionary in a foreign land and the only real mode of transportation will be horse back riding.  Maybe she'll open a ranch with horses, dogs, and cats for at risk children.  Maybe her talent is something that's still hidden somewhere, but whatever it is it's my job to help her realize and use it.

I don't know what your talent is, but whatever it is use it!  Sometimes what the church needs is the hidden talents to be turned into treasure.  What good does your talent do if it stays hidden? If everyone shared their hidden talent what a better state we'd be in.

Monday, August 22, 2011

At the End of the Day You Just Have to Laugh...

Today started as a pretty successful day.  I was up well before 8 (a rarity here), and immediately got to work.  I started packing orders, getting emails read and answered, and preparing the pool to move out front for the kids. I planned on getting all my dyes split up while the kids played outside, then would move onto the thrift stores and getting everything for the lock in rolling.  The day started out wonderful and I started out productive. I was even nice to Phil, for a change, in all his neediness.  

So I got going, got all the orders packed before my extra little one arrived (we baby sat today), got everyone up, dressed and fed, then got the totals posted for the orders while the kids played in the room.  That was supposed to be followed by swimming and lunch, but was interrupted by the lawn guys (this should have been my first clue of what was to come).  We changed plans and all headed out to the thrift store to pick up the 30 + shirts we need for the lock in.  The kids were great in the store, and the jeans were all on sale (for a DOLLAR, which beats out the 6$ I anticipated them costing).  From there we headed to lunch and Joanns (I needed a new seam ripper after breaking my last one a week or so ago, hole on the irony on this one is AWESOME!)  We got home, filled the pool and the kids proceeded to swim and I started the dyes.  We finished with the pool and the dyes around 5:30.  I got everyone (including my extra), showered and ready for bed by 6, threw a load of clothes (for the day) into the washer and was ready to call it a day.  To sit and relax the evening away with Phil, to start seam ripping all the jeans and be ahead of schedule.

I was feeling pretty good about myself as I hopped out of the shower, only to suddenly realize I had left my phone in my SKIRT POCKET (yes that skirt I just threw inn the washer).  Yes, I washed my phone.  I called Phil, thankfully we'd bought EB a burn phone for camps and it had extra $ on it.  I drove out to meet him and upgrade my phone (the store is 20 mins away). I was gettnig off the interstate when he called and told me to turn around and go back home, yes seriously.

I headed home :)  I figured i still had time to salvage the evening.  Decided I should let my groups know what was going on, and check my email.  I was finishing up when I SEAM RIPPED my foot, breaking my brand new (yes bought today) seam ripper.  I just had to laugh.  I figured at this point it was just a quirky evening.  Then I headed to the living room.  PJ had left his ramen noodle bowl on the table, so I told him to take it, pour out the liquid and put it in the sink.  Which he did, except instead of pouring it down the toilet he dropped the bowl from the table (accidentally).  We have one of those really TALL dinning room tables, about waist high, and let me add here when you DROP a bowl of something from them it doesn't SPILL it EXPLODES :)

PJ was devastated.  Immediately he started crying and screaming it was an accident.  He was even more confused when I just stood there, covered in ramen noodle broth and laughed.  I just had to stand there and laugh.  What else could I do?  Really?  Oh yeah, and the kicker this was only at 8.  YES just 2 hours after the entire day started to unravel.  

I think God felt like I was getting too high on my horse, thinking I'm all productive and wanted to remind me that my productivity, at the end of the day amounts to nothing.  What does it really matter?  Nothing, really, nothing.  The important things I did today were to spend some time with my kids (letting them swim and play while I was right there with them).  I easily could have let all the bad things ruin what I did.  Instead I choose to sit down with an ice cold glass of chocolate milk and read my little one a bed time story and relax.  I will laugh at the little problems life throws my way, because even when the sky is spitting and the waves are crashing, God keeps me in the storm.  Even in the storm as big or as small as it is there is beauty.  I will choose to find the beauty in the storm, even if it's just an afternoon shower :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It All Starts As Yarn

I work in the textile industry.  I purchase fabrics and yarns that then get turned into everything from cloth diapers to quilts to clothing.  I've used fabrics of all types.  Terry fabrics, velour fabrics, fleece fabrics, woven fabrics, knit fabrics, and the list goes on.  I’ve used fabrics made out of all kinds of material; cotton, polyester, rayon, bamboo, and more.  I was sitting down with my assistant the other day to try and help her see the difference in each of my bamboo fabrics.  One has loops, one is brushed and has a fuzzy appearance, and one is shaved giving it a sleek and smooth feel.  Each fabric has its own properties, its own texture, its own DNA if you will.  It has that thing that makes it unique and usable.  Some fabrics are smooth, some are bumpy, some are stretchy and some don't stretch at all.  But really when you get down to it, they are all fabric, and because they are all fabric they all share one common trait.  They all start as yarn.  

It's in the yarn that the fabric is determined.  If you have a friable yarn your fabric will shred when touched.  If you have a strong yarn the fabric will hold up to years of abuse and beatings.  If you use a cotton yarn you get a cotton fabric.  Even with today's advances we can't change that, it is what it is.  

As I laid in bed tonight I thought about that.  Yarn.  How the fibers twist and strengthen each other.  How each one makes the next stronger.  How it's the yarn and the weaver that completely determine the fabric, the textile.  The fabric gets no say in what it will be; it's in the hands of the weaver.  The weaver has control over the colors, the textures, and the pattern.  They control the twists and turns on the fibers, the placement, the size, everything, but first the weaver must get the yarn from the spinner.  The spinner must take the raw fibers and make them into something usable by the weaver.  The spinner takes much time with the fibers, being careful not to pull too much fiber at once, being gentle and careful.  The spinner cares for the material like a parent for a child, until eventually they have spun enough fiber to make a spook of yarn, which in turn is handed over to the weaver who makes a beautiful garment.  

