An Unexpected Obstacle

An Unexpected Obstacle

by Isabelle Sullivan

This has certainly been an interesting year for me. As  a tasked oriented women who likes to get things done, I pride myself  on giving 110% to whatever project I am working on. Usually, that means I am in charge of getting things done that make other people’s lives easier (laundry, dinner, Gusher schedules) or creates a grand experience for them (vacations, mission trips, balloon festivals). It gives me immense joy to make other people happy.

Wrapped in a Pretty Little Bow

Wrapped in a Pretty Little Bow

The nicely decorated department stores in all of the feel good holiday movies make it look so easy. When the shoppers leave the stores all of their gifts are wrapped perfectly in bright and shiny paper with giant sized, perfectly tied bows. Meanwhile, I sit in the middle of my living room floor with tape stuck to my fingers, wrapping paper that is cut too short to make the ends meet, and bows that look more like pancakes than they do toppers for a present.

Thankful for Broken Pieces

by Rebecca Mabe, Discipleship Director

a.jpg

Many of us could not wait to grow up.  We wanted to be able to make the rules and do what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.  Now that we are here, we often look at our lives and wonder “Is this really what being an adult is all about? Why is it so hard? What about what I want? Where is the fairness? Is there ever a break?” ...the questions could go on and on.

I can often define my life and who I am by my roles and responsibilities, and times by how I have failed at my roles and responsibilities.  I can get swept into the vicious cycle of making it from point A to point B, tackling everything on the to-do-list, and surviving the daily inconveniences, that I am left at the end of the day feeling exhausted and empty.  

I can attend church every Sunday, say a “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer, follow a few inspirational blogs on Facebook and still feel exhausted and empty.  I can beat myself up knowing deep down that I should enjoy the small moments. I should look for daily joys. But, the cycle of being an adult continues…work demands, relationship demands, parenting battles, homeownership problems, caregiver demands, health issues, laundry, meal prep, yard work and the list is neverending. I am left with the same question that I feel guilty about asking… “What about me?”  Can anyone relate???

There is an answer to the question “What about me?”. Unfortunately, it is not an answer that the world is beating down our doors to make sure we know.  The answer is one that takes some effort on our part. It is one that we have to seek out. The answer is simply knowing who you are.

I had the opportunity several years ago to go on a retreat for some alone time with God.  Sometimes that quiet time can be uncomfortable because I want to make sure that my responsibilities are all in order and that I am being successful.  I do not want God to be disappointed in me, because disappointing people can be a daily occurence - Why would God be any different? It was in this quiet time that I saw the most beautiful cross.  It was composed of many broken pieces - all different shapes, sizes, and colors.

As I gazed at this cross, God reminded me that He knows I am broken and imperfect.  He has given me the opportunity for all the roles and responsibilities I have in my life.  He is not asking me to have them all perfect. He wants to lead me, spend time with me, love me and be a part of every moment of my life.  God wants me to know Him.

If I let the pieces represent my roles and responsibilities, God is saying - give them to me and let me make something beautiful out of them.  Did you know that the Word of God says that we are created a masterpiece? Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

When I spend time with God, I get to know who I truly am.  I find out that I am a masterpiece. I find out that I am a part of a chosen generation (1 Peter 2:9).  I find out that I am created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). I find out that God will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

When I learn who I truly am, I am not defined by my roles and responsibilities.  The vicious cycle of exhaustion and emptiness does not exist. Instead, I have a true joy and peace, because I am seeing things through God’s eyes and not my own.  I know He is in control, and I know I am not. I get to experience this beautiful thing called life. I can walk in the freedom of having my weaknesses and insecurities in the hands of my Heavenly Father.  He is glorified through my weakness, and more people can come to know Him.

In Matthew 7:7 (NLT), the Word of God says “‘Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  In this crazy thing we call life, we get to experience it with our Heavenly Father. We get to say here is my mess, Lord, make it beautiful.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my broken pieces.  I am thankful for every opportunity I have and I am so glad that I am not responsible for them on my own.  As a way of showing our gratitude, let us take Matthew 7:7 to heart. Let us beat down His door desperate to know more and more about Him.  And as we learn, may a new desire be ignited deep in us that we are desperate for everyone to know what we do.

God loves you, and He created you a masterpiece.  Walk in that truth and be thankful!



Amanda’s Autumn

road-1072823_1920.jpg

by Amanda Stallard

For most of my life, I didn’t really understand the autumn season. When I was a child growing up in sunny Florida, I did not see leaves change color and fall, nor did I feel the crispness of the air. I had no appreciation for apple picking or hay rides. Rather, all things grew at all times, and so I could not appreciate what it meant to watch the signs of life wither away. In 2006, I experienced my first Autumn. For me, it was a time to learn- it was my first year of grad school, my first year living far away, my first introduction to closed-toed shoes and jackets. It was the year I signed a lease on an apartment, the year I studied Hebrew, and the year I watched in anticipation as the leaves outside my window shifted from green, to red and orange, and then brown. It was also the first year that I felt completely and utterly disconnected and alone.

 

That Fall, I attended a mandatory retreat for all first-year seminary students. It was 48 hours of complete silence- an intentional time to read, and pray, and listen. I spent most of the day sitting in a rocking chair and staring out at the leaves as they fell, wondering how I would survive the semester. I missed my home, and my family, and my friends. I had started a new season in life, and it was not one I was enjoying. The constant blooms and growth I had become accustomed to were withering away, and the cold was settling in. For me, that autumn was not just about the falling foliage, it was about the deterioration of a part of me. It was the loss of relationships I had had my whole life. It was homesickness. It was the uncertainty of the future. It was the fear of my calling. It was the insecurity of my faith. It was anger, and sadness, and loneliness. Autumn, in all its glory and splendor, was the shriveling of the fruit and flowers on my heart. And I worried a bleak winter would settle in and stay forever.

 

The next Fall, I once again watched the leaves begin to change, and this time I had a different outlook. I’d adjusted some. I’d made a good friend or two. These friends were an older couple and their grandchild whom I had met at Temple, when my Hebrew had gotten so bad that I had resorted to the desperate measure of sitting through Jewish services. That September, my new friends wished me L’shana tova! as the Jewish new year dawned with Rosh Hashana. “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” Their wish rooted in my heart. May I be inscribed and sealed. I remembered similar words from Hebrews and Jeremiah. “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will seal my laws in their minds and inscribe them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In a season where I had been nothing but dormant, this was a reminder of the goodness and promises of God. A reminder that there is immense beauty in change. A reminder that God sees us through all seasons, and uses them to His purposes.

 

As we observe Fall and the Jewish Feast of the Trumpet, whether you are living in a place of autumn- a time of loss or sorrow or uncomfortable change—or whether you are living in the celebration and promises of a proverbial new year, may we all remember that whether we are blooming or withering, we can grasp hold of this promise. “I will be your God, and you will be my people.”  L’Shana tova!