Courage

An Advice Letter to My College Self

Dear Jessie, circa 1996:

I’m here with unsolicited advice, so hang on to your hat. This is yourself, I mean me…I mean Future You.

Wait. You’ve watched Back to the Future at least 400 times. It’s like that. I’m typing to you from the future on a laptop computer. You know how you go to the computer lab on campus when you need to type a paper or check email? It’s like that, except times a million.

(Seriously, you can’t even imagine the technological nightmare we’re about to create for ourselves. When you see your first iPhone your head will explode.)

Now that we have those awkward introductions out of the way, I want to say it’s now 2017 and everything’s okay. Be nice to that guy who answered the door the night you went to Bible study– you marry him and have two kids. Don’t blow it.

I know you’re studying hard and working at least one job, and trust me– this pays off. You might be tempted to quit the dumb job and just sign for more student loans, but just hang in there. At the rate you’re going you’ll graduate with just over $8,000 in student loans, and this will feel like enough of a burden in the days to come.

There will be job losses. The economy will get really, really crappy. And then you will hate the job you have. Trust me, keep working now to keep your loans low, and then work like mad to pay off those loans. This advice is true and right. You will not regret this.

Apparently you and Eric will be extremely fertile in the days to come, and you will have those two children like lightning. I cannot overstate how much children cost. Diapers? Formula? Those things cost the earth. Car seats, tiny baby shoes, and trips to the doctor are enough. Don’t make your life harder by adding debt from school.

Also, you will look into those cute little blue eyes (both kids have them!) and you will realize you don’t want to leave them forty hours a week to go to a regular job. This will be an actual option if you don’t take out the student loans you’re considering.

If you stop working now, you’re never going to be able to stop working later. Sure, you’ll eventually live in a little house with some odd neighbors. There will be summer days you sit around a tiny baby pool in the backyard and sweat because the house doesn’t really have enough air conditioning and you will pray desperately to the Lord above for a real job.

But you won’t actually have to leave the babies to go to work if you don’t want to. That’s the freedom you’re buying for yourself later.

So, to summarize: I know you’re really busy and want to quit the job so you don’t have to juggle your schedule all the time. But you’re actually saving your future, so keep at it, sister.

Amen and goodbye,

Future Jessie

 

Some Bad News About Your 2017 Goals

goals for the new year2017 is going to be a great year for you and your family, I just know it.

You’ve written down your 2017 goals, right? Maybe you’ve even come up with a spreadsheet to carefully lay out your entire plan. Month by month, you know what steps stand between you and Goals of Fabulousness.

That’s a real thing, you know–Goals of Fabulousness. And you shall reach them! I have all faith in you!

If your 2017 goals include lowering your debt and freeing yourself from financial bondage, I know that by December you’ll have made headway. Of course the unexpected might happen and you might not be able to totally reach your initial goal, but it’s okay– you’ll still be better off for having a plan and doing your best.

Maybe your 2017 goals include buying a new house or having a baby. We call these goals HUGE LIFE CHANGES. Good for you, sister. Go get ’em.

Maybe you just want a tidier house or a less crazy schedule. Fine! No one says your 2017 goals have to include a whole new life. Small goals are usually achievable, which makes them my favorite kind.

Okay, but here’s the bad news about your plans.

You can’t do it all. You can’t expect miracles, either. And this is okay.

Repeat after me:

My plans for the new year are just helpful guidelines to get me to the next place in life. It’s okay if I don’t experience a total life change. I will be kind to myself when things go awry.

Because let me assure you– things will go awry. Unexpected bills will show up, the pregnancy test might come back negative (or positive, which can be equally upsetting), and the house purchase might fall through.

Reaching your goals is going to require sacrifice in some areas. If you want to run a marathon this year, you’re probably not going to have as much time to build strong friendships at your church. If you have twins, you’re probably not going to be able to finish your MBA this year. You might want to be able to manage everything you’re already doing plus add in these new plans, but something is going to have to give. Something will need to be cut out.

And this is okay.

Goals are great, don’t get me wrong.

