Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A difference in perspective. . . embracing change!

"For I know the plans I have for you. . . . " Jeremiah 29:11


Photo by Carole Amateis 2013

 Picture yourself walking along this shore with Jesus.

  As I browsed the shelves of the local bookstore, a phrase caught my eye on the cover of one particular book. . . . ."God's Plan For Your Life. . . Embracing Change."
   Embrace - meaning to enfold, grip, hug - I thought, as I reflected upon major changes in my life.  I have never thought about change in that way.
   I recalled how my mother had related to change while I was growing up.  Even adding a Christmas tree to our small living room upset her - it changed her surroundings and all the commotion of decorating it was unsettling to her.  I think once it was up, she enjoyed it.
  But she did not enjoy the process of change.
     Maybe some of that perspective rubbed off on me as a child but as I grew into adulthood I realized that change is inevitable and a part of life.  Still,I sometimes struggled with how I viewed it - especially if the change was more negative in nature. To me, positive change is much easier to accept and embrace.  As a Christian, I have learned that God is in control of every change.  Yet, have I really accepted that fact in my personal life?  Or do I find myself trying to take over the reins again and again?
  Trying to control my life instead of letting God.
          I have been a disciple of Christ since I was 17.  Did you know that the word disciple means "to be a learner"?  Well, I am still on a learning curve and probably will be until the day I leave this earth.
           Hmmmm. . . . . embracing change?   Okay, I have been through some major changes especially over the last 10 years or so. My most recent? Not being able to find full time employment since September 2011.
  And God wants me to embrace this change?
         "But, God, this is the pits.  I want to work. You've given me skills and I want to use them to help others.  And you know God, it's just you and me together here. How am I suppose to survive?"
  (oops, not trusting, again)
          "I know Lord, I know, every time I fret, I am not trusting you to take care of me.
  Please forgive me." 
 So many times I have went over this conversation with God about a multitude of things that make little sense to me.  I find myself asking God, why?  Not only for me but for friends or family in circumstances - changes - I do not understand. Well, as you may have guessed.  I picked up a copy of that book.  And it has been a wonderful blessing. So what do you do with a blessing?  You share it. 
 Thus this blog post:-) 
  A 30-day read, each time I read, I learn how to embrace change, I let it sink into my heart and soul and write down my reflections at the end of every chapter.
     I believe with all my heart that the Holy Spirit led me to that book - I mean, there were hundreds to chose from that day.   Not only that, the sermons I have been hearing at church lately are like a P.S. to the book.  God has something for me to learn.
  The Holy Spirit at work again?  Yes!
     One of the first things I learned is perspective is everything - the difference between night and day. I was  envisioning the changes in my life as like "riding on a roller coaster" - first this way, then that, not knowing what to expect, up, down, around; chaotic changes at best.  Then I realized, now, wait a minute, who is in charge of my journey?  God is.  I had to ask myself.
 "Would He put me on a roller coaster?" and then answered, "No!"  
     Now I see the truth. . . that I am walking down a path with my hand in His - it's a winding path - not a straight one, there have been some curves, some hills, some valleys, but His hand has always been there for me to hold.
   Sometimes I forget that.  "Lo, I am with you always," He said, as recorded in the book of Matthew. 
 My favorite verse. 
 Yet, I had myself on a roller coaster? 
     Other insights I am learning about change include:
(1) God does not change.  He is solid, strong, like a rock. You can  lean on Him, rest in Him, and know that His love is constant.
(2) Accept that change will always be.  And you cannot control most of it.
(3) God has a plan for your life and a purpose for  you on this earth.  Going through a multitude of changes is often part of discovering His plan.
(4) Sometimes you may fall down or stumble. I have. Let Him help you up or let Him carry you for awhile.
(5) Ask God to help you learn new ways to think about change especially if you are apt to turn toward the negative side.  You can unlearn things.
(6) Life is an exercise in solving problems - that is just the way it is.  There will never be a time when you don't have some kind of problem to solve. But you are not alone. God is with you, ask for His help.  There are other servants around too who can help:-)
(7) The past is unchangeable - no Monday morning quarterbacking.  Learn from it, accept it and move on.
(8) If you are in the habit of thinking negatively, ask God to help you think positively.  One drains your energy, the other energizes you.  Which do you think God wants for you?
(9) Ask God to reveal His plan for your life - your purpose - maybe you have had a lot of role changes where you don't even feel like you know where you belong anymore.  He still has a place for you.
(10) God is greater than we can comprehend; take Him more seriously.  He doesn't think like us - His thoughts are much higher, deeper, broader than the human mind can understand. He can do more in our lives than we ever imagined - if we let Him.(that's the part I am still learning).
 (11 While going through lots of life changes, find people to love and serve; as the saying goes, giving yourself away is the best way to bring yourself together.
(12) Try to spend more time with cheerleaders than negative scrooges - but you can still love the scrooges:-)
Well, I have more reading to do and more sermons to catch.  In the meantime, I hope my blog has been a blessing to you today.
Oh one last thing. . . . . . .if you are going through major changes, be gentle with yourself and ask other disciples to pray - there is great power in prayer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Remember, I don't even own a place to lay my head.  Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but I, the Messiah have no earthly home at all."  LB  Luke 9:58

