I spent last week on vacation visiting my family back in Iowa.
You know…Iowa. Kind of like Grand Cayman, or Cancun. But without the beach. Or the ocean. And with lots of corn.
Don’t believe me?
I’m not surprised. People rarely equate Iowa with exotic beach locations, but that’s what it feels like to my husband and me every year as we wind our way over the mountains of Pennsylvania and across the Midwest back to our Iowa roots. Because it’s there that we can truly relax and get away from it all. (Plus, enjoy some family time.)
Upon our return home to PA last weekend, I gradually came to realize that I had neglected many things: appointments on the calendar, bills in the mail, and my email, just to name a few. Since Monday, these realities have pushed their way back into my life with an unrelenting force, and I’ve been running behind them playing catch-up ever since.
This morning, though, I was determined to start the day with a plan. Get things back to normal. Find our daily routine again. At heart, I’m a planning kind of girl, and I knew if I could get back into my routines and write them down, I would feel better about moving through my day, especially since I am now really tired from playing catch-up all week. Today, it was time to get ahead a little bit.
So, I sat down, as I do every weekday morning, with my Bible and read. I prayed, and I wrote some thoughts down in my journal. Then I did something that is really, really new to me. It’s a new habit I’m trying out, even though I have my doubts. You see, I signed up for this Online Bible Study that started the first Sunday I was on vacation. (It got ignored too, in case you’re wondering. Because, well…VACATION!) But, before I left on vacation, I had started reading the book the Bible study revolves around (besides the Bible, there’s another book that leads us through the study, I guess. To be honest, I don’t really know, because all the emails that are a part of the Bible study are lumped in with all the other emails I was ignoring, so…I will get caught up on that, too, and know more soon, but most people who come to read this today know WAY more about this Bible study than I do right now, so to spare myself the embarrassment of acting like I know more than I do about this, I’ll just come clean. I read the first two chapters of Lysa TerKeurst’s book before vacation and then pretty much forgot all about it. So there you have it.)
Anyway, before vacation I had decided to try something that Lysa does every morning. Like I said, I had my doubts, but I also knew it couldn’t hurt. The something she does every morning could easily be added into what is already a nice morning ritual for me of reading scripture, journaling and prayer. The difference was, this practice would require me to ask God a question (Well, nothing new there, really, I ask God questions all the time.) The newness came in developing the habit of LISTENING FOR AN ANSWER. Now, that’s kind of new. I usually “listen for an answer” through a trial of doing what I think I should do and then observing the results. Kind of like a dance. Only I usually take the lead, and step on God’s toes a few dozen times. And then give God no other choice but to drag me across the floor because I’m going the wrong direction and about to spin us both right out the third floor window.
It’s not exactly efficient, but it’s worked for me so far.
Like I was saying, it’s a new habit. And I liked the idea of asking for a “daily assignment” from God and expecting an answer. This morning was my fourth morning of trying it out, and I was beginning to think it wasn’t so bad. After all, the previous mornings had consisted of fairly painless things. My assignments from God up until today had been fairly simple: journal, pray, give to charity. Pretty harmless. I was pretty sure God was far less demanding than I’d ever thought, and was really beginning to wonder why I’d always thought that following God would be hard at all.
So, with my plan for the day written out in front of me, I then opened my Bible, prayed, and wrote a quick journal entry. My journal ended with my asking the question, “What is my assignment today, God?” Then I waited. I had every confidence that God would see how full my day already was and just give me a pass. He’d say something like “take a nice, long bath tonight and relax at the end of such a busy day. You’re worth it.” I was sure of it.
So imagine my surprise when that wasn’t my assignment.
My assignment instead was to sit down and blog.
But, I’ve barely blogged all summer! I don’t even know what to say! And blogging always takes me hours. HOURS!! I don’t have hours today to give. I only have minutes. Just a few. If You want me to write this, You’re going to have to tell me!!! Give me the words!!! (I get real demanding with God sometimes. This isn’t always a good idea. But He tolerates my outbursts and demands and tantrums with peace and kindness. Always. Which I just love.)
“Blog about your reflection,” were the only words that came to me.
I still had my doubts. I didn’t really understand the reflection I’d read today in my Bible. I liked it, but I didn’t really understand it. It was a reflection from Mother Teresa and the words that struck me the most were, “Love, to be true, has to hurt.” I had wondered if that was true when I read it. Had I hurt for my husband? For my children? For my parents? For my friends?
It took some time, because when I think of loving a parent, or a child, or a husband, or a friend, I tend to think of the things they do for me. And that’s what makes them easy to love. But, in truth, I do things for them, too. And at times, on both sides, we give of ourselves.
I stopped doubting. God was asking me to blog today, not because He needs me too. But because love—true love—hurts. And today, on one of the busiest of days, when I had lots of other (better?) things to do, I needed to show my love to God by giving of my time, even when I thought there was no time to give.
I was confident now it was a test. Would I do it? Would I do what God was asking me? After all, “God” to most of us is an invisible voice in our head or in our hearts. Easy to ignore. Easy to brush off as crazy-talk or just plain ridiculous. I could brush it off, and there really would be little to no consequence for me. Or anyone else. The world would not kink up on its axis. The sky would not fall. America would not collapse. My lawn wouldn’t turn black.
No one would know.
Except me. And God.
I would know. And God would know. And suddenly, I wanted to do it. I didn’t know what I would say exactly, and I knew whatever I said would probably not make any sense. And I’d look like a fool.
But that’s another side of love, too, isn’t it? Be willing to go the distance. Be willing to look like a fool for the one you love.
So, I heated up another cup of green tea and plunked down on the computer. My heart was committed. There was no turning back.
Just one thing first, I thought…let me check my email. (After all… He didn’t say I couldn’t.)
And among the randomness of the emails I felt a twinge of guilt as I saw another email from this Bible study that I’d signed up for and ignored thus far.
I clicked on it.
It was an invitation for a Blog Hop, a chance to put my words out there for more than my usual half-dozen faithful readers to see.
This was no ordinary test.
It was pass-fail. And God was letting me know, before I even began, that I’d already passed. I was giving of myself, at a time when I didn’t think I could, to share His words, not mine, with others.
It wasn’t about me anymore, so that made it so much easier.
It was about showing others who God is to me.
How I know Him.
How I love Him.
How He loves all of us the same.
But the only way any of us will know that for a fact, is if we stop and take the time to ask Him what He wants us to do.
And much of the time, it will probably be easier than you think.
Some of the time it will be hard, because love—true love—hurts.
But when you say yes?
When you say yes to that voice in your head/heart that is God?
Even when you *know* you can’t?
Well, I will testify to this: it will benefit you in ways you never dreamed possible.