Quarantine Thoughts

It’s snowing dancing snowflakes, millions and millions of them, and I’m not going anywhere today. The lights are shining on our baby Christmas tree. I have coffee and blankets and lots to keep me busy. It’s a good day to be stuck in quarantine. This is what we dream of- a day off in a warm house as winter settles in outside. Can I pause and see the beauty? Embrace the opportunity? If course the circumstances aren’t ideal, but are they ever really?

Snow on Main Street

My sister tested positive for Covid, but she’s feeling better, and I’m not sick yet. Of course I’m dreading getting sick, but to worry about it isn’t going to help me or anybody else. Can I just rest today? There have been several really stressful days recently trying to deal with life as it is right now, and I desperately need some real rest in Jesus.

The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel. -Joel 3:16 NKJV

These days, it seems like the earth is being shaken. We are in month nine of the pandemic, and it feels like fear and confusion is what has been birthed, along with plenty of frustration. We are tired of all the drama. Let’s not even talk about the election… And in our personal lives, unexpected and stressful things happen.

There is still truth, though, if we are willing to accept it. This verse holds an important fact: In Jesus, we are sheltered. Not sheltered as in nothing bad will happen to us, but sheltered as a child held in their daddy’s arms is sheltered, though bad things are happening all around. I am sheltered today, in this cozy house, and in the strength of Jesus.

#coziness

If I had to work today, I’d be stressed about the weather, because I don’t have snow tires on my car yet. But my car can stay in the parking lot all day, and it’s one less thing to worry about at the moment. It can snow all it wants to today, which is exactly what it looks like it’s going to do. And I can breathe. I need to breathe. It’s my normal to be stressed. So can I please have a little abnormality and just let it all go today?

Maybe God knew I needed recharging time, a break from the busyness. I’ve been really busy the past several months, and it’s been wearing me down. This is a forced vacation. Maybe it’ll help me to reestablish some much needed perspective on life. “It is what it is,” as a friend of mine would say. There is unfortunately nothing we can do to make the present reality go away, so we’ll have to come to some level of acceptance with it. Perhaps it can be a time of making positive memories- and there’s even the possibility it could be a time of great productivity.

I tried to convince my sister that we should start a Youtube channel. We even came up with a name for it: Commonsensical. However, she would like to preserve her reputation, and as usual, she finds the idea to be rather unrealistic. It might be realistic if we had WiFi in the apartment, but we don’t. So, I suppose I shall try to defer to the voice of reason. I have a blog already; how would I maintain a Youtube channel anyway?

There are other ways to be productive, and the homemaker within me will find things that need to be done. When you live in and care for a home, even if it is only an apartment, there are all manner of things to do. My creativity will also have a chance to prove itself, in the departments of cookery, scrapbooking, and writing. Maybe I’ll read more. And I can bake all the sourdough bread I like. The only problem is that someone will need to eat all that bread, and I’m pretty sure the neighbors wouldn’t appreciate loaves that have come from a covid-infected house. So perhaps I should rein in my Breadmaking obsession a little bit and do some sewing instead. Ugh. Or maybe I’ll just keep procrastinating on the sewing.

So Much Sourdough

I think the hardest part of this quarantine will be in missing people. I don’t need many people, but the ones I need, I hold pretty close. My child I babysit, for instance. Nannies and babysitters can become very attached. It’s not just a job; it’s a commitment to loving and helping to raise the child or children. And my church family- I will miss them. This spring when we weren’t having actual church services, that was one of the hardest things for me about the new requirements. I need church, and I think that’s supposed to be the way it is.

But… today is beautiful, and God is good. At work lately, the little one has been loving three songs, two of which happen to be “Goodness of God” and Jamie Grace’s “Beautiful Day.” Both of them carry messages I need to hold on to in this time. Listen to them if you have a moment today; it’ll be good for your heart.

Obsessed with Homemaking?!

Are there any single ladies who are a little obsessed with homemaking? Are there really unmarried women who follow wearethehomemakers, rememberingtheoldways, and thehomemakingmomma on Instagram? Yes, I’m guilty as charged. Not that it’s a bad thing to do, but it might be a tad peculiar.