They’re awesome and give structure to our vision. They help us build the life we dream of having. But sometimes we forget that our plans are there to serve us; we don’t have to be enslaved to them.

For years I thought that failure to reach a goal meant that I was a personal failure. I was enslaved to my own plans.

This was stupid and terribly, terribly misguided.

Of course I wanted to build up the savings account and pay down the debt and keep a perfect house and build blanket forts with my children, all while having a perfect marriage. But I am one human.

After many years I realized New Year’s resolutions don’t really mean a whole lot. You know what matters much, much more? Consistent self discipline. That’s the thing that really moves us from the lumps we are right now to the glorious future we envision for ourselves.

You were probably hoping for something much shinier, right? Something sparkly and exciting? And I give you consistent self-discipline as a guide. Bummer.

But please listen to this old woman’s many years of wisdom– it’s far better to have a small, reasonable goal and slowly, diligently meander your way there. The alternative is to drive yourself and everyone around you crazy while you strain for some unattainable perfection.

Please. I beg of you.

Be reasonable, be consistent, be diligent. I’m willing to bet your year and your life will be far better off this way. I want you to succeed and I know you can do it. I just want you sane at the end of the year. Sane and successful!

Before I leave you, let me give you a few recommendations. These are all books or products I have found to be helpful as I move from one place in life to the next. (All are affiliate links, beeteedubs.)

  • Start, by Jon Acuff. This book will help you “do work that matters.” Plus, Jon is hilarious.
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I can feel a new session of decluttering coming. This house is driving me mad. Marie to the rescue– she’ll give us the step-by-step directions to get it all done.
  • Bullet Journal: This link takes you to a slightly different list maker than I use, but the premise is similar. Bullet journaling is a way of keeping all your papers and things in one place. I started one this summer and it has changed my life. No more yellow notepads all over the house!
  • Debt Proof Living, by Mary Hunt. Yes, you can totally revamp your family’s finances this year. Try Mary’s way. She’s smart and learned the hard way.

I know you can do it. Your 2017 goals are going to be fabulous. Let me know how it works out!

Jess

 

Dear Ladies: Don’t Forget Yourself This Christmas Season

Christmas for women

As I write this, Christmas is just a few breaths away. Women everywhere are on their last nerve.

Children are hardly able to eat, sleep, or concentrate at school with the looming holiday. I’m sure teachers are counting the milliseconds before they can release the little darlings into their parents’ care for the break.

Husbands are darting in and out of stores, finishing their shopping.

But the rest of Christmas is really up to us women, isn’t it? I don’t mean to sound resentful, but there would be no decorations, no food, no presents for Great Grandma, and no stocking stuffers if it wasn’t for us.

Let’s not get me started on Christmas cards. Is there a man on the planet who has ever said, “Gee, let’s pick out our outfits for our Christmas card photo shoot!”?

NO. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

It’s up to us, dear women. Christmas is up to us.

It’s not that our families don’t care, it’s just that they sort of think these things appear magically. You know, maybe Santa brings them down the chimney with the gifts. It’s no surprise that we’re a little exhausted and cranky. We’re taking care of our normal activities, plus we’re trying to bake five special dishes to take to five different potlucks.

Lady friends, let’s show ourselves some grace this season. Let’s give our families the present of our very best selves– the rested, happy, not-crazy version of us.

It doesn’t have to be this hard.

So let’s go ahead and cheat a little for the potluck. Bring something from the deli. We’ll put it in a nice dish and smile mysteriously when they ask for the recipe.

When we get sick of wrapping presents, let’s stop. Hide those suckers, unwrapped, all over the house and tell the kids it’s a scavenger hunt.

When we run out of money, let’s give ourselves permission to STOP SHOPPING. It’s okay to have limited resources. It’s not okay to bankrupt ourselves in the name of Christmas joy.

The little kids probably want to sit next to us and look at the Christmas tree. They probably would enjoy making a snowman or decorating cookies together. They do not need professional level gingerbread villages or hand sewn pajamas.

