Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bad Weather Driving Skills

I'm not a fan of bad weather. My husband, on the other hand, seems to be quite the expert in the matter. When we were engaged we were driving to a rehearsal when we hit a pretty heavy storm. I was driving and I was afraid. Zeke was very calm as he told me "the secret to thrive in a storm is to keep driving. Storms came and go so if you keep driving you will get to the other side." True enough, I kept driving and I got to the other side. You couldn't even tell it had rained at all. 

I try to remember his words when the storms of life hit my life. I want to make a plea for those of us who don't have extreme weather on us, just storms capable of scaring us quite a bit. We know they will pass (or do we?) but all we see is an enormous amount of water. Driving quite the body-mind-emotion experience. Your mind is telling your body to drive while your emotions are screaming from the top of their lungs for self-preservation's sake. The wise thing is to keep driving because the experienced driver has assured us that those precarious conditions are temporary. 

God provides us all the assurance we need to drive through the storms of life. He does that through His word. How does one keep driving through the storms of life? You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You wake up and you face the day with God's words of assurance in your heart. You repeat them out loud if you have too. You also recognize that your feelings might not be your best measures of success and progress. Feel them anyway but be anchored in God's words and His ways. On a side note, the interesting about the human body is that much like a virus, feelings have to run their course. You may feel fear but you will keep driving afraid. You may feel frustrated but you continue to do the right thing because you decided to follow God's way. I have learned that I can't ignore my feelings but I will be not mastered by them either. 

I'm not a fan of bad weather but each time I'm faced with it, I will keep driving because sunny skies come right after it. 

Taking responsibility for the Care of our Soul

We are pretty responsible when it comes for the care of our homes, bodies, children and belongings. When it comes to our souls, we often give that responsibility to others. We allow social media icons to care for our souls. We give the care of our souls to our favorite TV personalities. We even give that responsibility to people who never met us but provide us with temporary comfort and entertainment through enticing words. 

Here’s what I’m saying: there is only One Shepherd of our souls and I believe His name is Jesus. He has every answer, He has guidance, care and healing just to name a few things He gives. 

When we assume responsibility for the care of our souls, we admit that humans can’t help us with our root issues. We understand that God can do that and that through His word, we can find healing, health and guidance for our inner lives. 

When we assume responsibility for the care of our souls, we recognize that God did establish ministers (Ephesians 4:11-13) to equip us and build us up. These people are supposed to know us as they see us at least a couple of times a week and they know our families and our history. I can’t trust the care of my soul to a person who does not see me or know me. Even the people in the Bible who had seers (take David for example) had access to those guys and vice-versa. Don’t hide from the gifted people God placed in your life. Give them access so they can bless you with their spiritual care.

I believe that ultimately, when we assume the responsibility for the care of our own souls, we know that one day, we will stand before God by ourselves and we will provide answer for ourselves. If this sounds scary, I suggest you get to know the God will be sitting on the throne doing the big ask. He is incredibly good, awesomely merciful and slow to anger. 

He gives us, with each new morning, the opportunity to care for our own souls by giving Him the lead in that matter. Let us therefore, assume that responsibility as if we were ready to answer the big questions God will ask us one day. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Transition and the Dorm Room

It is weird not to have answers about your future. I didn’t have a lot of answers to give after graduating from College in the Spring of 2002. I had completed my degree and I had ‘cast the net’ for graduate schools. I wasn’t sure where I was going to be but God found a way to lead me to the place I’d meet Zeke and where my life would be forever enhanced.

I didn’t call it “transition” back then, I just thought it was part of the process. I remember moving to a temporary dorm where I put all the worldly belongings I possessed in 4 years of college in the US. I had my car by then and I was eagerly waiting for 3 Universities to answer my applications for graduate studies. Now that I’m thinking about it, my answer came quickly, I didn’t stay in that temporary dorm for too long. God really did go before me and arranged a great place for me to live in a good neighborhood. I worked hard, learned a lot and the day I graduated, I had a job waiting for me. God was amazingly gracious.