There’s something about having a space that you, as a woman, can be the preserver of. The Bible tells wives in the book of Titus to be “keepers at home.” What does that actually mean? Just a quick search online and I find that this phrase is the Greek word oikourgous, which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “working at home.” The home is our domain. It’s written on our hearts, ladies. As a single woman, I long for this kind of life. I know, we live in a career-driven age, and it’s not exactly popular to want this thing that’s been written on our hearts. But, if you, like me, have a dream of a cottage with a garden and a husband and babies, I understand. It’s an old-fashioned dream, and that’s just fine.

I may be a little obsessed with homemaking; I’m also a little obsessed with Breadmaking. The smell of yeast, though, isn’t it synonomous with traditional housewives? I love rubbing the top of still hot bread with butter and wrapping it up in a towel to keep it soft. It’s a little bit like putting a baby to bed. Then there are things like biscuits with flaky layers made from scratch and sour cream muffins toasty brown and warm from the oven. Don’t they just delight your soul? If you’ve never made an apple pie from start to finish, beginning with picking up the apples from under the apple tree and ending with pulling the pie from the oven, you have missed out on such a satisfying feeling. Preparing food, it’s a basic skill of life, and we still need hands willing to make the food.

Did you know that cleaning can actually be relaxing? Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not volunteering to come clean your house. I used to clean houses, and it can be such tiring, hard work. But when it is your own home you are cleaning, it feels so rewarding. Also, as a nanny, I used to have about a two hour time span each afternoon while the little one slept, in which I would often clean and cook. I find, as she no longer naps every day, that I miss those times of cleaning. It was a break for my mind to have simple, routine things to do that required little mental energy. If you’re a mom, or you care for children, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes, our brains just need a rest, too.

Cooking, cleaning, babies. I held a new baby today. He’s only six days old. I know we’re living in a time where the debate rages hot about abortion. Let me just say this: abortion is enabling women to kill the very dearest dreams of other women. Some of us long for a baby to hold, to feed, to love, to protect. It’s an amazing fact that our bodies, as women, were designed to produce life. It’s a gift we have; let’s not destroy that gift. We get to be the ones to have babies! We get to nourish them and help them grow, kiss their little heads and tell them we love them, and watch them become adults with dreams of their own.

Excuse the poor artwork here- I’m a writer, not an artist, but hopefully you can see the message I’m trying to convey with the picture.

I’m glad God made me a woman, even with all the unfulfilled longings that come with that right now- that deep desire to have a home and family of my own. And even with the crazy emotions and the kind of mind and heart that will continue to be mystifying to the men until the end of the world!

Unapologetically Old-fashioned

I’m old-fashioned. It doesn’t take much skill to discern that fact. I used to want to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, and there was also my desire to live without electricity. Among my possessions, I still have the very worn-out sunbonnet I had as a child. Well, time machines aren’t real, and I never did get to teach school in a one-room schoolhouse back in the days of Laura Ingalls. The privilege of living without electricity was also not to be mine- a fact for which I am now grateful. It sounds idyllic and fun in theory, but in reality, I like being able to switch a light on if I wake up before dawn. I am very fond of running water and indoor plumbing as well. Yet, even though as an adult I can see the impracticality of trying to live behind the times, I have not lost my love of things old-fashioned.

“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

I was listening to a podcast recently, and one of the hosts only seldom reads books written by authors that are currently alive. It may sound silly to many people, but I also find that many times, the books that are best are the old ones. As the world becomes more and more modern, our language has grown less sophisticated and beautiful. Kids say, “Whatev. Legit. IDK.” Without Autocorrect, many people wouldn’t even be able to spell half decently. I like books that use big words and complicated sentences- meaty books that stretch your mind rather than the ones that are written for today’s adults on a fifth grade reading level. I’m talking about great authors like Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Harold Bell Wright, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lloyd C. Douglas. I am beginning to feel that there are many other old books I should read also, classics that I have not exposed myself to. The possibilities are vast. I appreciate old books, as in, books that have been well-loved, the kind where the covers are worn and the pages are noticeably aged. They have a beauty different from the beauty of a fresh, crisp book from Barnes and Noble. Believe me, I do like new books, but old books can be appreciated in a way that new books cannot. 

