Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stick With It! Be Faithful!

There is something to be said for faithfulness, isn't there?  It sure isn't always easy to remain faithful, but in due time we see how truly beneficial and right, faithfulness is.  "Stick with it--you'll get it!"  "If at first you don't succeed:  try, try again!"  "Practice makes perfect!"  All of these are common sayings that most of us have heard growing up.  In fact, as a mom, I've used these occasionally with my children.  Most often, I use these if I note any type of discouragement in my children about something complex they're trying to achieve or something new they're trying to learn.  We all need to be reminded to "stick with it" from time to time!

I could relay a thousand examples of times Ron or I have encouraged our children to keep working at not give up.  I can look back and see how much progress has been made in certain areas.  I can also get a glimpse, so to speak, of the future in many of these same areas; I can see that progress and growth will undoubtedly continue.  

I think of my second grader who has made such progress on his reading.  He was behind when he tested at the end of last year.  I'm not positive that he's exactly where he is supposed to be, but I've seen leaps and bounds in his reading this year.  This definitely is not because I'm a fantastic home school teacher!  This is simply because he has been faithful to continue trying and I've remained faithful in reading with him daily (even when it was on the verge of being downright frustrating).  He continues to make progress.  More importantly, he is learning the value of faithfulness and a stick-with-it attitude!  

I think of my six year old and how he's become such a little builder and creator (much like his father and his older brother).  He used to get out his Lego sets and end up in tears or worse--complete meltdowns--because he couldn't figure them out on his own.  He wanted to tackle the projects, just as his brother was doing, but he definitely needed guidance and help.  We were continually encouraging him to take his time, ask for help, and keep trying.  "You'll get it," we would tell him.  He may have felt utter frustration at times, but he never stopped trying.  Just tonight, he came downstairs shortly before bedtime with a set of Lego's and stated that he was going to create this new Lego man out of this bag full of Lego's.  Darned if he didn't do it without fits!  He was creative and patient.  He has really come a long way!  We see a good deal of artistic and creative gifts in him, so it is delightful to see him making progress in this area.

I think about certain areas in my own life when faithfulness has been the only way, even when met with frustration, discouragement, or adversity.  I'm learning that God rewards faithfulness.  Again, this is not because we deserve any kind of pat on the back for a job well done.  This is simply because faithfulness is an attribute of God and when we learn to function in faithfulness, we are becoming more like Him, and He is pleased!  The reward may likely come in a renewed sense of hope in our own lives.

I had a moment in time recently when I realized that my faithfulness in a certain area--to something I believe very strongly that I am supposed to do--is getting ready to work on my behalf.  I have not done anything great.  I have only remained faithful to that which was mine to do.  I've remained faithful in the face of many doubts, questions, and some frustrations.  I have remained faithful because for quite a while that was absolutely the only thing that I knew to do.  Now, I am beginning to see a light!  I know beyond all doubts that I've faced, that this light is only here because of two reasons:  God is faithful and good, and I have learned to be faithful in this area.  There's a well-known Bible story of a servant who was given some responsibility and proved his faithfulness.  "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.' " (Matthew 25:23)  Oh, the joy!  I want to enter into the joy, don't you?  The joy of something great accomplished through God's divine help.  The joy of rest after completing your task.  The joy of the One who knows every side of the story...the One who wrote the story!  The complete joy of our master!  That's what I want.

We all have things over which we're called to be faithful.  Most of us have people whom we are called to be faithful with.  Our children, for example:  we must remain faithful to love, train, teach, pray for, encourage, spend time with, protect, and discipline them despite opposition or discouragement.  We should remain faithful to our spouse or others who God has given us to have relationship with--to walk through this life with.  It's necessary to remain faithful to other things that we may not love doing...or even like doing.  And always, we should be faithful to the things that are so deep on the inside of us that we know if we don't do them we won't fully live.  We all have things that resonate on the inside of us continually and won't let us go.  We all have passions! If they are God-given passions, we must remain faithful to them despite all odds!  They are there for a divine purpose.  If we do not remain faithful, we will not fulfill all that God desires for us to do.  I can't fulfill yours and you can't fulfill mine.  God has written a script on the inside of our hearts--each one of us--and it's ours to live!  Be faithful!  Do not give up!  Stick with it!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Lifeline

There is one verse that I find myself clinging to, time and time again:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up," Galatians 6:9.  This has been a lifeline to me in so many different seasons of my life.  I find myself encouraging others with this verse too.  And, even my husband reminded me last night of this truth.

You see, I really enjoy doing good; doing good towards other people and demonstrating God's love in all ways that I see I can.  However, I have a tendency to lose heart.  I have a tendency to become weary.  In small ways and in big ways, I can become disheartened, impatient, or just plain weary.  I know full well that I am not alone, but most of us do not wish to admit this to our peers.  