  Currently, I am in a transition of sorts where I do not have a home of my own.  I am living with my daughter and her family right now.  In light of my situation, I thought of Jesus when He was sent by His Father to live upon the earth.  From what Scripture reveals, He probably had an earthly home with his parents Joseph and Mary as he grew up but when he began His ministry, he traveled from place to place with His disciples and as far as we can tell, had no house or dwelling He owned.

(c) Photo by Carole S. Amateis 2013
 That fact has been a comfort to me especially in a society that stresses home ownership and material possessions so much.  If Jesus, the Son of God, did not have a home, who am I to utter a word of complaint or forbid, any self pity come to mind.

I have plenty of space in the cozy loft area of my daughter's home and a place to write. . . . . pictured here:-)    I am so thankful she and her husband and my granddaughter have opened up their dwelling place to me for awhile.  They are a good example of the love of family and I am eternally grateful. (I think more families should do this for each other -  as we once did years ago in our country and some still do in other cultures.)

As I reflect upon Christ's life on earth, there were those who opened their homes to Jesus and His followers throughout His ministry.  Think how awesome that must have been.  To have the very Son of God sit down for a meal with you or spend the night in your home?

 Other times, His home may have been to lay underneath the very stars His Father created.  In those days, that was quite common.  Abit ironic, many today get away from their indoor atmospheres to go camping:-)  Jesus knew it was an awesome experience!

The Scripture I noted could also be a response from Jesus to indicate the earth was really not His home - His real home was in heaven.  He was just down here visiting for awhile - about His Father's business. 

He had a pretty big mission to fulfill His Father's plan.  He traveled about doing miracles, healing the sick, teaching others about God and making the ultimate sacrifice. . . . suffering and dying on a cross.  That loving act saved us from our sins, proclaimed us acceptable and holy for heaven.  An awesome gift beyond measure; eternal life.  That place where Jesus resides. . . . heaven. . . . is our real home as well. (It's cool we can still have Him present with us on earth though, through the Holy Spirit:-)

     Sometimes it is hard to grasp this truth - that we, as human beings, in perishable bodies, are just passing through life on this earth - a journey that will not last forever.  Our true homes are really in heaven, just like that of our Savior.

It is only natural that we human beings get busy with what is going on in our lives and the world around us. I am a firm believer that He put each of us on this earth for a reason and to experience abundant life, although not without struggles and trials.  But, sometimes, it literally takes the death of a loved one to wake us up to the reality that our time on this earth is fleeting and brief in comparison to eternity.

Plus,we tend to feel more comfortable with the familiar -our life here on earth.  We only have glimpses of what is to come. Books about near death experiences where people have actually been to heaven are popular as we seek to see into the future.
I think God had a reason for not telling us all about heaven. . . . and that really is where our trust and faith in the words of Jesus come into clear focus. . . ."I go to prepare a place for you".  That is what He said.  We must have faith.

    So I ,continue on life's path - all of which is part of God's plan for my life. - my present circumstance is no surprise to Him!  For now, I do not have a home I own, or even a place I rent.  If it is God's will, perhaps soon, I will have one or the other. I admit, it would be nice to have a private place and I am sure my daughter will be glad to have her loft back!
Still, as I grow older, I am learning to be content with less material possessions all the time.  I do not need a big house, lots of space or material possessions.  The only reason I would desire more space is so my children and grandchildren or family and friends could come stay with me and we'd all be together in one place:-)   If God grants me this blessing, I will certainly rejoice.  But if not, that's okay too.