My taste in clothes is often decidedly vintage. My wardrobe is rather haphazard at the moment, and it most certainly is not one of those ideal situations where each item is purposefully chosen. Maybe someday… If I could construct a wardrobe heedless of practicality and cost, there would be linen and adorable retro style dresses for starters. Some lace certainly would be a must, not overdone, you understand, but a touch here and there. I find it unfortunate that crinolines ever went out of fashion. No, they probably weren’t very practical, but I think they were charming, very feminine and beautiful. My sister and I did an impromptu photo shoot recently, and I went armed with a shawl, a hat, a book, and high-heeled boots. She thought I was a little weird. Well, maybe more than just a little weird. I will admit my tastes are rather odd in this comfort-crazed day in fashion, but that’s okay. 

Modern art is not for me. I like the picturesque, other era paintings, like “Young Girl Reading,” done by Jean-Honore Fragonard. Those pictures that depict a woman in the garden picking flowers or a woman with her baby in times long gone are the kind of pictures that are likely to capture my attention. “Breakfast in Bed,” by Mary Cassatt, is adorable. There is something about the simple beauty of women in a time when the woman was primarily a wife and mother that is synonymous with my beliefs and values.

In the movie world, I also tend to gravitate toward those stories that tell of life in England or America long ago. The 2009 BBC version of “Emma,” with Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai is so good. I watched and rewatched and rewatched that movie. “Pride and Prejudice” starring Colin Firth is epic. “Little Women,” PBS 2017, is so well done. If you’ve read previous blog posts of mine, you’ll also know that I am a fan of Middle Earth and the Peter Jackson LOTR movies. I suppose those don’t really fit in the genre of the other movies I mentioned, but still, it tells of a different time in a non-modern world. Yes, I admit I sometimes get the urge to watch a lame Hallmark movie, with a predictable plot line, but I do not consider those to be masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination. Except (there’s always an exception) “The Bridge,” based on the book by Karen Kingsbury. I didn’t really like the book much after watching the movie; it was one of those instances where the movie is actually way better than the book. That is a modern-day movie, which I really loved. It had me all inspired to start a bookstore! But then again, consider- a movie that focuses on a bookstore plus romance- how could I not love it? 

Does anyone else love sealing wax? I do. Or letters? There’s nothing else quite like a hand-written letter. Text messages just don’t compare. For centuries, news was exchanged using the simple method of writing words on real paper and sending the missile off to be delivered to the party concerned. Why, oh why, was it not sufficient? Why do humans forever have to be “improving” on the old tried and true methods? What could be more romantic than love letters, with perhaps a rose pressed between the pages. Okay, now I’m dreaming… Honestly though, would you rather receive a text saying, “Wud u go out with me Fri night?” or a letter addressed to Miss _____, asking if it would be agreeable to the young lady to accept an invitation to dinner? Tastes may differ, but I know which sounds more romantic. It’s not the text message. 

Let’s not rush throwing away those old books, those old styles, even those old ideas. New is not always better. Sometimes, in our haste to run from the old, we throw away valuable, timeless wisdom and peace. Take, for instance, the matter of faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is a belief that has been around for 2000 years, and long before that, there was the expectation of the Messiah, the belief that He would come. Yes, to some people, faith sounds outdated. But tell me, has our world grown kinder and more at peace in this age of science and godlessness? Much has been lost in rejecting faith. Before you scoff at and throw away the old things, consider what will be lost when they are gone. 

You don’t need to be a lover of old books or vintage clothes. That kind of life isn’t for everyone. But do yourself a favor. Don’t run to the newest ideas and the latest in technology, the most modern house on the street and the most recent fad in apparel. Search for the beauty that is to be found in that which has aged well, in the things which have “stood the test of time.”

Autumn Anticipation

I get really excited about autumn. It’s my favorite season, without a question, and it never lasts long enough. I sipped my first pumpkin spice latte of this fall mid-August, while browsing in a local furniture and decor store. They are already displaying their autumnal merchandise, and it inspired me to come home and get out my fall decor. My roommates think it’s a little early, but they are tolerating my mood. I believe there’s a subtle difference between tolerating something and embracing something, but that’s okay.  