The older kids want more time to nap and watch YouTube videos, so that’s easy enough. We can nap when they nap, just like when they were babies!

Women, sit down with a mug this Christmas

The husbands and the rest of the family would probably appreciate it if we’d stop snapping their heads off. So let’s sit down with a nice mug of something warm and give ourselves a break.

(If it’s been an especially long day, a wee glass of wine might not hurt, either.)

Let’s go back two thousand years.

Remember back to the original Christmas, when Mary had the most beautiful experience ever. It was held in a literal barn. There was no potluck or Christmas tree or ugly sweater contest. She did not festoon the manger with twinkle lights or hand-embroider stocking decorations.

Mary had a quiet, holy night, contemplating God’s gift to the world. She held Salvation in her arms and nursed him at her breast.

Let’s not miss the beauty of the season by trying to make everything beautiful. It already is. It’s already the most blessed, holy holiday we have, partly because a woman was willing to allow God to work through her.

We still have the opportunity to let God work through us in this season. May we be open, willing, and rested enough to follow where he leads us.

 

Priorities: A worksheet to help you plan the next right thing for your life.

Perhaps you’ve reached a point in your life where you really want to do the best thing for yourself and your family, but you have no idea of what that best thing really is. You aren’t sure what your priorities really are.

Should you work more hours and cushion the budget?

Work less hours to be home with the kids more?

Go back to school? Find a different career? Volunteer more? Volunteer less?

The options are endless and every decision leads to a different place in the future. How are we supposed to find the best path?

photo-1452421822248-d4c2b47f0c81

But before we get our knickers in a knot, let’s calm down. There certainly are a lot of choices in every life, but there doesn’t have to be one, solitary healthy outcome.

I’m serious. You can make a lot of different choices and end up in a lot of different places fifteen years from now, but most of them will be good and healthy and fine. You’re going to be fine and your family is going to be fine.

Unless, of course, you take up heroin or chain smoking or bank robbing. Those are terrible priorities. Stay clear of those things and you’ll probably be fine. You might become a doctor with a nanny who takes care of the kids, or you might become a stay at home mom with an Etsy shop. Maybe you’ll own your own restaurant or maybe you’ll cater small parties from home. Fine and fine.

We worry a lot about the future but seldom remind ourselves that it all works out, somehow.

But still, we have to actually make a decision and then act on it, right? Life choices all begin in the same place: mulling the problems and potential solutions over in your mind. We have to find our priorities, and we can’t do that without some serious thinking.

Today I’ve included a little worksheet/graphic for you at the end of the blog. If you like to write and think slowly, print it off and get yourself a pencil and an excellent beverage. But maybe you’ll just bookmark this link and work from the graphic itself; whatever works for you is fine.

The worksheet has one purpose– to help you identify the problem in your own life that is causing you the most pain, and then to identify one priority and solution to start on the path to simple living.

It’s easy to think “Yikes, lady. I have way more than one problem and I want to do all the things to fix everything all at once.”

And I’m here to tell you the truth: Doing all the things will make you all the crazy. . You have to say yes to a few things, the most important things, and then you’ll have to say no to a lot of other things.

This little worksheet will help you think through where you are now and where you want to be. It’ll bring you one little step closer to the next place in your life. It will help you simplify everything.

I was at a conference recently, and the Hope*Writers encouraged us with this– if we get stuck, just do the next right thing. Then repeat and repeat. I hope this worksheet will help you figure out what the next right thing is for you!

 

Printable. Find your priorities

 

 

You simply don’t have to live like everyone else. (Permission slip granted.)

Why does everyone think they can tell me how to live? How do I get permission to make my own choices?

Today on the blog we’re handing out permission slips.

They’re exactly as you remember them from your school days. They’re pink and sort of gritty and smell weird, like carbon copy paper always does. You’ll love them just as much as you used to, because you can wave them in the air wildly whenever an authority figure questions your location or motives or general life choices. “See? See right here? I have permission. Here’s my slip.”

permission slip for adults

Hopefully we’ve outgrown the need to get a slip to go to the bathroom, but I swear adulthood doesn’t feel much different some days. All we’re trying to do is live our life, but all these people have all these opinions.

