It's a Wonder Filled Life

Faith, Nature, and what is in my heart


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What you think you see, may not be what you see

Sometimes when we are in Church we may see something that bothers us but may actually be something different than what we think we see. The other day I could be seen texting and taking a video during church. Now if I was having a conversation about what was for dinner, or my grandchildren, or one of the many other random things I could talk about I would feel it was inappropriate, but that was not what was going on.
I don’t always get to go to church on Sunday morning. Sometimes I have to work. A dear friend of mine started sending me a 30 second or so video of the praise block and it really helped my frame of mind when I couldn’t be there in person. It helped in part because I could feel the praise and energy coming from those who were there and I could feel the love of the person sending it to me. It made it that much easier for me to worship God where I was and not feel left out. It made me know that while I was not at the church, I was part of the church and could participate. I looked forward, each week, to those videos, and my friend talked about how she tried to be discreet while taking the videos. I was just so very glad to receive them. Once I got to work each Sunday I would impatiently wait for the sound of my phone telling me I had received a text. About the time I was expecting the video, I would drive up to the prairie and sit up there just off the trail and wait. I would look around me at all of God’s creation and think about my Bible reading, but mostly I was appreciating God and my friend who was sending me a video of some of the most wonderful people that I wanted to be with, worshiping God and making me homesick.
So this last Sunday, I knew a few people who couldn’t be at Church. Some because they were traveling, some because of sickness, and some had to work. So I thought of the greatest thing that happens to/for me, when I can’t be at Church and I thought of those videos. I sent a video to several people, each because they mean so much to me and I was missing them and wanted to find a way to share the moment of praise and worship with them.
I am not saying we should all take out our phones and be texting all through Church, but I am saying that sometimes what we think we see is not the whole picture. I don’t want my friend to stop sending me videos when I can’t be where I belong on Sunday but I don’t want it to be a distraction to her or anyone else. When we can comfort or encourage another, even by an unconventional means, we should act on that without worrying about what it looks like to someone else.
Coming soon: A book review of Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted and a giveaway. When I review her book I will be giving away a copy of Interrupted to someone who comments on the blog.


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Relationships and Worship

I have been thinking a lot the last few weeks about relationships. Our relationship with God, but also our relationships with others, both those in the church and those not. Psalm 8:4 asks “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” You Version NIV. This is a pretty deep question to me. This verse doesn’t even touch the deepest question to me though. God is so majestic and powerful, the Creator of all things. His creation is beyond all our understanding and more complicated than we can even imagine but not only is He mindful of us mere humans, He wants to have a relationship with us. Wow, that kinda blows the mind doesn’t it? The most powerful, knowledgeable, and wonderful being wants not only to love us but to be in a relationship with us.
This tells me that God thinks relationships are important. We need to strive to be in a relationship with Him by reading the bible and study, and learning His ways. Not because we want to earn his love but because when we love, we desire to know more about the object of our love and we desire to do things that please the one we love. Along with this, would be learning in community. Going to Church Sunday morning and worshiping with others is very important but I think we get a lot more learning about God and deepening our relationship both with Him and our brothers and sisters at other times. Sunday school is a good time to get to know others and deepen our relationship with them as well as God. I’ve heard some say things like “I have been to Sunday school all my life and now I don’t think I need to go any more” I have a selfish reason for not liking this thought. I am much newer in the church. I have not been to Sunday school all my life. The example, experience, and knowledge that could be brought by those who feel they no longer need to go is missed by me and others who may need that one thing that only you can supply.
Small groups or life groups are also very important. The relationships can grow so much in this smaller setting. I have no idea how other small groups do things but I know that in ours we encourage, laugh, rejoice, cry, console, and so much more. We are a big family complete with the weird cousin Yvonne and the lovely Aunt that has to hug everyone at least twice each time. We are there for each other when things don’t go as we plan and we are left scrambling, and we are there to rejoice together when blessings rain on us. We are also there to help each other in our walk with Christ. We learn from the different perspectives and sometimes we are guided by the examples of those who have been walking longer than us. Sometimes we are guided by the truths we hear and realize a turn we need to make, or a new direction we need to take. It is all done with love and respect for each other and a shared Love of God and desire to please Him. We get together each week as part of our worship to our God.
Usually we have a Wednesday night meal and classes. This is a great time to get to know some of the people we go to church with but aren’t in our small group. It’s an opportunity to visit with those we don’t see as often. It is a great time to learn other’s stories and learn from their perseverance and example. We also have the opportunity to learn in the classes, each person bringing a bit of a different perspective to the conversations.
Awhile back I started hearing “worship doesn’t happen in rows, but in circles” I think I have figured out what that means. When we are truly a community we talk. We get to know each other and we have relationships. If God wants a relationship with this vessel made out of dust, then yes I do think it is worship to cultivate a relationship with Him and with others who are seeking the same. I also think that when we cultivate relationships beyond our own church, it too is worship. When we reach out to someone in our community that may not be just like us, it is reaching out to another of God’s vessels of dust that He has “crowned with glory and honor” Psalm 8:5 You Version NIV.
So let’s start a conversation. Lets find a small group that we can feel comfortable enough to share who we are. Lets go to lunch with someone we haven’t talked that much to. Let’s go to that class we were thinking of skipping. Someone there may just need what we have to offer.