It's much like life.  We are created in the womb from nothing, really just 2 little specks that it takes a microscope to see.  Our parents take that raw fiber and they begin to spin it, to nurture it and make it into a find yarn.  With each day and each step they spin in a little more fiber, more raw material, more experience.  Until one day they have a grown adult that they can hand over to God and let him weave their life into a beautiful tapestry.  Our experiences become our future, a stepping stone into what we will become.  Much like spinning, once it's done it can't be taken back.  Have you ever tried to pull yarn into its original form?  It's not so easy.  The fibers intertwine and become like they are 1.  Just like the yarns of our lives.  Every day, whether you remember it or not is part of you, and it makes you who you are.  

The older I get the more I realize I really don't remember my childhood.  I have these small snippets of time that when pulled together make me say when I was a kid.  Really all they are though is little snap shots of time.  Like looking through an old scrapbook.  And the more I stop and think about it the more I realize many of the snippets I think I stole from TV shows and movies.  I don't remember ever running through a field of wild flowers or running to my Dad in the airport in slow motion.  

What I do remember that's mine are the nights my Dad would carry me to bed late at night when he thought I was sleeping.  Well, truth is I probably was, but I still woke up, if only for a moment.  I remember my Dad singing to me, You are so Beautiful to Me, I can't even tell you who sings it or what all the words are.  I remember the many summers I spent up at work with my Dad, filing paperwork, filling out forms in the service department of his dealership, and strutting around like I owned the place.  I remember the people that bought me sodas and candy while I waited for my Dad to get finished with work so we could go home.  I remember my Mom taking us to have lunch with Daddy, which was always a special treat.  We never ate extravagant for lunch, usually just some small diner or pizza joint or sandwich shop that he'd found, but somehow it always felt special.  

I remember my mom rocking my brothers to sleep in Dad's recliner, singing to them.  I remember her sitting on the couch reading 1 chapter a night of Nancy Drew for me and 1 of the Hardy Boys for my brothers.  I remember the day she came into my 4th grade class, during our party and told me she had good news and bad.  The good news God had answered my prayers and she was having baby number 5.  The bad news God hadn't answered the way I'd wanted and it was a boy.  I remember my Mom praying, we prayed on the way to school, we prayed on the way out of town, we prayed on the way back into town, we prayed when an ambulance or fire truck went by.  No matter what we prayed.  

I remember my older brother teaching me to pick the GI Joes and set them up.  I remember playing hide and seek for hours outside through the woods at night.  I remember long, hot summers filled with entertainment we made ourselves.  Having to come in the bathroom door so we could go straight into the showers.  (We had a door leading outside on our bathroom :) 

I remember the year it snowed....  There was snow on the ground, enough that we were actually able to scrape it up with a garden spade and make a snowball.  We kept that snow ball for years to come.  I remember making the snow angels in the ice.  Bundling up like we had never bundled before.  And while I don't remember I'm sure when we came in we got hot chocolate.  

I remember pancake breakfasts with chocolate chips and bacon.  Homemade Italian subs.  Grandma’s chicken cutlets, homemade spaghetti sauce, meatballs, and chicken.  While I can't remember the recipe or what was even in it, I remember Grandma making chicken soup from scratch and straining it through that super cool strainer she had with the wooden thingy that fit in it just right.  It looks a lot like a funnel, that strainer did, and it had this cool wooden thingy that you spun around on the inside and it squashed everything out the strainer holes.  I remember Grandma's (the other grandma) homemade fudge.  Man, if I could find it again, no one made it like she did.  I remember her pumpkin pies, which I never ate the crust of, just the filling.  Her chocolate pudding.  

The truth is when I look back on my life I remember lots of little snap shots.  It's not like watching a video, where I can remember it all.  They are just tidbits of time, but when woven together I can see how they all fit. I realize there is a reason that one of the most special things in the world to me is when I get to take my kids and go have lunch with their Dad.  Why I love to hear my husband sing.  What makes me cry when I hear Amazing Grace.  Why I'm good at making spaghetti sauce.  

When I look back I can see what it is that made me, well me.  It wasn't anything profound, it wasn't money or fame, and it was just the everyday.  I can't look back and ever say that I had a rough childhood.  I remember we always had food, clothes and shelter.  I was always taught no matter what we had, that was really all we needed.  I remember we always had enough to give to others, even when we probably didn't.  That's probably why today I would give everything I have away.  

The fact is the yarns of my childhood, even those I can't see anymore, they make me who I am.  All my success and all my failure comes from the yarn I was built from.  I can choose to let the bad experiences turn me friable and fragile.  To let them break me down and turn me thread bare, or I can choose to look at them with a smile and realize I need to twist a little harder and weave a little stronger tomorrow.  I need to let let those experiences make me stronger.  I can stand on my great past and look back and say look at me, look what I was, look how good I did, how good I had it.  But the sad truth is even the strongest of threads will break over time with washing and drying, with use it breaks down.  If I don't continue to weave my yarns, good and bad, and to thread them into a beautiful garment what will tomorrow hold for me?   

See my past is who I was, but it helps to make me who I am, and it foreshadows who I will become.  My past can only do that though if I learn from it.  If I take those fond snap shots and pass them onto my kids.  If I learn from those moments when I look back and wish it could have been different.  I want my kids to look back and see that the yarns they were woven from are good yarns.  That they are strong and stable and that no matter what, the most important thing is if their yarn is weak they have a Friend they can lean on.  I hope the lessons my parents weaved into my life will continue on in my children.  What a shame it would be if the fabric stopped with me.