Call me crazy, impatient, or just a little overly enthusiastic, but fall makes me happy. There’s a video on Youtube that I feel a kinship with. The lady is so exuberant in her love of and anticipation for fall; she’s a true kindred spirit (let’s overlook the fact that she’s only an actress). It’s the little things in life that delight people like us. And our delight in those little things is slightly more, um, shall we say: obvious, than it is in the average person. That’s okay with us. We’re okay with being a little eccentric and odd- well, part of the time.

If you need some fall reading to go with your next Pumpkin Spice Latte, check out “When the Frost is on the Punkin” by James Whitcomb Riley. I love this poem and actually memorized it once upon a time. It has such an irresistible rhythm, and besides, it really captures the best of the season.  You can read it online at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44956/when-the-frost-is-on-the-punkin

I bought an adorable pair of light brown boots at the mall this summer. They have heels, which make boots so much more feminine, stylish, sophisticated. They were on clearance for seven dollars! One of those finds that is unexpected and blissfully fun. Even so, I was quite indecisive as to whether or not to buy them. I decided yes, and I’m so glad I did. It was a great thing to spend some tip money on. Those boots- my brown dresses- fuzzy sweaters and scarves… autumn colors are my happy. They are warm and cozy colors, reminiscent of the autumn that we as humans long for, but so often are deprived of, in this fast-paced, modern, urban world. 

There was a time when pumpkins grew in backyard gardens, rather than being mass produced for shopping centers. Fall foliage was a natural part of life, instead of being a weekend sightseeing trip. When was the last time you walked among the goldenrod and asters; how long has it been since you experienced the satisfaction of picking up buckets of apples? 

Harvest is the gift given to us at the end of summer. For while we can help in the work of harvest, we cannot produce it. Only God can do that. Nevertheless, our souls are fed by being a part of the transformation from seed to fruit. I do realize that we can’t all experience harvest, and thus, autumn, as it was meant to be experienced. I have no garden this year. My home happens to be an apartment, and my yard is basically a parking lot. The same is true for multitudes of people in the world. But even when our circumstances don’t allow for an ideal picture of fall, let us not forget what it really is. Harvest= a gift, a provision, needs met. In the spring, hope is sown. In the autumn, that hope is fulfilled. And we are thankful. 

It’s going to be easy for me to become overwhelmed during these next several months. My schedule has been busy, and I am the kind of person that gets overwhelmed far too easily. Will I make a conscious choice to savor the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn? Will I enjoy the tastiness of Pumpkin Spice Time? May I not be too distracted to fully delight in this most beautiful time of the year! 

To Do List for Fall 2020 

  1. Order pumpkin spice lattes from the nearby coffee shops. 
  2. Be intentionally grateful. 
  3. Go somewhere I’ve never been to see fall foliage.
  4. Listen to fall folk music.
  5. Visit an actual pumpkin farm. 
  6. Scrapbook a “Favorites” page for fall.
  7. Write a fall-themed piece of poetry. 
  8. Bake a pumpkin pie (or several!).
  9. Read something new.
  10. Remember to embrace the moments.

Surrender? Really?

I watched The Princess Diaries 2 with my sister last night. The queen is lecturing Mia on the terrible situations she manages to get herself into, telling her how people look up to royalty, therefore, their behavior needs to be worthy of that. She says, “Can you TRY to grasp that concept?” Mia responds in frustration, “The concept IS grasped. The execution is a little elusive.” There’s a different concept that I grasp very well in my brain, but when it comes to real life, the execution of the concept is more than just a little elusive. That concept is surrender. 

It makes so much sense in my head. To follow Jesus, we must be willing to give up everything. After all, when we give Him access to our lives, we are saying that our lives are not our own, but His. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing to consider. He knows me perfectly, because He made me, so of course He knows what is best for me. He also knows exactly how my life should look in order to bring him the most glory, which ultimately, is why we all exist in the first place. 