No more! Today we’re deciding to do what we want.

You, over there. The woman who wants to have ten children and then homeschool them in the wilderness? Here’s your permission.

To the man who wants to learn to surf even though he lives in Nebraska? Even though he’s about to turn 65? Fine. Go for it, fine sir.

Start an organic farm? Go into ministry? Go to college? Drop out of college because you’ve realized you’ll never be able to pay it all back and actually live your life?

Have one child, have no child, get married, travel the world alone in a sailboat. We’re fine with all of that.

Permission granted. You simply don’t have to live like everyone else.

You simply don't have to live like everyone else. Permission slip granted

Now, cranky Great-Aunt Gretel might have a problem with that. And she’s likely to tell you all about her opinion of your life choices, and this is where you’ll need the permission slip. Print it out and hand it to her.

We’re all adults here.

We know our loved ones mean well. And let’s be honest, the status quo was pretty much developed because it’s quite nice to have warm, safe shelter and food on the table. When we run after our dreams, sometimes those dreams don’t come with things like stability or paychecks or health insurance. Great Aunt Gretel just wants us warm and fed and also not living in her house.

We can’t blame her for that.

And this is why we’ll be gentle with our responses when she comes at us. We’ll remind her that we really have thought it through, and we’re really sure this will eventually be a blessing. A weird blessing, maybe. But a blessing none the less.

I understand what might happen here, okay?

Because we’re adults we understand the consequences of our actions, and we have no desire to leave our loved ones in danger or despair. We’re trying to manage the dream and the reality, right?

Right. And that’s why we get our permission slip. This is going to be fantastic.

You can do it, I promise. You can make the changes needed to live your calling and your dream. And maybe one day Great Aunt Gretel will look around at all you’ve changed and smile a little, tiny bit.

We can always hope.

How to get a clean kitchen and make your loved one very, very happy.

clean-kitchen-header
An alternate, and perhaps more truthful, title.

Desperate for a clean kitchen? Are you looking around with wild eyes, realizing the place is a mess and you’re about to get in serious trouble for it?

Look, now’s not the time to point fingers, alrighty? It doesn’t matter how your kitchen got to this state. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been sick or busy, or cooking up a storm, or if you’ve been intolerably lazy since the day you were born.

None of that matters now. What matters is that you have a bombed-out kitchen and need to get it clean before your spouse/roommate/soulmate/parental unit loses it again tonight when he or she walks in the door.

I’m here for you. We can do this. You can absolutely get this place cleaned up and make your loved one happy and glad and joyous. You want a happy house, right?

Here’s what needs to happen:

Step 1A: Summon your will from the deepest, strongest place in your guts. This next hour is not for wimps. But you can take this place from gross sanitation hazard to sparkling, Grandma-approved glory. It just takes guts, that’s all. And some hot water and soap and a dishcloth, also.

(Step 1A2: Please go get some soap and a dishcloth if you do not own these things. Dear heavens.)

dishcloth-drying

Step 1B: Determine if you have an appliance known as a dishwasher. If no, skip to step 3. If yes, determine if this is a crappy appliance that only swishes lukewarm water over the dishes, or if it’s an actual appliance of quality that can blast crud off your dishware. If it’s the crappy kind, no worries. We can totally work with that too. You’ll just have to rinse off the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher, or run it a few times. What matters is that you have a handy box to hide the dirty dishes while they get “clean.”

Step 2: Find your sink and empty it out. Pull all the dirty dishes out and pile them on the counter. While you’re doing this, rinse them off. Scrape off the crud with a spatula or a spoon or something (be careful not to ruin delicate surfaces if you have fancy stuff).

Travel around the kitchen (and the rest of the house while you’re at it) and gather up the rest of the dirty dishes, pots, pans, and what have you. Now that the sink’s empty, you can rinse and scrape those as well. Pile everything on the counter near the sink.

