Making Room for What Truly Matters

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“I need a mason jar, three bouncy balls and a bag of rice.” My husband’s words should have puzzled me, but they didn’t. He was preparing a visual for his youth group- something he has done often the past several years.

My cabinets were full of mason jars; a bag of white rice lay buried in the pantry beneath my newly purchased quinoa; and our eight year old son had a growing collection of bouncy balls. So, I felt certain my husband’s request could be easily met. What I didn’t know was exactly where he was going with this illustration.

As it turned out, the mason jar represented the Christian life. The bouncy balls stood for the most important aspects of that life. First, our relationship with God – continually growing through Bible study (bouncy ball #1) and prayer (bouncy ball #2); and secondly, the relationships we forge with others (bouncy ball #3). The rice was indicative of everything else scrambling for our attention (work, school, household chores, hobbies, activities, church, exercise, and so on).

Initially, my husband used the jar to display a busy life – one in which time with God (and others) does not come to mind until all the small stuff has wiggled its way in. He did this by filling the jar with rice and then trying, unsuccessfully, to add the bouncy balls. It simply would not work. There was no room in the jar for the three balls.

He emptied the jar of its contents and began again.

This time, he depicted a life just as busy as the first, but one in which God was given first priority, followed by our relationships with others. All three bouncy balls fit easily into the jar. The same amount of rice added the first time around was poured, once again, into the jar. Can you guess what happened? The jar held every bit of it. All three balls. Every single piece of rice.

Two separate illustrations using the exact same items. Once, the jar held everything. Once, the jar did not. How is this so? I believe it goes back to what we’re told in Matthew 6:33 (NLT), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I don’t know about you, friend, but I’m always grappling to get things done. It seems I never have enough time to do everything that needs doing. But so often, I go at it backwards. Especially on those days when my routine is thrown off. When schedules and appointments and other commitments (rice, rice and more rice) cause me to feel rushed – to believe there’s no room for pausing, opening His word and spending a few unhurried moments in prayer with Him.

But how can I relax, expecting Him to give me all I need, when I continually withhold my heart from Him? When I speed through the day without once inviting Him into it? No wonder I feel stressed and overwhelmed when I’m choosing to carry the full weight of the day on my own two shoulders. It’s much too heavy a load for me to bear.

What about you friend, who’s carrying the pressures of your day? Are you also trying to go at it alone? If so, let’s halt this train we’re riding. Let’s stop it in its tracks. Let’s turn to our Savior and set this weight down at His feet. The feet of Jesus. There’s no better place to leave our burdens than with Him, for He’s the only One capable of carrying what we cannot – should not – carry alone.

 

Martha, Martha — Losing Sight of that One Thing

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I wish I could say I have this Mary thing down pat. I don’t, but I’m really trying. Trying to carve out time – every single day – for what’s truly important. Trying to live more focused on the people surrounding me rather than the things distracting me.

Because I’m task oriented, this doesn’t come naturally for me. I can always, always find something that needs doing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve told myself – and my kids – “always make the best use of your time.” What I didn’t realize was that often – in my busyness – I was doing the opposite. I was failing at what truly mattered: spending time alone with God and making time for those special people He placed in my life.

My mom often tells me, “It’ll be there when you get back” and I jokingly reply, “yes, that’s the problem.” Regardless of how much, or how little, time we have available, we always manage to fill it – often to overflowing –  with something. Sometimes we fill it with the right things; others times not. Either way there is always more to do than there is time to do it.

Martha’s dilemma mirrored this. With her beautiful servant’s heart, she willingly and graciously opened her home to Jesus.   As the hostess, she set out to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere for her guest. But in the process of doing so, she lost sight of what was most important – making herself, not just her stuff, available.

She missed the point. Just as I have so many times.

Our lives should be less about doing and more about being.

I wonder how she felt when He gently rebuked her?

Was she offended? Was she embarrassed? Did her eyes well up with tears?  Did she try to persuade Him to see her side? Or did she simply surrender, knowing He was right; realizing He knew what was best?

I believe Martha learned a valuable lesson that day. I hope each of us will also take to heart the tender, thoughtful words Jesus shared with her. But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

 

 

Even On The Tough Days

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dandelion closeup

Today my grandson underwent his second open heart surgery. 

He is a precious, blue-eyed 5 month old with a contagious smile and a winning personality.  He is quite accomplished at flirting with the nurses and is intent on carrying on his own method of conversation with the doctors.

He was born with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, better known as HLHS. HLHS is a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.  Typically, a series of three surgeries is required, with a heart transplant likely at some point.  We are hoping and praying the need for transplant will be well into the future.

One thing I’ve learned through this journey with Elijah is this:  when the news you hear is less than perfect and well, the scope of your emotions can range from one extreme to the other.  You begin to seriously question what you’ve always thought to be important.  You find yourself cherishing moments that otherwise may appear trivial. 

For parents of these special children, such moments may include the first true bottle feeding, doubling a birth weight, making that first trip to Walmart after being confined to home for what seems like forever, or possibly even celebrating birthdays on a monthly basis. Whatever the case may be, it’s noticing those moments that say, “We love this child, and we’re so thankful to have him with us.”

Which gets me to thinking…  Shouldn’t I always feel this way, in all my relationships? Shouldn’t I review my priorities from time to time to ensure I’m placing importance on the proper things? Shouldn’t I celebrate the little moments of my day more often, holding dear those precious people God has entrusted to me?  Shouldn’t I choose to live each day in a way that says, “I love you, and I’m so thankful to have you with me”?

Yes, I should; we all should. Yet we get caught up in the busyness of life and sometimes forget.  Until, that is, a stark reminder comes along as in the case of my sweet grandbaby. I’m so thankful for him and for the prompting to not only love and enjoy being with him, but to carry that same mindset and focus into my daily interactions with others as well. 

Learning to live a little better, love a little more, and laugh a little louder.  That’s a good place to be, even on the tough days.