But I have a problem trusting Him. There was a desire I had as a teenager to invest my life in a certain little person’s life. God had different plans for her (and looking back, I am so grateful, for His plans were way better than mine), but I was devastated for a long time. Also around the same time, another little girl’s family moved, and this little girl, too, had played a vital role in my life. Later, my heart was crushed in a different way when I realized that the love I had hoped for was given to someone else. A relationship unravelled. Some of the things which I’ve longed for and valued most have a history of being taken away from me. How do you trust completely when your life is not what you dreamed of? I dream in a desperate way, yet I fear that my dearest dreams won’t ever come true, because I want them so badly. Too badly. 

This spring, I surrendered a dream of mine to God. Yet was it really surrender? For I have been struggling hard lately, longing for this dream. I’ve been angry and terribly jealous as I see one of the things I long for beginning in someone else’s life. Why can others live my dreams, and I can’t? I don’t want to become a cynical, bitter person, but that is the way I’ve been heading. It is a problem when the happiness of other people makes me so upset. Maybe surrender is like forgiveness. You can’t just forgive a person once and expect that you’ll never be mad again. You have to keep forgiving. It’s work. It’s really hard work, and it takes a long time. I think that’s the way surrender often works as well; surrender isn’t an event as much as it is a process. 

Jesus loves me; He really does, and He is not keeping my dreams from being fulfilled to be cruel. He has something incredible in mind. Can I trust His love and His plan? Really trust? Keep surrendering, as often as it takes? There are so many things He knows that I have no idea of. He is good. 

There’s part of a song by Babbie Mason quoted in a book I read years ago: 

“God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand

When you don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His heart. “

Okay, Jesus. You’re in control. I am not. I surrender. I choose to trust Your heart.

Thoughts on Life and Bread

Sourdough. It’s one of my more recent obsessions. I get these from time to time, but we won’t talk about the others here. We’re here to talk about bread today, bread and life. My sourdough starter came from a friend, a diversion during quarantine. 

I think it’s super cool. I don’t like the really sour bread (which happens when you use too much whole wheat flour), so possibly it doesn’t even make sense to do sourdough. But, I love the process, when it works well. Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t always turn out. In fact, I have a loaf of bread in the freezer right now that will probably end up in the trash. Yet, even with a failed project, I still find it fascinating that you can make bread without using regular yeast. A sourdough starter is literally just flour and water that has fermented. Yes, it sounds a little gross, but it’s also really amazing. 

Besides, there’s the whole facet of it being a true homemakerish kind of thing to do to bake bread- any bread. Bread can be so readily bought in today’s world (except during Covid, it seems), but buying bread doesn’t give you the same satisfaction as it does to work through the process yourself. Shortcuts are not always best in the long run. Maybe I should join Anne in her dislike of “modern inconveniences” (a Mr. Harrison phrase from Anne’s House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery). They make our lives easier in the moment, but are we really becoming better people by having so much done for us automatically? It’s just a thought, and I confess that I really love dishwashers and cars and hot water. 

“I should like to have it kept always just as it was in the dear old years. That’s foolish- and sentimental- and impossible. So I shall immediately become wise and practical and possible.” -Anne in Anne’s House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery

Maybe though, it’s not altogether foolish to be skeptical of some of the newer, easier ways of life. It may very well be possible (coming from an idealist, of course) to hang on to more primitive ways of life in some areas, such as, in the instance of baking bread once in a while. Try it. It may just end up feeding your soul as it does mine. 

The first time I made sourdough bread, I used my great-grandmother’s bread bowl. It may not have been the smartest thing I ever did. There is, after all, a crack in it that could potentially hold bacteria. It didn’t kill me; however, I might be wise to consider getting it resealed if I plan on making it a habit to use an antique. At any rate, using the same bread bowl that my great-grandmother used is a start in closing the generational gap that separates us. I was very young when she died and remember her only a little when she then lived with my grandparents. From what I have heard of her, I don’t think she would have approved of me, or even liked me, but possibly she would feel honored (and horrified!) that a great-granddaughter used her bread bowl. 