I realize this seems like a stupid step if you’re trying to clean the dishes– why not just wash them right away? Scraping and rinsing dishes will keep your dishwater from turning into a disgusting swamp immediately, that’s why. And it gives your dishwasher a fighting chance if you have seriously gunky dishes to put in there.

clean kitchen

Neatly fit all the dishes you can manage into the dishwasher. Big plates go together on the bottom, the silverware all needs to be put into the basket, and then cups and things that will melt in the drying cycle (like those cheap plastic containers for leftovers) go on the top, away from the heater. Make it look like an army general lined up his troops. That will get the water swished around the best, therefore you’ll get the cleanest dishes. Fill the soap dispenser (do NOT use regular dish soap– use dishwashing detergent) and turn the blessed machine on.

Do not lose your will to live just yet. We’re halfway to a clean kitchen!

Step 3: Clean your sink. All that loosened food is probably sitting in the basket at the bottom, plus the sides are disgusting. Empty out the baskets on both sides and wipe down the whole sink. Now you’re ready to actually wash the dishes that didn’t fit into the dishwasher.

Step 4: Half-fill the sink with hot, soapy water. Take the dishcloth or scrubber and get at those dishes. This will take the proverbial elbow grease. Rinse each dish off with hot water, check to make sure it’s actually clean, and then rest it upside down to drain out. You can lay the dishes in a rack or on a clean towel on the counter.

When the dishwater turns gray and the bubbles disappear, it’s time for fresh water. Drain out the nastiness, empty the basket, replug the sink, and start with new soap and new water. Trust me, you can’t just add more soap to the gross water. It’s still gross water. You may have to replace your water a few times if you have a lot of really dirty dishes.

If you have a dish that truly won’t come clean, throw it in the trash. Ha! Totally kidding. You can squirt a little dish soap in, add some really hot water, and let it soak.

Step 5: Wipe down all the counters and the stovetop with a wet cloth. Wipe the crumbs into your hand and throw them in the trash. Scrub the sticky and gunky parts until clean.

Step 6: Sweep the floor and then scoop up the dirt. Throw it into the trash.

Step 7: Take out the trash. Put in a fresh bag.

Step 8: Decide what to do with those drying dishes. If your loved one has really high standards, show them a little extra love and actually dry them and put them away. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it. If they’re a little more relaxed, they probably won’t mind a tidy pile of drying dishes.

clean dishes in a clean kitchen

I figure that God invented evaporation, so why should I hurry his process? I let the dishes air dry.

Step 9: Finish scrubbing any of the dishes you had to let soak. Rinse them. Add them to the happy, clean kitchen pile of joy and delight. (Maybe I get a little too excited about this?)

Step 10: Clean out the sink again. Drain the water, wipe down the sink sides, and clean out the basket into the trash. Rinse the sink. Wipe down the faucet and the area on top of the sink to get rid of hard water stains. Rinse out the cloth and spread it out over the faucet or the sink partition to dry.

Now take a look around and give the room the hairy eyeball. Do you now have a clean kitchen? Does it smell fresh? It should feel better. Rooms that have been lovingly cared for always feel better.

But let’s think about this on a deeper level

I’m not sure why, but there’s a connection between the physical act of caring for something and how we feel about it. We can’t control much in life, right? We have job problems and relationship trouble and money challenges. But we can control how we care for the spaces we live and the things we own, and that care can change our entire outlook on our situation.

A clean kitchen means we’re doing the best with what we have. We don’t have to have luxurious homes with the fanciest things– our grandparents often had simple, old, basic kitchens but cooked wonderful meals and made loving memories. They knew the value of caring for what they had.

I hope this silly little blog post helps you do the same, and grow a little more content in the process.

And…ahem… Gentlemen, wives often really appreciate a clean kitchen. Wink wink, nudge nudge. That’s all I have to say about that.

God is going to do whatever he wants, and I’m prepared to work with that.

I feel like God’s preparing me to one day write a book titled God Is Going To Do Whatever He Wants, and I Am Prepared to Work With That.

Catchy, no?

It would totally fit with my tradition of book titles that are impossible to type quickly.