I hate to admit it but graduation day couldn’t come unless I took all my belongings to that temporary dorm. Have you ever felt like you were in a temporary dorm?

I remember laying on my temporary bed feeling tired from my graduation celebration. I remember grabbing a temporary phone to give my parents an update. The next thing I remember is that I was reading an email congratulating me for a scholarship. I was soon moving to Oxford to start my next chapter.

Transition feels stationary but you’re really moving. It feels painful, but progress is being made in the heavenly realm. I can’t help but believe that God is making crooked ways straight and He has the power to literally unroll roads so we can walk in them.

If you are in transition, remember to have hope. You have to have hope that things will get better even when you feel like they’re not. You have to have a solid foundation in God’s Truth which is His Word. Motivation and Inspiration do not work when you’re in transition: your foundation of faith needs to be solid and it it needs to come from God’s Word and from His ways.

Another thing I naturally did: I did not talk to a multitude of people about my transition experience in College. I trusted my family and a few mentors who encouraged me to press on towards my goal. It worked! This was before social media and I still keep this habit. I am not trying to hide the fact that I am in transition, I am wisely saving my ‘emotional energy.’ Instead of spreading emotional energy out there, I trust intimate information to people who love me and who can ‘get a prayer through.’ Everyone else can hear about the end of the story when God writes it publicly. It was wise to save my energy towards the process of transitioning to my next phase.

Take it from me, it may feel weird now but God is working on your behalf. This is not about understanding the ‘whens’ and ‘whys.’ This is about solid trust in a God who delivers on His word.

There’s quite a bit of waiting when transition is involved. I have learned that taking care of my health is a wise thing to do. Investing time in rest, exercise, eating the best nutrition and loving my family have been pretty awesome. God is going to deliver on His word, I have no doubt. I believe it is wise for me to take a vacation from stress and enjoy this time of waiting in good health.

More on this topic:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Vital Signs

"are you in there mamãe?"
It was another bustling summer week at the Listenbee household. There’s much to be done at all times as a young family. A Bible lesson was also on the schedule for that week.

I decided to change my approach and take on God’s peace as a real, tangible element of teaching. I see no advantage of losing control when there’s a vital message to be spoken. I started cultivating God’s peace in my heart.

I also remembered my experience last year as a super rookie Bible teacher. Boy was I nervous! I quickly figured out that the other elements in my life were not going to change because I had to study, pray, reflect and write. I grabbed on to that memory and applied that knowledge to my day.

Still, the estate of my house was bothering me. Sure I was getting help from everyone but the toys on the floor and the unraveled summer look of my house was not appealing to me. I went upstairs to pick up something important when I heard the words: vital signs.

If you are a medical show fan you know what vital signs are and how important they can be. I learned about it in practice when I had my kids. There was a nurse checking our vital signs on a regular basis. I also figured out that kids get different vital sign measurements than adults do. When I take my kids to the pediatrician, their vital sign measurements are different than mine. I’m glad about that.

Back to my house. I realized this week that the floors at my house are magnetic. They attract towels, shoes, toys, clothes and pillows. I’m determined that magnetic floors are vital signs.

My unglamorous kitchen sink has the power of multiplication. If you want to understand prosperity, all you have to do is stand there and see how one dish turns into 45. Never fear, this is another way to measure vital signs.

The books I carefully organize in bookshelves have the talent of flying out and landing in different places. This is a vital sign I’m always glad to see.

I am trying to rejoice and be glad when I see those vital signs all around me all the time. I have a choice in the matter. I can raise my blood pressure because things are out of place or I can look at these things as vital signs. There’s life in my house. There are people who are obviously enjoying living here.

