Thursday, July 24, 2014

faith, hope, & joy: a lesson from VBS

This week has been VBS, and to be honest I went into it pretty negatively. It was only 3 days for 2 hours each day; I'm used to 5 days of VBS, all morning each day. Set-up was done in just a couple of hours; I'm used to spending most of the week before VBS at the church building doing set-up and decorations. I was going to be walking around from station to station with a group of kids; I'm used to classroom teaching and time to get to know the kids.

Basically, things weren't going to be done the way I expected, and I got negative.

Then I was talking about school with Nathan. I was upset about how things are progressing-- or not progressing, to be honest. I was frustrated about being looked down on and judged. I was tired of doing things the right way only to be knocked down-- over and over again.

So again, things weren't going the way I expected.

And when my own kids started talking back to me and being mean to each other and just plain not listening, I felt like a failure as a mom. They were being disrespectful...

and weren't behaving the way I expected.

 I was watching the total lack of sales on all of my books on Amazon, wondering why in the world I was even writing if nothing was going to come of any of it. I hadn't made enough money to just stop all this school nonsense and write for a living.

Again, not how I expected.

Woe is me, huh?
 I was wallowing in self-pity, focused on how nothing was going the way I planned. Looking around, I was pretty much seeing life as rotten.

Then Nathan did something he really didn't want to do-- he told me how negative I was being and how utterly miserable I seemed, no matter what was going on.

I was hurt and mad, and Nathan went to bed that afternoon (so he could get up to work the night shift) pretty sure he would wake up to the silent treatment.

I went out to work on the yard, and I was pulling weeds with a vengeance. And even that was making me mad, because each time I looked up I was just faced with the overwhelming number of weeds I still had to deal with.

In the middle of that, though, something happened. I was reminded (again) that I'm not in control. I was reminded (AGAIN) that my way isn't God's way. When Nathan woke up for work, he was greeted with an apology and a thank you.

VBS Tuesday night talked about hope, and Wednesday night was joy. One of the things I was being negative about became the very reason I was convicted-- the negativity and pessimism and "woe is me" attitude was completely choking out the hope and joy I should have.

My circumstances haven't miraculously changed. There are still some things about VBS this week that I didn't full agree with, things with school are still up in the air, and my kids haven't suddenly developed perfect self-control. For that matter, the yard still needs lots of work!

What is starting to change, though, is my attitude. I'm trying to give up my stubborn, constant desire for control. I'm trying to regain the joy I once had, the optimism and hope that once guided my life because of my faith in the One who is Hope and Joy. 

Instead of looking at VBS as negative just because it wasn't what I expected, I've realized that God worked through it this week-- in spite of me. Instead of focusing on how often my kids fight with each other, I'm starting to focus on how much they love each other and how often they cuddle up next to each other. Instead of seeing school as something that's draining me, I'm trying to see it as the amazing opportunity that it is, one a lot of people don't get.

Things have never come easy for me. A lot of my time and attention lately has been spent focusing on looking forward to a time when things will-- but in doing that, I've fallen into a trap of seeing the struggles right now as somehow unworthy, as things I have to get through as I wait for life to start. The problem with that mindset, though, is the fact that life may not ever be easy here on earth.

If I spend all my time waiting for the life I want to start, I'll miss out on the one I've been given-- and that's not something I have any right to do.

God has allowed me to live this life for a reason, and He has a plan for all of it. No matter how much I struggle for control, He's the One who has set the course. He's the One in control, even when I ignore that fact. It's like He's the parent driving the car and I'm the kid in the backseat playing with my plastic steering wheel and whining that we're not going where I think we should.

So like David, I'll pray:
"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51: 10-12

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