(This is why I have editors. They reel me in before I get too weird.) ((But blogs don’t have editors so I can write whatever I want.))
ANYWAY. WE HAVE BIG NEWS, so let’s get to it. I’ve been offered a new contract to write another book! Kregel Publications has accepted my proposed book for stressed out Christian women. If you’re a subscriber to my email list, you already know all this. (This is one of the perks of being on the email list– you get the exciting news first! Click here if you’d like to join.)

big news, new book!

But back to my title at the beginning of this post– truly, God is going to do whatever he wants. And I have decided that I’m prepared to work with whatever he brings my way. I did not expect this book proposal to have life after this long wait. I had laid it to rest and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Meanwhile, God was waiting for… I don’t know what. I have no idea. I know it’s been a long and gritty season of quiet, but that’s only what I can see from here. I have no idea what has been going on above and beyond this earthly spot.

I do know this. I had given up on writing as I knew it, but I hadn’t given up on God. I knew he may have changed directions or stilled my work, but I that didn’t mean he had abandoned me. After I cried a little (okay, a lot) about failing him, I waited for whatever new thing he had planned.

And you know what? It turns out he planned a new version of the old thing. The writing wasn’t dead at all, it was just taking its time.

And you, my friend who may be waiting for your own new thing– I’m praying for you today. I’m praying for the job news, or the baby news, or the letter from the school of your choice. Of course I’m praying that you’re on exactly the right track and ready to move with God, but I’m also praying that his plan will bring you peace, even if the outcome isn’t one you would prefer.

I started Plug My Ears with this passage from Isaiah 55:8-9, and I think it fits today beautifully:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Amen, amen, amen.

I quit Facebook cold turkey, and nothing terrible happened

I don’t know what came over me last Friday, but I suddenly became sick and tired of Facebook and all other social media. And then I quit it all.

Well, I sort of quit. I get some vital emails through FB’s Messenger app and social media is sort of my job. I can’t exactly quit for good. But I can certainly turn down the volume to a manageable level, so for the whole weekend I just ignored it.
Relief. Let’s just breathe in some fresh air called relief. Human beings filter our communications for a reason–  no one wants to know every little thing we think. Our opinions aren’t meant to be shared 24 hours a day, and I live with two middle schoolers so I know what I’m talking about.

(Is there a group in the history of the world who is more prone to sharing their opinions all the time? I have not yet found a group more opinionated than kids in middle school. Pray for me.)

quitting social media

Silence is sometimes the most valuable thing we could hope to experience, in other words.

I’m not discounting the value of social media, because sometimes it’s awesome. I love it for the following reasons:

  • pregnancy announcements
  • photos and videos of children being adorable for any reason
  • funny stories
  • vacation photos
  • etcetera, etcetera.

But it’s equally awful for these reasons:

  • political blathering and fighting
  • thoughtless comments disguised as “sharing my truth”
  • memes that are so idiotic I begin to seriously question my relationship with the fool who posted it to their feed
  • general pigheadedness

I’m worried the general pigheadedness is so loud we can’t hear the important stuff. If we’re buried in status updates for hours a day, are we leaving room for the important information? Can we hear our families when they speak to us? Can we discern wisdom and truth from the junk anymore?

Jesus said this:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

(John 10:27, biblegateway.com)

How can I even hear Jesus when I have 32 videos of Donald Trump flapping his lips in front of me? And let’s not discount the twelve memes of cats in tutus, and two posts urging me to click like so baby koalas aren’t killed by terrorists.

Let’s turn down the noise and turn up the valuable, life-bringing, all-powerful information we need to live lives that glorify God. The cats in tutus can continue without us for a few minutes, I believe. And no one needs to hear anything Donald Trump is saying.

But maybe I’ve crossed the line to my own political blatherings here. I apologize. And may the rest of your day be filled with valuable conversations and time with your loved ones.

 

 

 

 

Permission to Trust God (Even If It Doesn’t Make Sense)

[Today I’m super excited to introduce you all to Andrew Gilmore, a fellow writer and Bible lover. I hope you love this guest post he wrote, and I hope you check out his website and other writing. His link’s at the bottom of the post!]