I, in turn, surrender to this rumbling season of life with a smile and a thankful heart.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cow Appreciation Day Outfit Ideas

Summers are for fun and my kids have loved dressing like cows for free chicken. When I started my summer camp in 2013 I had no idea what Cow Appreciation Day was. It turns out that for 13 years, Chick-fil-a has been giving free chicken for those who dare to dress like cows and show up at the restaurant to celebrate. I am yet to convince my husband to join the fun but the kids love the idea! 
Cow appreciation day 2015 outfits
I went to Pinterest for inspiration on how to get our 2015 outfit done. I honestly tapped construction paper to black and while clothes. 
Cow appreciation day 2016 outfits 
Last year we printed masks and the kids colored them themselves. We found some black and white clothes and tapped some more paper spots on them. Trust me, the kids told me themselves they are more interested in fun and food than fashion.

This is us in 2017, still appreciating cows!
This summer has been a bit different because I felt like I wanted to take my cow outfit assignment more seriously. It didn't start that way tough. I went to the store in search for some cow masks and they were nowhere to be found. I became very sad until I remembered Pinterest. I was in the bandana section (I love bandanas!) where I saw a cow print one and I thought, let me ask Pinterest what to do. I searched bandana dresses and I saw some cute ones. I relied on Youtube tutorials to get it done and we ended up with a pretty good product! My kids were nervous about the project. They said, "I hope we have a sowing machine" and I said "I do" as showed them my hands. I wasn't sure what my son wanted for his outfit so I showed him a few options on Pinterest and he said the cape would be better because his goal was to play in the play area. 
Hot Glue gun power, party plates and you have cow masks!
I'm looking forward to celebrating cow appreciation day again. I might save the outfits and use them over and over again. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Coaster for the Soul

I bought some coasters many moons ago and I felt inclined to put them out on the table yesterday. I bought them on sale (sorry, I have to tell you they were a good deal because I am not a 'coaster purchaser' by nature) and I liked the flowers in them. They also had a Bible verse in the bottom. I never paid attention to it, really, until today. 

My kids, who now can read, typed that Bible verse in an old iPod we let them play with (no wireless, in case you're wondering). I was glancing at the iPod when I read "I watch in hope for the Lord." I told the kids I like that scripture and asked where they got it from. They told me, "the coasters." 

Coasters are interesting things. I didn't grow up using them in the third world so I am quick to dismiss them but I know people who religiously use theirs. My mother-in-law for example. There are coasters everywhere at her home and trust me, all her furniture is impeccable because of it. My furniture on the other hand... not so much. I made up my mind that these child rearing years will be felt by everyone: furniture included. I told myself that the furniture will reflect the hustle and bustle of living and loving in real life. The furniture will get used and it will get old and dirty. What's the use of getting stressed out if kids will be kids? Still those coasters reminded me that things could be better, furniture can last longer and clean up, easier. 

Coasters are there to simply protect the furniture from the incoming, predictable weariness. I wish there was a coaster for the soul today. The incoming, predictable weariness of life does affect me. I cry. I even feel like cussing sometimes. Then, I remember those words of old, beautifully said by the prophet Micah. More about this great individual: Micah's name means "who is like the Lord?" I also appreciate the fact that his ministry was for common folk like you and I. He is basically speaking to us. Here's that verse from the iPod in its entirety:

“Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.” Micah 7:7 NKJV

At last, there is a coaster for the soul: the words I read in the Bible. Weariness comes (as it should) but it doesn't have to leave marks in my soul because those words of life are like coasters, reminded me of the grace, protection and hope I have in the Lord Jesus. 

Do you feel weary today? Is it enough to make you want to cuss? Don't feel bad. Actually, feel very much human if you're tired of the weight of life's burdens. What I do want to remind you is that God's words can bring amazing protection for your soul. Rely on Him today. He will come thru for you. God will hear our prayers because that's Who He is.

I can't promise you we will have coasters every time we eat a meal. I can tell you that from now on, when I see one, I will remember to watch for the Lord to help me when I get weary. He is my protection and He's reliable at that.