It's a Wonder Filled Life

Faith, Nature, and what is in my heart


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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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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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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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