It's mid-March. This year is flying. I can't keep up. How's that New Year's resolution working out for you?
I'm not big on resolutions. I set a few goals. I'm keeping up pretty well. I periodically work out. I've read my daily devotionals every day for the most part. But the one that gets me a little stuck is the one where I want to be more present. This one kicks my tail.
We live in this world of distractions where we are expected to not only multitask, but to participate in extreme multitasking. It's like the Adulting X-Games. If we aren't participating we are not winning.
I am not a fan of adulating some days so the X-Games of it don't give me a thrill. They also inhibit my ability to be present.
You know when you're on the phone with your best friend, she's telling you a story in hopes that you will offer some insight, but your parental Tourettes is full blown and you're screaming, "Do not put that in your mouth!" and "No! You can't zip line off the roof!" as you try and concentrate on cooking hamburger helper, bathe the toddler, sign permission slips, and hear your person's story. As you look up, you see the hamburger meat is smoking, one kid is eating dog food, another has a carabiner and thread, climbing on a ladder, and the bathroom looks like you're housing a whale in your tub, and that "permission slip" was actually a note because your kid got "clipped down", you've missed your friend's entire story and the house is about to burn down. You were trying to be present for so many things that you missed it all. This is a complete exaggeration, but it feels realistic, right?
I want to be present. Even if that means saying no to something. Even if it means I have to call my friend back later. Even if it means we have to eat supper at 730 instead of 6, I need to be more present for myself and for everyone else.
I need to be present when I am reading my devotional and scripture. I don't want to share my God time with driving or signing school papers or paying bills. I don't want to share a kid's bath time with supper even though that is more likely than not. I want to focus on the things at hand and let the past or the future worry about itself.
I don't usually tell people my "resolutions." I don't like to fail. I'm sharing it with you for a purpose so hang with me.
A few weeks into the year a lady that I admire at church gave me a gift. It was a pretty little package with a story and as I read the inscription on it, I was moved. It was a Rustic Cuff that said, "be all there." If you aren't familiar with them, they have a neat story. This cute cuff means the world to me right now because I'm trying so hard to "be all there" in everything I do. It is hard. It takes prioritizing and saying no sometimes, and there are times that I get it way wrong. A lot, actually. But this bracelet is a daily reminder of my goal.
This weekend I got the opportunity to go on a road trip with some good girl friends. We went to Osage County, OK to The Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. Mrs. Ree Drummond is pretty amazing. I remember reading her blog years ago and being so thankful that she had the talent to write, to share about her rural life, their farm, and her amazing recipes. Mrs. Ree did something that I think is so neat. She lives near Pawhuska, OK, about an hour northwest of Tulsa. Pawhuska is an old Oklahoma town that is far away from just about everything. Nobody is planning vacations there and I would guess that the better paying jobs involve a good commute. Mrs. Ree could have decided to build a pretty new store in Tulsa. There are gazillions of people and businesses in Tulsa. There are events that bring in tons of people, like the BOK which is where our trip ended and we saw Miranda Lambert sing her southern heart out. It was fantastic. Anyhow...The Pioneer Woman made her tiny old Oklahoma town a tourist attraction. She remodeled an old down town building and put in an amazing restaurant and general store with exposed brick and sugary sweet charm. The bakery upstairs is worth waiting in line to get into. We didn't get to eat at the restaurant because the line was long and our time was short. People wanted so badly to see and meet the amazing lady that started all of this as much as they wanted to see what she had built.
Mrs. Ree wasn't there. I'm not disappointed, though. She may be an amazing lady that built an amazing empire just being herself, but she's still a person. She deserves some peace. Peace that doesn't come with success, but the kind of peace that you allow yourself to find. She deserves to be all there for her family and her friends. As much as I would like to have caught a glimpse of her red hair in that bakery I wish for her the ability to get some quiet time. Lord knows she deserves it. She's everywhere!
The Mercantile isn't a place I'll forget. And I won't remember it for all the pretty things or the great bakery, I'll remember it because a lady decided that her community was worth investing in. Her community was worth thousands of people driving to the middle of nowhere to see what she built. If we all set aside our need to see immediate success outside of our home, our family, our town, and invested in what is closest to us we might not change the whole world, but we'd change our own world.
