Friday, June 28, 2013

The Gift of a Birthday

"And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life... ~1 Samuel 1:11"
Birthdays are special things. First of all they are our own personal holiday and (here's the best part...) EVERYONE gets one! How cool is that?!!! Plus, they are a reminder that God has let you live one more year. If you're someone who has had multiple near death experiences like myself, this in itself is great cause to celebrate!

Until yesterday I hadn't realized that this is my first birthday to be home in four years! (That's five birthdays.) So, today I am simply thankful to be spending this day with the two individuals who brought me into this world. 

Many of you who read this blog I have never had the chance to meet, nor have I ever even visited the country in which you live. Some of you are old friends and may have already heard this story.  Today I would like to share with each of you a story I heard for the first time just a couple of years ago..a story that's very special to me, because it is the story of how I came to have a birthday.

Many years ago my Mom was a stay at home mom who also kept the books for my Dad's construction business, so, basically, she worked two jobs. On top of that her and my Dad were also very involved in various ministries within the church they attend. Having two sons of elementary school age, free time was very limited.  Therefore, my Mom squeezed in prayer time wherever she could...even while washing dishes.

One day, while washing dishes and praying, she reminded God that in His Word He promised that if we would seek first His kingdom that He would give us the desires of our heart. She then prayed, "God...I want a little girl."  Our pastor's wife had taught her to pray specifically, so she did, stating both inner and outer characteristics she wanted her daughter to have. Like Hannah, she concluded her prayer telling God that if He would give her the desire of her heart that she would give the child back to Him.

Now, many years later, I am glad to say that God did. And she did.

God didn't just give her a daughter, but he gave her a daughter with every single characteristic she had prayed for. Alas, my list would have probably looked a little different than hers...but I digress. 

Some of you out there today are praying for something and you have prayed about it for a very long time. Perhaps it is a child. If you are seeking God's kingdom first, I encourage you, keep praying. If you aren't, stop, get your priorities straight (aka: make sure God's first place in your life), then if you still feel like it aligns with God's will, pray on! Sometimes the answer may not look exactly like what you think, but that's ok, because sometimes it's better.

So, today I am thankful simply to have breath and to be able to be with the two individuals who brought me into this world. I am, however, even more thankful that the One who created and gave me life is with me everyday and everywhere I go.  When my Mom prayed God heard and He answered. When I pray He hears and He answers. And He will do the same for you.

"For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord..." ~1 Samuel 1:27-28

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Mold

"But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”  ~Romans 9:20 (NKJV) 

Last weekend  I was coloring a picture with my niece and nephew.  It was quite large, large enough in fact for all three of us to be coloring on it at the same time. While doing this I began to observe my niece and nephew and the irony of how totally opposite their approaches to coloring were.

She would take a crayon, any crayon, and start coloring whatever random part of the picture she felt to color at the moment, with no concern whatsoever about staying in the lines.  She would then walk away, do something else for a while, come back, and commence coloring the same way. I began trying to help her. I would point to the puzzle we had just put together, which had a picture of the same characters who were in the picture we were coloring, hand her the correct color, tell her what to color, and attempt to explain to her how best to color in the lines. While she improved slightly, it was clear that she really, at that moment, couldn't have cared less. 

Then there was my nephew...nose to the grindstone. He cared about having the exact color more than I even did and was coloring so hard and carefully that it took him the same amount of time to color just a square inch as it took me to color five times that. While I didn't try so much to explain to him about coloring in the lines, since he was doing pretty good, he began asking me how to do it anyway. He observed very carefully when I showed him, asked me to show him again, then stopped to show me each section he colored, so I could see how well he did. He also sometimes pointed out minor spots where he had went over, saying, "A little's not too bad, right?"

Same birth date. Same home. Two different molds.

I've heard people use the saying, "God broke the mold when he made [insert name]." Sometimes people say this jokingly about someone who is unique in an odd way. Other times it is used in a very flattering way, expressing how special someone is. Well, newsflash, God broke the mold when he made each and everyone one of us...and I mean that both ways.

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand..." ~Psalm 139:13-18 (NKJV)
Yes, we are each molded by the hand of God...yet there is another mold the world tries to reshape us into....

A while back, while visiting a friend, she passed off a couple of magazines to me. I don't remember what they were, but they were ones that would fall in the fashion/ beauty category. It had been years since I had actually looked through any of them and I thought, "Sure, why not."  Living in different cultures often leaves me clueless as to what is actually "in style" at the moment in the U.S., which is something I have began to not really care about anyway, but I thought, maybe this will help me catch up a bit.

Well, I was very surprised the feelings that began to come over me as I did something that I had grown up doing all the time....simply browsing through a mainstream magazine, one that was quite "clean" material and picture wise. To my surprise, as I flipped through the pages I felt an anger rise up in me...the more pages I flipped, the more it grew.  As one who studied marketing techniques some in college, I subconsciously dissect advertisements and the approach they are taking to get people to buy's something I can't shut off, I just do it.  Now days these type of magazines are 80% advertisements. So as I looked through it, I saw what is subconsciously relayed to those who fall prey to the marketing: "If you don't wear this this, you're ugly."..."If you don't own this, you're a loser."..."If you don't look like her, you'll never get him." It didn't affect me much in this way, because I've been taught to read between the marketing lines, but it once did.  And most people it still does. And THIS is what made me so fiery mad. Pictures of air brushed, plastic people, many with eating disorders, who are the global prototype to guys as to what they think their woman should look and act like and to women as to what they think they have to look and act like... And it's a complete fa├žade.

The voices of this world. Sometimes they are audible, other times they aren't. Voices attempting to squeeze people into molds they are not made to fit.  There is only one mold for each person, and it was broken when they were born. God made each of use unique. On purpose.

Looks. Personality. Gifts. Talents. You are a priceless masterpiece. You are God's creation and therefore you are responsible to be a good steward of it. One way to do this is by not trying to cram yourself into a generic mold that has been created by industries exclusively for their own material gain. Exercise, eating healthy, and good hygiene are other ways, as well as regularly measuring up your treatment of others by the Word of God, and allowing God to mold you into to the best you that you can possibly be.

Be your own beautiful (or handsome) self, not a cookie cutter image of someone who has forgotten their true hair color, skin tone, and personality. Be the you the creator of the universe created. He's the one who created the beautiful mountains and the gorgeous beaches; I'm quite sure he knew exactly what he was doing when He created you.

 Surely you have things turned around!
Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay;
For shall the thing made say of him who made it,
“He did not make me”?
Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”? ~Isaiah 29:16 (NKJV)

 Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our Potter, and we all are the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8