Disclaimer: I admit to the fact that this is very selfish on my part. I learn so much from all those that I am able to get to know that I want to be able to get to know even more. I want to worship with you by building a relationship with you as we both build our relationship with God.

Some blogs I have found encouraging or useful lately are: http://www.thepalmerperspective.com/2014/07/03/the-romantic-part/
http://jenniferdukeslee.com/how-to-remember-god/
http://www.aholyexperience.com/
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/


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Lessons learned

This week has been full of lessons to be learned. Most weeks are, but we don’t always take the time to stop and learn those lessons.

This week I learned how important it is for me to STOP and learn the lessons. I was telling a friend that I disliked being so busy that I didn’t have time to visit a friend or help someone out on the spur of the moment, but while that is true, after sitting and taking the time to think about my week, the real problem wasn’t the busyness but rather my lack of planning. I have to plan for some down time to sit and think about my day or week. What occurred, what I heard, my reactions, and what I could or should have done differently. When I hear a sermon or read a book, I need to take some time to process it in my mind so that the lessons can sink in. There have been times that I heard a sermon and thought one particular part was the most important part but after thinking on it I came out with that plus some other valuable part that was a lesson or redirection that I really needed at that time.

Last summer I would spend a lot of time at the park contemplating my days, praying, reading the bible, and thinking about what I read as well as what I was learning in other ways. Even though my circumstances weren’t perfect, I was pretty happy. I am very happy where I am now and grateful for my changed circumstances but I do miss the down time that my body, mind and spirit need to rejuvenate and move forward.

I don’t remember who said “We make time for what we think is important” but it is really true. I have learned this last week that the time for quiet contemplation isn’t going to just happen, I have to make it happen. I have to schedule time to read, time to think about my day, what I read and hear. I also need to schedule a buffer zone in my days that I use for spontaneously dropping by a friend’s or calling someone and checking in to make sure they don’t need something. Even giving someone a helping hand.

What lessons have you learned this week? What might you need to start scheduling into your day?

Here are some blogs that I read this week that I have found encouraging. Give them a look.

 

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/what-we-need-to-remember-every-fathers-day/?utm_source=Blog+Subscribers&utm_campaign=742fa569b0-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_90981b7d90-742fa569b0-32034033

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/06/how-to-focus-in-an-age-of-distraction-make-it-a-good-summer-10-things-to-do-before-you-click-printable/

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/08/3-ways-to-really-make-new-habits/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/experience/2014/06/15/experience-america-national-parks-burns-duncan-essay/10498849/

http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/06/16/overflow

http://jenniferdukeslee.com

http://www.aholyexperience.com

To all the fathers out there, I hope you had a wonderful Fathers Day. Remember that you have a great impact on each of your children’s lives. Take the time to get to know them and leave a good footprint.


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Masks

I’ve been thinking, a lot lately, about masks. The masks we wear on purpose and the masks we wear without even thinking about them.

I believe we all wear masks. Maybe we are wearing the mask of the efficient, capable person that knows just what to do and when to do it. Maybe our mask is the mom that knows exactly how to handle every situation that comes up. We all are wearing a mask and that isn’t always a bad thing, but some masks can keep us from being fully known by those around us.

The problem with masks is not the ones we hold up for a moment or two, but the ones that we put on so long ago that they have almost become part of us. We might reach up to remove it but find it is glued on. We find that the mask is so ingrained that we don’t know how to remove it.

I think I wear several of these masks. Others look at me and see the mask, but they help me to hide what is underneath, what is hiding, the real me.