When you make bread, there’s the mixing. First, with a wooden spoon, and then with your hands once it becomes too difficult to mix with the spoon. Hands in bread dough- really, the practical heartbeat of the homemaker. She is doing her part to provide sustenance for those she loves. It’s a rotten shame it has become a disappearing art among today’s women. It should be a rite of passage to womanhood! Yes, that’s an opinion, not a fact. Still, there is something so metaphorical about women making bread. It’s a tangible picture of her role as a nurturer. 

Then there’s the waiting… waiting for bread to rise. With sourdough especially, the wait time is quite lengthy. Waiting for bread to rise, patient or impatient waiting. There are both. Waiting is a very real thing in the life of this woman, and probably in the lives of all others as well. Waiting for Prince Charming (actually, Prince Charming may be a little stuffy and unapproachable; I prefer someone slightly more real), waiting for marriage, for children, for her own little home… But in the waiting, the starter works in the bread, making it rise light. In my life, the yeast needs to work as well, preparing me, bringing me ever nearer to the woman God wants me to be. The process must not be rushed- not in bread, not in life. The bread dough gets punched down following the first rising, and then it rises a second time. These punches in life, those unexpected kicks in the gut- they will bring good, if we let God work in us as He desires to do. We rise, too. 

Once the bread has risen the second time, there’s a careful cut made in the top of the loaf. This can be a basic and simple step, just a slit with a sharp knife, or it can take the form of elaborate designs made with a bread lame. This is a part of sourdough bread making I want to explore further. I attempted making a heart on my last loaf. The result looked anything but professional. Granted, I only used a paring knife; maybe I should try my craft knife next time! Just imagine what fun it would be to combine art with breadmaking. Breadmaking is an art in itself, true, but to get to make the bread beautiful- now that’s food for the soul!

Finally, after a process which has taken somewhere around six and seven hours (and that’s assuming your starter was fed and ready to use), you can slide the bread into the oven. Sourdough bread is baked at a relatively high temperature, which results in a crusty outside and a soft middle. Like some people perhaps. On the outside, they can appear to be rather unapproachable and distant, not like myself. I wear my heart on my face too much of the time. But inside, their hearts most times are worth getting to know. It may be difficult cutting through that crusty layer, though. 

The bread comes out, and I butter the top to make it shine, then wrap it in a tea towel. I love tea towels. We rarely used them in my home growing up, but I certainly use them now. Once again, they hold a homemakerish charm. Tea towels, crusty bread, sourdough… this is the life. 

Thank you for joining me in my somewhat random meditations on breadmaking. Many things in life are allegory, parable, lessons in ordinary places. Seek them out! And make the bread.

Healing From Our Snakebites

Yes, it looks like a snake curled around the top of this tree. No, that’s not actually what it is. It’s simply a unique tree. I go past it on the trail where I’ve been running lately, and it reminds me of a serpent many generations ago. Perhaps you remember the story… 

“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.

“Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” -Numbers 21:4-9 NKJV

If you’ve grown up with a knowledge of the Bible, you probably know that this is an Old Testament picture of what would happen in the New Testament with Jesus. In fact, just before Jesus’ famous words in John 3:16, He tells Nicodemus, “‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’” -John 3:14-15 NKJV

Put yourself in the shoes of the Israelites for a moment, and recognize a scene that is familiar to all of us in some way. You are walking through a desert- hot, tired, sore, hungry, thirsty… and quite naturally, you begin to look for someone to blame for your misery. Or you are living through a pandemic, followed by serious rioting in response to the cruel death of a fellow human being. The financial state of many Americans is serious, including yours. You need a job. Your car is breaking down. This is your desert, and you are weary of the trek. You open your mouth to complain, and honestly, since everyone else is also complaining, you don’t see any harm in it. 

This desert, this journey through places that are unfamiliar to comfort addicted America, leads us to search for solutions, for people to look up to and to follow. Many are seeking healing for the serpent wounds that have come upon us, quite frankly, many of which have been inflicted through our own folly as a human race. Based on our personal convictions, we search for healing in different places. Some turn to the president, viewing him as a superhuman who can remedy all of our current issues. He can’t. He is only human like the rest of us, not a god to be worshipped. No president is powerful enough to heal this mess. Some turn to revenge. It’s the humanness that rises within us, saying, “Well, they started it. They hurt me, so I’ll hurt them right back.” There is so much hatred going on, so much evil, and so much pain. But we are turning to the wrong things to fix our problems. Trusting fully in human powers isn’t going to work. The problems are too big for mere humans to handle. Revenge isn’t going to work. Neither is hate. 