We also visited the Rustic Cuff store. It was in Tulsa. It was fancy. They had pictures of famous people wearing their bracelets. Needless to say, my picture wasn't on the wall and I only bought a few "on sale" cuffs, but it was a neat place to visit. Jewelry isn't my weakness, but my Rustic Cuff means the world to me.
People visit The Mercantile to say they've been there or to see The Pioneer Woman in the flesh or maybe to grab a cinnamon roll or lunch, but my takeaway was so much more.
I want to invest in my own community. I want to invest in my own family and my own kids. Success doesn't show up in my bank account (wouldn't that be nice), or in the blog I write, or how many followers I have on Facebook. Success shows up when I am investing in my own little garden. Success shows up when my kids have manners and respect because that's what I've taught them. Success shows up when I invest in my community. Success shows up in all the places we invest ourselves. We can't grow our own crops if we're too busy worrying about how the neighbor grows theirs. Bloom where you're planted. Invest, fertilize, and water your very own and watch it grow like crazy. Be present and active. Be all there, y'all.
Monday, March 6, 2017
In 2014 I watched my milk barn burn dang near to the ground. It was one of the most helpless feelings in the world. When I saw the many firefighters roll in I felt a little relief. I also felt a lot of fear. I knew most of those guys. Watching people do their job when it also means putting their lives at risk is not calming. Thankfully nobody had to run into a burning building because there wasn't anyone nor any cows in it. But I knew that if there was a chance of anyone being in there those guys would have ran into the fire to save them. The idea of that is terrifying.
I've watched people run into burning buildings. I've watched them fight a fire until they collapse. I've seen the aftermath from a day of fighting in the heat of a fire and smoke inhalation that is inevitable. I've seen it weaken big strong men to the point of exhaustion that it's hard to come out of. Fire is scary. It is dangerous. It takes someone brave to run into a hell they may not come out of.
Some of us are walking around burning up in a fire. We are burning in our past. We are burning in our sin and shame. We are burning in choices we've made. We are singed from years of rebellion and pain. And we call it surviving. The reality is that we aren't surviving when we are burning in those things. We are not thriving. We are melting on a road to hell trying to ignore the pain.
I know many firefighters that will walk into flames. They go in suited up in the best gear they have. They walk in protected. They have masks to help filter smoke. They shield themselves because we are human. But I know another firefighter that doesn't need any gear. I know a savior that is willing to march into the fire with you and put the flames down from the inside out. I know a Savior that changes us from victim of sin to a eternal survivor.
Survivors of fires don't come out exactly the same as they were before their fire. They change. They become something different. Depending on their outlook, they either become forever a victim or forever a survivor. It is all about what they are willing to let go of, believe in, and what they are willing to strive for.
The Ultimate Firefighter, my Savior, is constantly putting out flames that I create. And every time I am different, new. I am never perfect. I never seem to drop the matches that I use to start fires, but my Savior is patient with me. He helps me drop one match at a time. He will be with me and never leave me.
In Daniel 3 there is a great story. King Nebuchadnezzar issues an order for everyone to worship a golden image when they hear a horn. These 3 guys were not the "go with the flow" kind. They refused to bow to anyone other than God. When the people brought this to the King he had no choice but to punish the 3. He had them thrown in to a fire furnace so hot that it killed the men who tossed them in. When they looked through the furnace window there were not 3, but 4 men in there. Shadrach, Mesahch, and Abed-Nego were called out of the furnace. They came out of the fire without a burn or singed hair. They told them that God, their one and only King, the Ultimate Firefighter, saved them from the flames. Nebuchadnezzar didn't have a choice but to believe. His new decree said that nobody should speak against the God of the 3 men from the fire; that no other God can deliver like that.
We all have our own kind of flames, our own demons. We all constantly fight our very own fires. We fight sin and hate. We fight tooth and nail. But if we would stop fighting, and start calling on God to put out our flames we would be a lot better off. We will still be a sort of victim of our own sins and choices, but we will also be a survivor because God not only puts out our fires, he makes us survivors. He changes us. And change is a good thing.
I've been listening to this album by Zach Williams for a week or so. Most of these songs speak to me, but this morning, listening to "Survivor" God laid it on my heart to share these words with you. Maybe they won't touch your heart, but hopefully someone out there will realize their pain is from their very own fire. They will look down and see the matches they continually light and allow God to help them put out their fire and become a survivor.