The problem is that it can be difficult to remove these masks. The ones that have become so much a part of us that others use them to define us. We may know that the real definition is something completely different, but we don’t know how to show that. Sometimes, the mask we thought we put on is not the same one that others see, but we don’t know how to change their vision or our mask. It is hard to remove some masks because the experiences that go into making the mask aren’t a topic for casual conversation. We can’t say “I dress in baggy, ill fitting, worn out clothes because experiences I have had has made me want to hide my femininity and has made me want to not be noticed.”

In my family there has been a saying that I will argue with a wall that it is really a window. I am not proud of this, but it is the truth. I have been known to argue against all evidence that my point of view is right. I work hard now to keep this in check but there are other masks that are sort of part of this one.

I try to appear as a person that thinks they know what to do, when, and knows what they are talking about. The truth is that I usually feel completely out of my element and don’t know anything. I wing it. I am hiding my lack of self-confidence and insecurities behind a mask of (what I hope others see as) competence and self-assurance.

I half jokingly say I am an introverted extrovert. The truth is that I am shy but feel that if I don’t seek and get the attention I will be like the cobweb in the corner that no one ever notices. Even the most introverted wants to be noticed and cherished for who they are.

When I first started going to the Vine church in Temple, Texas I would arrive just when it started and leave as soon as everything was over. I didn’t know very many people and I didn’t want any one to feel they had to come talk to me and I didn’t want to be standing there with no one to talk to either. I don’t really know how to do small talk and since I didn’t know these people much I wasn’t sure what to say to anyone. Fortunately, the Vine is such a loving community, they sought me out, they caught be as I was arriving or leaving and talked to me. I was shy and scared and had (in some ways still have) no idea what I am doing or how to do it.

This is probably the opposite of what most would say. I think most people would say… “Yvonne acts like she knows what she is doing even when she doesn’t” It is another mask that is hard to remove.

A friend told me “The reason we have a hard time changing is we have a set of beliefs that make us who we are and to change we have to develop a new set of beliefs that support who we want to be.” I agree with this completely, but even if we change our beliefs we still have to figure out how to take the mask off. First impressions are important and once they are made it is difficult to get others to see beyond them even when we change.

We all have a variety of masks we wear, some deliberately, others unconsciously. Some we wear because they still serve a purpose for the moment, and others because we don’t know how to take them off. We all want to be known for who we really are, rather than for our masks, but when the rubber hits the road, we are afraid. Maybe we are afraid that others won’t like us if they knew the real us. Maybe we are afraid that some pain that made us create the mask will cause a pain in others.

Lets have a conversation about masks. Why we wear them, why they are so hard to remove sometimes, why they don’t always look the same to others as to ourselves, lets even talk about our own masks and start removing them. Let’s get to know each other, our real selves with all of our quirks and inabilities. Please share your thoughts and be respectful to others. All unkind or thoughtless comments will be removed. Let’s truly love one another as we get to know each other.

Here are a few blogs I have read this week and have found helpful and encouraging.

http://freedtofly.me/2014/06/03/journey-of-rest-its-time-to-stop-running/

http://onelyric.org/2014/06/08/unfiltered/

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/tellhisstory-the-letters-between-us/?utm_source=Blog+Subscribers&utm_campaign=45bc0b4408-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_90981b7d90-45bc0b4408-32034033

 


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Gifts from above

A wonderful week filled with some good things and some that were less good. I was able to hold a Red Shouldered Hawk this week, unfortunately it was an injured animal. I also was able to pet a baby gray fox but it too was at a wildlife rehabilitator. Image
Sometimes life gives us bad things that some thing good comes out of. James 1:17 tells us “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of the heavenly lights” and Romans 8:28 tells us “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This doesn’t mean that God gives us bad experiences or makes bad things happen but instead he uses those bad things that happen because of the sin that entered the world to bring good things to us.

This week I saw the beauty of a hawk up closer than I ever thought I would, I also saw a beautiful painted bunting. Each day when I am at the park I see lots of God’s creation around me, and it makes me grateful to God, not only that he created these things but also, that he gave mankind the ability to appreciate them. We are made in God’s image so that means He loves the beauty of creation as well.
There are things in my life I am ashamed of, things that happened to me that weren’t such good experiences but I don’t want my life to be about them. I want my life to be about learning from those bad choices and learning how to deal with the hardships. Mostly I want my life to be about growing to be the woman God wants me to be. I know that I am not there yet but as we all know from the bible, God uses imperfect people to do his will. I am so grateful that through my mess, God has brought me through to where I am now. Surrounded by people I care about and care enough for me to point out my mistakes and still cheer me on. People that teach by example and will help anyone however they can. People that know what love means and live it daily.