  In the final analysis, the world kind of, well, seriously, has it backwards.  What we own, our material possessions or what kind of house we live in - whether a tent, mansion or in between. . . . . is not what is the most important.  It was not to Jesus.
   What was important  to Him was doing the will of His Father. . . . . . as we celebrate Easter this Sunday, let us remember His Words, "It is finished."  And rejoice that He did return to His real home - an eternal home that we can only begin to imagine and will be ours too if we confess our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior!                                                                                                  (c) Carole S. Amateis 2013

Easter Blessings to you and yours:-)




Friday, March 8, 2013

You Are The World's Seasoning

"You are the world's seasoning, to make it tolerable.  If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world?"  Matthew 5:13

Pillows I made for the bus kids.
     Working as a school bus monitor has been added to my growing list of life's experiences. At first, I wasn't too excited about it - getting up at 4:30 am is not my cup of tea as I am generally a night owl.  And I am a writer, this is not exactly how I wanted to spend my time. Yet, I love being around kids and children - have taught Sunday School, served as a Christian Education and Youth Director and worked as a sub para in area schools.
    Mainly, I needed a job and this was the only one that had come along in months.  Like the rest of the country, I have been caught in the net of a growing number of unemployed.  I have been searching diligently for another job to add to the 20 hours the bus job provided.
     As I reflect upon it, I am convinced that no matter where God puts us in this world - wherever we work, live, or go - we can serve Him and add some of His divine seasoning to other people's lives.  
     This particular bus was a two hour rural route over some pretty bumpy, washboard country roads.  My job was to assist the handicapped children on the route - one was in a wheelchair and once off the lift, I secured his chair to the floor of the bus.  The other was a student with Downs Syndrome who needed to be buckled into a secure seat and watched over. There were kids on the bus from grades K-high school and I came to know each by name as time went on and their unique personalities.
    If only for a short time,  I thank God for the opportunity this job provided - it was a unique way to serve Him - caring for some of God's special children and teenagers.  And there was an added bonus, the bus driver was a pastor and former classmate I had known for ages.  Another one of those "God things".
     One day I noticed the one little handicapped boy and some others who would sometimes fall asleep on the bus, their heads bobbing to and fro and seemingly so uncomfortable.
     Years before, my oldest granddaughter Kate had made me a neck bone pillow that I sometimes brought with me on the bus and used at home too.  If it supported my head and brought comfort - I thought, such a pillow just might do the same for the kids.  I believe God prompted me to take action.
     So, I started gathering information - each kid's interests, favorite colors and etc.  I think they were shocked someone they barely knew would care enough to make each one of them a pillow.
      "You would do that for us?" was one middle school girl's response.   "Well, yes, I will," I replied with a smile.
     Now, my next challenge, what about finding all the different fabric?  And how to pay for it?  I had a nearly new sewing machine so that was no problem. Batting was on sale at the local fabric store and a friend picked up some at a second hand store.
     I asked a quilting friend if she might have some remnants I could purchase.  "Sure do," she said, without any hesitation.  A radiant Christian, she belongs to a quilting club and the other members had fabric too - we made an exchange and they would take nothing for the fabric.  I praised God.
     What was unique about the mixture of material was that all the colors and interests the kids had mentioned were included.  Now, that has got to be another "God thing", I thought!
      Once I began the project, some of the kids asked for different shapes - well, I suppose I could do that too I thought.  So, making them was so enjoyable - each one unique and special for each student.
     Some of the kids carried them in their backpacks, others took them home and some were kept in a large bag on the bus so they could use them when needed.  They were so grateful and it made me smile:-)
     Unfortunately I have not been able to find another job to supplement the bus income which was not nearly enough. In addition, the daily rough ride  did my recurred hiatal hernia no favors and worsened symptoms.  With thought and prayer, I decided to move to another part of the country to look for work and seek medical treatment. And I am literally waiting upon the Lord. 
    It was hard to say goodbye to the kids. But I am hoping that they saw some of Christ in me not only during my time on the bus and via interactions with them but when they use the pillows I made.  Maybe I will be remembered as the "pillow lady" - ha! 
    But, the most important thing I hope and pray for is that they remember this:  "Someone cared about me, one of the kids on the bus.  A very simple act of love God planted in a bus monitor's heart spilled over to me.  
     This is more than just a fluffy, colorful pillow. . . . . . . it reflects the unconditional love of God and brings me some comfort on the long ride bus to and from school.  Maybe I should do something to help someone else?  Maybe I should get to know Jesus better?"
     If my actions planted even a single seed of love for God in one of their hearts or caused them to ponder why I did what I did. . . . it will have been worth every stitch.
     Another reflection: I got a good glimpse into the lives of school children through this job.  It is a tough world for some of them and they need lots of love.  The world is such a busy place, who takes the time to really care?  I know some do - I met them while on the job.
     I think God calls us to care and be different than those who do not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  What do you think?
     Can you share a time when God dropped a loving idea into your heart and you added some of His divine seasoning to a situation?
God Bless. . . . . . . Carole