Distractions, Distractions

Wow!  I have been really distracted this week.  My daughter has been a real pistol lately (okay she’s almost four, so I’ll give her a break), my son’s allergies appear to be creeping him closer to bronchitis despite the medications and various attempts to keep him healthy, a situation involving an extended family member has filled me with concern, my job is busy, my husband’s job is busy (he too works in child welfare), and, well, the toaster caught on fire.  I’m talking flames shooting out of it heading right towards our cabinets.  What does the toaster catching on fire have to do with all of this?  We were distracted!

Here’s a picture of the toaster that got a little toasted itself this week!

While toasting taco shells for dinner, we got busy talking and stopped paying attention to the toaster oven.  One of the shells fell to the bottom somehow and caught on fire.  I frantically opened the toaster door which added air to the fire which then caused the flames to shoot up over it right towards our cabinets.  Clearly, the training I have had in how to put out fires did not even register!  My husband quickly grabbed the oven, ran outside, threw it on the ground, and poured water over it.  Within a few seconds, the smoke alarm was going off, my children were screaming, and the kitchen and hearth room were full of smoke….which of course, has added to the challenge of keeping my son’s bronchial issues minimal this time of year.

It was not a major fire or anything like that, but that brief moment of not paying attention could have turned into something far worse.  The smell of thick smoke stayed with us throughout the evening despite our attempts at clearing out the air in the house.  Since this happened, I have been thinking about the variety of distractions I have in life that often cause me to lose sight at times of my relationship with the Lord.

Work, laundry, children, parents, husband, more laundry, errands, and of course, laundry – these are all components that fill up my days, my thoughts, and my responsibilities.  I usually do not even realize how distracted I have become until I am at church and focus only on Him.  It is like an “ahh” and “aha” moment every Sunday morning.  I sit there thinking only of my faith in the Lord, my hope in Him, my walk with Him, and that Glorious Day when He returns.  But then, as the sun sets on Sunday, the laundry basket starts looking more like a laundry tower, the kids start yearning for me as they know the weekend is coming to an end, and I start thinking about all that will be required of me throughout the work week.

I do not want to sound like I am complaining.  I feel 100% blessed to have the opportunity and ability to work, to have a home to clean, to have children to bathe, to have a husband, and to have errands to run.  I see all of these things as gifts and do not want to take them for granted.  Life is just busy.

However, I still keep thinking about the fire in the toaster.  How many times have I come close to stepping into a fiery situation because of taking my eyes off of the Lord?  How close have I come to being burned because of my distractions?  Like the smell of smoke that lingered, how has the residue of sin lingered in my life?

The Scripture verse I am drawn to when thinking about this is Matthew 6:25-34.  The lessons I take from these verses is not to worry.  However, as I think further, I realize that distractions in life can sometimes be based on worry.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I take away from this the reminder that the Lord is never so distracted that He fails to meet our needs.  He keeps His eyes on us all of the time.  He will never be too sidetracked by our busy schedules, or overflowing laundry baskets, or screaming children, to meet us where we are.  He will provide for us even though we are frantically trying to provide for ourselves.

I think it is funny how the Lord used a burning toaster and some very over-cooked taco shells to bring me back to thoughts of Him.  Thank you Lord for your sense of humor!  I pray the only real distractions I have are ones that always point me right back to Christ.

Masks

My children have plenty of masks they like to wear around the house.  Their imaginations soar as they defeat the bad guys, sneak around like ninjas, or hide out like burglars.  Their masks bring a little more tangibility to their ideas, and for brief moments, they get to be someone different.

Christians (well, not only Christians) often wear “masks” too.  Some may be wearing the mask of wealth when, if truth were told, they are actually deep in debt.  Others may wear the mask of happiness although they are suffering through great sadness.  There’s the mask of strength that is worn by those trembling from weakness.  And, there’s the mask of contentment; although, one’s desires tend to chase him or her around.

The mask of popularity is one that is worn frequently; although, the person may actually be crumbling from poor self-esteem, low self-worth, and loneliness.  The “everything is fine” mask is one I wore often growing up.  I even topped it off with a great big smile.  The fact is that not everything was fine during my adolescents and young adulthood.  I struggled with thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, but no one knew it.  I was semi-popular, active, and out-going.  Even now, I pull out this mask to help get me through rough times.

For moms, we often wear the mask of “Super Mom” even though we barely have strength left in the day to kiss the little ones goodnight.  Our images on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and any other social networking sites may really just cover up the day-to-day struggles we have as parents.  It is hard raising children in this fast paced world where reality show stars earn more of an income for getting drunk and acting foolish than those who storm through the trenches to save others, those who teach children, rebuild families, or compassionately love on people every day.  It is a struggle to raise children to be selfless and compassionate when the world expects them to be driven, number one, and egocentric.

I would much rather see an unveiled, unmasked version of someone’s strife than to walk by and not even notice because of the amazing job he or she is doing at covering up the pain.  Deep longing, jilted despair, and confusion are hidden from the rest of the world when those mighty masks are put on.  As a Christian, I too struggle at times making sense of the world around me, and the reason why things happen the way they do.  I even admit that I wear a mask that covers this doubt up a lot of the times.

I was reading in Luke Chapter 5 today and verses 29-32 jumped out at me.  This blog topic has been on my mind for the past few days, so it did not surprise me that the Lord led me to these verses.

2Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

It makes more sense to me for non-believers to see Christians for what we are; broken and imperfect sinners who know we are our strongest when we declare our weakness.  Instead, I fear what they see is what our masks represent; wealth, power, judgment, popularity, political motivation, and self-righteousness.