I am grateful not that bad things have happened to me but that God has made good things come out of the bad.


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Being Grateful Even When Things Don’t Go The Way We Thought They Should

Ever have one of those days (or weeks) where you can’t seem to get anything right. Every time you start a project you either can’t complete it because of things beyond your control or it seems to blow up in your face? I think we have all had these experiences and despite how frustrating they are, we get through them. We will all have this type of experience, as they say “It’s not if, it’s when”. How we react to these situations and how we learn from them can really teach us a lot and mold our character.

My week started with me trying to fix a lawn mower at work. The first problem I ran into was that I needed to buy some parts and the only person that could do that was out for a week. I also found that there was much more wrong with the lawn mower that we first thought. One of the transmissions was frozen and would have to be fixed before it could even be moved.

This problem with the lawn mower was only the beginning. Pretty much my whole week went that way. Even when I tried to start, what I thought would be, an easy project complications quickly arose. By the end of the week I was begging anyone  to give me a simple task that I would be able to complete.
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I work in a park, with beauty all around me and I usually find it easy to be grateful and feel blessed by everything around me but this week found me struggling a little bit to shake off the grumps and look at the blessings. I found myself not listening to others as well and not wanting to do some of the things I find the most joy in doing. I didn’t like what I was letting myself be.

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So I had to change what was going on in my head. One of my old bosses use to tell me all the time, you may not have any control over what happens to you or what people say about you but you do have control over how you react to it. I know that our frame of mind will not fix all of our problems, but it can help us to see that all is not bad.
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Awhile back a friend of mine challenged me to find something good to talk about each day for a month. I chose to write about it on Facebook each night, right before I went to bed. That way each morning I would wake up, thinking about what I had written the night before. These first thoughts of the day made my day start, and continue with a grateful heart and a good outlook. In some ways this blog started there. This week, when I started noticing how much I was stressing out and how it was affecting my outlook as well as behavior, I started purposely making a list, each time I started getting frustrated, of all the things I am grateful for and how wonderful working at the park really is.

Some will say that we can’t always be happy, but I have another friend that says, “I choose to be happy”. I am not nearly the ever cheerful, happy person that she is, but I am working on it. Even on those frustrating days when we seem to be unable to accomplish much, I can see good, and I can learn about myself so that I can work on some less that desirable traits I may have uncovered.

I love helping others to learn more about nature and I am so grateful that I get to spend my days in the park watching all creation around me. One of the things I have been extremely grateful for this last week has been the friends I have been blessed with and all the things I learn from them, mostly by the examples they set and being patient for me to get to where I need to be. There are so many of you and you teach me different things. I know I have a long way to go but since a journey starts with a step, I have made a good start.

When our day/week/month starts out a little rough, lets all look to God’s creation and remember the blessings we have. I think this is one of the reasons I like sunrises and sunsets so much. It fills me with wonder, gratefulness, and awe that God would start and end each day with a song painted in the sky. This is an example we could all follow.

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How loud the stillness sings

Seeing the Prickly Pear and Indian Blanket bloom just makes my day. When the cardinals flitter from one tree to the next and the eastern bluebirds fly past me I am so grateful for a job that allows me to enjoy these things each day.

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Psalms 19:1-6 says “The Heavens declare the glory of God”. David goes on to say that even without speech or words “their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world”. When I am looking at nature I can hear their song of praise. Awhile back when I had to work one Sunday morning I said that if they sang loud enough I would hear my church singing and join in. Later I had someone ask me if I really heard them. The answer was yes. I could hear the songs of praise, even though I was twenty miles away. I can always hear the praise to God on the breeze. All of creation is singing along.

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Over the past week or so, we have had a few rain days and the results are popping out all over. If you listen you can hear the sighs of relief from the trees and, if you’re really quiet you may even hear the grass grow.

Earlier today, I read a blog post by Michael Hyatt about the practice of stillness. You can find the post at http://michaelhyatt.com/the-practice-of-stillness.html. I’m not sure that I practice stillness the way he is talking about, but I do think it is important to be still and aware of what is around you. I love watching bunch grass wave in the breeze and sitting in wonder as a bee is seeking just the right flower. My mind de-cluters and sometimes when I finish and move on to the task at hand I find the clarity in my head has allowed for better organization of my thoughts, even though I wasn’t thinking about them at the time.
Psalms 150:1-6 ends by saying, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”. Lets join the birds and all the heavens in singing His praises throughout each day.

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All scriptures have been taken from YouVersion NIV.