Just this morning I had a very small experience that was a perfect opportunity for me to "not lose heart."  I drove to a local store with my daughters for some bagels and smoothies (we like to get smoothies when it's just us girls).  I approached the drive-thru lane and saw that many cars were ahead, although most were approaching the lane through an alternate route, as opposed to the correct drive-thru lane.  I've done this myself occasionally, but I wait my turn if others are in line the correct way.  Anyway, several cars were in front of me (the alternate way) but I would wait patiently.  Meanwhile, another car approached the drive-thru lane through the alternate route clearly several minutes after I'd sat in line.  I can't give you an accurate picture of the set-up, but without me gunning it when it was my turn, I stood no chance of getting in front of this car....approaching the wrong way!  To my amazement, the person driving this car refused to even look my way; he got right in front of me!  Now I would wait longer!  I really struggled not to feel angry.  Okay, scratch that....I felt angry!  I try to always let others in front of me in line, whether in car or on foot.  At the grocery store, if I see the person behind me has only a few items (or a baby with them), I give them my spot in line.  To my knowledge and best recollection, I always seek to prefer others above myself in these situations--common courtesy, right?  This morning's incident really amazed me!  How often I find that what I sow is not what I get in return!  

Again, I am well aware I'm not alone in these feelings.  I am human!  I have even found myself, at rare moments, feeling this way as a mom.  Yesterday was the first time I'd ever heard myself saying, in my children's hearing, "Why am I the only one who picks up around here?"  Now, this isn't even a true statement, but at times I sure do feel that way.  I'm also fully aware that if I'm feeling this way, it's my responsibility as a mom to revisit how much help I'm expecting from my children.  Maybe in the clean-up department...not enough!  Nevertheless, I have found myself at times feeling as though I am serving, serving, serving, yet no one is looking out for me!  Ever felt that way?

Another very personal example (let me once again be vulnerable) is in the area of talents, vision, and realized dreams.  I am so often the first to encourage others' dreams and goals.  I may not have much else to offer them, but I can be a friend's biggest cheerleader.  When a friend starts a small business or creative venture, I encourage and cheer her along as loudly as I can.  I find myself weeping with joy as I watch people I know open businesses, publish books, begin ministries, record music projects, buy homes, or land their dream jobs.  I rejoice with others who are realizing their dreams and potential!  I genuinely feel happy for them!  And, if I can offer any further support, I will.  I'm not saying any of this to my credit; I think we should all celebrate with others who do well!  

However, occasionally I find myself wondering when my moment or special opportunity will come.  Do you know what I mean?  My husband and I have been wanting to move now for 4 years.  4 years of praying, looking, preparing, waiting, sowing, praying, preparing, waiting, looking....and more praying and waiting!  I really don't want to lose heart!  I am genuinely happy for others who have their moment arrive.  But what about me?  I am often the first to purchase books written by people I know.  I cheer them on as best as I can.  I celebrate their wonderful accomplishments.  But, every now and then I find myself wondering when I will accomplish this particular dream myself.  I hesitate to admit that because what if it's years before this happens?  Does all of this make me sound like a whiny child?  It just may!  I find myself thinking, as I write this, that it sounds like the ramblings of a selfish, complaining individual.  Well, this is probably true also.  I am human.  Therefore, I fall short all too often!  All too often!  I focus on me way too many times!  I fall into the trap of comparison more times than I care to admit.  Maybe you're embarrassed for me as you read this.  Or...maybe you can relate.  

My guess--though I could be wrong--is that I am not alone in these feelings.  Maybe your situation isn't quite the same, but I think most of us have had times when we wonder if we will ever reap what we sow.  We celebrate with the accomplishments of others, only to question when we'll accomplish anything worth celebrating.  We do our best to be patient, wondering if it will ever truly pay off.  We diligently aim to raise our children with consistent expectations, love, and discipline, wondering if we'll ever get through an entire family gathering without an incident that highlights our obvious failures as parents.  Whether or not you care to admit ever being in this place, I believe it is human.  I also think that is why God's word tells us to "not become weary in doing good."  "We will reap a harvest if we do not give up!"  I believe this!  I cling to this promise and to this truth, which is why I said it has been a lifeline for me.  When I find that I'm tempted to give up, or when I realize that I have grown weary, I remind myself of this truth.  The other encouragement to me is that God sees!  He sees my heart and He sees my efforts.  He sees my weaknesses and He has given me the strengths that others may see.  I can take no credit.  Apart from Him, I am nothing!  And, if I never felt weak or weary, I would not likely look to Him for strength or encouragement.  I'm thankful for those times when I am growing weary or when I feel discouraged, because that is when I am reminded that only He can fill those deep voids.  Only He can offer me true, deep, and lasting strength and encouragement!