Imagine if we gathered the various masks we wear, threw them to the side, and showed ourselves as we really are.  Imagine the difference our actions, not our agendas, would make in the lives of others if we let love lead the way.

Imagine the reaction of others when our masks come off and we show Him to the world.  He is the healer.  He is the lifter of our heads.  His love and His sacrifice is the only “mask” we should be wearing.

Life in a Fish Bowl

Here is a brief part from my memoir I have stored away on my computer.  I am getting closer to making a decision about trying to publish it, but in the meantime, I am finding that parts of it inspire me to write blog posts that are not necessarily even related to my story at all.  This section is part of chapter two where I talk about the medical aspect of what occurred, as well as, my stay in the hospital.

There was an aquarium on the pediatric unit at the hospital that housed a Newt.  When I was able to, I visited Newton (not sure if this really was his name or if I called him that on my own) just about every day.  Our eyes would make contact, and I would stare at him in his fish bowl world wondering what he was thinking.  I wished I could have jumped in the tank with him and swam around to escape.  I too had people staring at me probably wondering what I was thinking or if I really understood what had happened.  My hospital room had become my own fish bowl.

Although this is from a section of my story about the time in the hospital, I cannot help but think that we are all living in “fish bowls”.  We tend to watch each others’ actions and form opinions based on how others are swimming around.  When sad times make their way into life, we sometimes stand by and watch the reactions of people.  Often, their reactions affect our responses.

What if instead of just standing there on the outside of the “tank”, we would all make a more committed effort to jump in and swim around a bit with those who are going through a difficult time?  I wonder how many people could be eternally impacted if Christians would walk alongside people we differ from, or people who are grieving, or lonely, or homeless, or orphaned, or guilty, or addicted, or whatever else makes us think we are on one side while they are on the other.

I know it is cliché to say “what would Jesus do?”….but seriously, “What would Jesus do?”  His life, as written in Scripture, depicts a Savior who walked with people most of us would stray from.  His love is for everyone….everyone.  We are all living life in a fish bowl.  We watch others, and more importantly, others are watching us.  I think it is time that Christians (including myself) stop wading in the shallow end of the pool with only those we are like, and jump in head first with those we are least like.  After all…”What Would Jesus Do?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34

Voice of Truth

The song titled, The Voice of Truth, by Christian band Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.  I love this song.  Each time it comes on the radio, I crank it up.  The words of the chorus are quite simple:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story.  The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”  And the voice of truth says, “This is for my glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me.  I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

-Casting Crowns

There was a time in my life when I did not know what truth was.  I heard many “voices” but none of them were comforting.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that there were moments in my growing years that whispers of darkness, cruel thoughts, and hurtful words were a part of my psyche.

I remember wondering after my hysterectomy if I had done something awful to cause it to happen.  I thought that perhaps I should have been born a boy…yes…being a boy would have been much better than a girl who could not have babies.  I also thought God surely knew I would make a terrible mother.  He must have wanted to spare a child my mothering.  Or, perhaps I was a child killer in a past life…even though I did not think past lives even existed.

As an adult, I wish I could say that these notions faded, but they did not.  I found myself thinking that God did not want me to be a parent.  If He wanted it, then it would have happened miraculously, quickly, and without any additional strife.  I do not know if anyone who reads this believes in spiritual warfare, but I do.  The fact that these horrific, cruel, depraved thoughts lingered in my mind as a child and an adult prove to me that spiritual warfare does exist.  Not one adult ever said these things to me.  Not one child, no one.  Yet, I “heard” them.

Back in 2000, I started going to church again.  As I began to do so, those hurtful words and  notions took a backseat to the Truth that is found in the voice of God.  The written Word became magnified.  In Him, I began to hear “You are beautiful”, “You have purpose”, “Your life was worth saving”.  Even more awesome though was the clarity I received from worship and reading the Word.  I was able to recognize that the voices bringing me down were not of Him. They were flaming arrows of the enemy and I was the target.

His Word and the hope I found in Christ became my shield.  The following verses spoke to me in ways that drowned out the cursed thoughts I once carried:

Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.

Silence and suffering comes along with infertility.  It can dishearten the strongest of believers.  It can eat at the core of one’s relationship with the Lord.  The enemy whispers “you don’t deserve to be a parent”, “you must have done something wrong”, “it must not be God’s will for you”….and many more things.

I can tell you that when in the pit of despair over barrenness, it is hard sometimes to hear anything but the words of the enemy.  It is hard to see outside of the strife and beyond the pain.  It is hard to hear the voice of Truth calling out.  IT. IS. HARD.  

However, as the song says, THE VOICE OF TRUTH TELLS ME A DIFFERENT STORY.     

The stories of those of us who have struggled or are currently being challenged with the spiritual confusion of infertility are not written by the enemy or anyone else for that matter.  Our stories have been written by the One whose voice is true; the One whose love is everlasting; the One whose shield is strong; the One who breathes life into the most destitute of situations; the One whose grace saves; the One who created us; the One who set our limits; and the One who has declared our future.

What’s the voice of truth telling you?  

For those of you who are battling your way to parenthood, stay strong in your faith.  Know that you are loved by a God who is bigger than your doubts.  Know that He is not done with you yet.  Know that your story is just unfolding.   Take delight in the hope of His promises and the mystery of what He has in store. 

Listen to His Voice of Truth.  Be Blessed.