“It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

There is a Way through; there is One who can and does bring healing, but He is the ONLY Way that works. He’s the solid foundation that isn’t going to crumble. If we don’t repent and look upon the Son of God, we will die. There isn’t a bronze serpent that we need to look to now for healing, but a living, breathing, saving Jesus upon the cross. He is God’s provision for our unbelievable mess. Let’s turn to Him and take the unpopular road- the road of forgiveness, the road of prayer, the road of love and truth. 

Lord Jesus, I pray that we, as Your children, would come to You to say we’re sorry, to mean it from the depths of our hearts. Sorry for the blatant sins we have allowed the church to fall into, sorry for the way we’ve neglected the vulnerable, sorry for mishandling Your Word and twisting it to fit our personal preferences, sorry for turning to everything except You. I pray for a revival to sweep over this world, for a return to Truth, for there is only one Truth, and that is You. May we seek You as we have never sought You before. Change our hearts, change us, and help us to become a representation of You here on this earth. Purify us. Save us! Help us to repent! I ask this in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen. 

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NKJV 

Willing, but Weak

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” -Matthew 26:41 NKJV

This is so true- these words Jesus spoke to the disciples in the garden. In our spirits, we are willing. We purpose in our hearts to pray more, to read the Bible more, to do what Jesus has  called us to do. Our desire is to be world-changing people. In our dreams, whether spoken or unspoken, we can see ourselves serving on the foreign mission field; we want to be like those heroes of the faith that have gone before. We crave revival, masses of people turning to God in repentance and surrender. 

There is willingness in our hearts to make change happen in other ways, too. It’s easy to see that in making New Year’s Resolutions. People want to exercise more and to make better choices in what they eat, among sundry other things. I have lofty ideas of someday running a 5k, even though I’m so not athletic. I also aspire in my heart to be more organized, to be productive, to learn Spanish, to not procrastinate so much. My intentions are great. It probably is actually more so for an idealist like myself, because as idealists, we are very skilled at seeing things the way they should be rather than accepting things the way they are. 

There’s a Youtube channel I watch sometimes, and the woman is several things I would like to be. She’s intentional about exercising, she makes good food choices, she goes to bed early and gets up early, she accomplishes a lot… She is an inspiration to other people to make these kinds of changes in their lives as well. For her to live this way, though, comes down to the choices she makes on a daily basis as to how she will live her life. It’s not an effortless thing. She has formed good habits.

There is a quote hanging in the lunchroom at one of the places where I have worked that says, 

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your habits.” 

It is completely true. I can have the best intentions in the world- whether it comes to praying for revival on Tuesday nights, or running, or being more organized. But when it actually comes down to doing little things that could lead to big things, I fail so often. It’s easier to waste time on social media or watch a movie. I can make excuses: “I’m too tired. It’s too cold outside…” My spirit is willing, yes, but my flesh is weak- so weak. In our spirits, we believe that we will do world-changing things. However, when it comes right down to it: when the conference is over, and we go back to daily life… When our prayer time is finished, and we are confronted with a situation that makes us angry… When the Sunday church service is over and Monday comes… 

We were so willing in our hearts in those moments of inspiration and aspiration, but in the daily monotony and busyness and distractions, we don’t do the little things that will eventually enable us to do the big things. We give in to bad habits. There is a verse in Luke that says:

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” -Luke 16:10 NKJV

Think of Lionel in The Princess Diaries who told the queen, “Your Majesty, I would gladly take a bullet for you.” She replied, “Oh, how brave. Most interns don’t even want to fetch me my tea.” 

It’s hard work to break the bad habits. It isn’t easy to establish good habits. But we’ll be better for it. We can’t expect to excel in the big things if we disdain the small things. And there is a Savior who is willing to help our flesh fall into obedience to His Spirit. He understands the struggle. So go forth! Go forth and make the changes!