If God told you to jump off of a cliff would you do it?

Okay, not a fair question. But I ask it only to make this next one seem not so ridiculous: If you had leprosy and God told you to go skinny dipping in a muddy river, would you do it? Don’t answer just yet. Ponder it while I tell you this story:

There’s a lake not too far from my house. That sounds luxurious, I know, but believe me. It’s not. Even its name—Lake Thunderbird—evokes a sense of legitimacy. Despite pretense, Thunderbird’s not all that nice. The lake is a manmade reservoir and supplies drinking water for us Normanites and surrounding central Oklahoma communities. That it could be used as a “lake” for recreation almost seems like it was an afterthought.

But these aren’t the only reasons Thunderbird is lacking. You see the lake, for want of a rock bottom, is murky. And if you know anything about Oklahoma, you know our dirt isn’t brown; it’s red. That causes the lake to be exceptionally cloudy and give off that cesspool kind of a vibe. (Did I mention we drink that?) As a result the lake has rightly earned the nickname Dirtybird.

I bring up Lake Dirtybird because that’s the image I get when I read the story of Naaman. You remember him, right? The big bad Syrian who happened to have incurable leprosy. But when his wife’s servant girl mentioned there was a prophet in Samaria who could heal Naaman, the quest was on. What did he have to lose?

When Naaman came to Elijah for help, here’s what the prophet said: Go wash in the muddy nasty Jordan seven times and you will be healed. (That’s me paraphrasing.) How did Naaman respond? Angrily. “Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’” (2 Kings 5:11). Hear that? He was so pompous, he referred to himself in the third person!


Naaman wanted to be healed, but he wanted to be healed his way. He had a preconceived notion of how things should go down, how God should do His job. What makes dipping in the Jordan seven times any more ridiculous than Elijah waving his hand like a crazy man?

Truth is, I act like Naaman all the time. I ask God for things, but then I get upset when they don’t come the way I expected, or when I have to do uncomfortable things to get them. God, please don’t ask me to swim in that lake. Naaman is a great reminder that God knows exactly what He’s doing, and we would do well to trust him (even if it means getting a little muddy).

 

GilmoreHeadshot
Andrew Gilmore

Andew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God, but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration they need to connect with their Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.

Think you’re stuck in life? Think again!

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I’ve been slowly making my way through My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Preud’homme. (If you’ve seen  the movie Julie & Julia, you have a good idea of the book.)  Julia and her Alex, her nephew-in-law, went back through old letters and memories and then transcribed them into a pure delight of a book.

Did you know Julia didn’t move to Paris until she was 36 years old? She didn’t really find her love of cooking until she was 37! Raised in a wealthy Californian family, she grew up with cooks who turned out all sorts of bland American food, so the art of excellent cooking with fresh ingredients was foreign to her. Her love of these things caught her off guard.

She discovered them by taking risks, trying new things, and then working really hard until she perfected them.

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Let’s all be more like Julia, shall we? Let’s try that new recipe or craft project. Let’s start writing that book or planning that trip or designing that new business. It’s never to late to find what we really love, what God has for the next season of our lives.

Don’t be discouraged if early attempts are pitiful and awful and a little bit humiliating. That’s part of the fun! Here’s proof:

The first meal I ever cooked for Paul was a bit more ambitious: brains simmered in red wine! I’m not quite sure why I picked that particular dish, other than that it sounded exotic and would be a fun way to impress my new husband. …In fact, the dinner was a disaster. Paul was unfailingly patient, but years later he’d admit to an interviewer, “Her first attempts were not altogether successful…I was brave because I wanted to marry Julia. I trust I did not betray my point of view.” (pg. 6)

Julia Child cooked brains simmered in wine for her first married meal. And it was ghastly.

If she can goof it up like this, so can we. She eventually became a world-famous chef and now her kitchen is on display in the National Museum of American History.

All because she didn’t give up after that brains-in-wine debacle. So let’s stop with the excuses and get to the next thing God has for us, shall we?

 

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