March 27, 2010

The Colors of the Wind

Do you remember this song from the Disney movie, "Pocohontas?" It was one of my favorite songs for a very long time. I particularly loved Vanessa William's rendition (she does have such a lovely voice). I found the song lyrics and a video online:

You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

I was thinking about this idea, "painting with colors" today and this song just popped into my head. I realize that this song is about earth (Mother Earth, etc.,) and conservation (taking what is not yours to take, etc.), but I like the symbolism in it. It reminds me of something I recently discovered, and I think the two ideas "painting with colors" and the concept of learning to do the Lord's will are related.

Bear with me, while I try and explain. Today, as I was talking with the Lord, once again I ended up confessing my confusion regarding what exactly His will entails and how it works out in my life (or anyone's, for that matter). I have a firm grasp on the basics of the Lord's will. I know what the Word says in regard to His will for His children. I get that part, and my heart, my mind and my soul are united with it. The part that causes some head scratching has to do with the daily stuff, the career/job/where to live/what to do stuff. This is where I get a bit foggy.

I know that God often calls people to a specific work. Sometimes it is directly to ministry, sometimes it is to some professional capacity (and then by extension into ministry). I never have had any specific career goals, never had any specific ministry focus. I have always been involved with Children's ministry, and have loved it, but never really felt like I was called to do it. I just did it because I had a child, and I saw the need for more helping hands.

Over the course of time, I have become more and more interested in ministry as my main goal. I want to spend my time being in His work. I would like to be in full-time ministry some day, and I feel that the Lord is guiding me in that direction. However, right now, I am stuck sort of. I am in this weird in between stage in my life. Not to mention the fact that my life is topsy-turvey at the moment (with my DH), but generally speaking everything is really out of whack.

Two years ago, I probably would not have forseen this day. I was working full-time as a website designer, making OK money (every little bit helped), home schooling my son, and serving the Lord in Children's ministry. I was normal as normal could be. I was active at church, in home school groups, helping to care for my parents, etc. I wasn't super happy in my work, but I was thankful that I had the opportunity to work at home. I really wanted to do something different, something less stressful and intensive (on my eyes and body). I wanted to do something that stretched my mind, and required a different set of abilities.

Nothing really presented itself, so I just did what I could to help us out financially. The Lord, however, was moving in my life. He was shaking things up, changing the status quo, and altering my heart and mind. He was calling me into a different kind of work. I knew it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. All I could say to my Dh was that I knew I wasn't long for website design. I knew that the Lord was leading me out of it, and into something new.

In the interim, my life hit rock bottom. I struggled through my husband's illness, and came face to face with real financial stress (looking at huge medical bills and such). I was working, but my work was shrinking, not increasing. My clients were telling me to expand, expand, expand; but, a little voice inside kept saying "No, not that way...this way." This way was leading me to unemployment, harder financial times, and some really difficult choices. I followed the voice because it was a voice I trusted. I didn't know what was up the road, I just knew that I would be OK, if I followed closely.

Little did I know that my entire world would come crashing down on me, at the very same time that I found myself unemployed. I started out 2009 dealing with a life threatening illness (stroke) and ended the year, contemplating divorce. I started 2010 with the idea of a new beginning, a new way of living (alone and single), but with a persistent feeling that there was a job and career out there for me.

I am now at the end of March (so are you!) and still without full time work. Life has not gotten easier for me, only harder. The Lord has provided, every day He provides abundantly. I have this feeling of what I should do, but I have no way of doing it. I am being led to follow a certain path, but the way through is all muddled and confused.

So today, while out shopping at Walmart, I just melted and asked the Lord what was up. I mean, I really cannot take much more of this whole mess. I need to know what to do. This was when the color thing came into my head. You see, the Lord, in His Graciousness, was trying to get me to understand how His will works. I get the big stuff, it is the little stuff that throws me. As I sat there in the parking lot, the Lord pressed in on me with this analogy: "What are the key components that make up a car?" Yes, I think I am weird. Not really, this is just how my mind works and the Lord seems to send me these types of images. Anyhoo, as I rattled them off, the question came again: "Do you need an engine to make a car work?" I answered, "yes, of course!" As I pondered that thought, it suddenly became clear to me. A car consists of key components, some of which are critical to it's function. Some components are simply colorful additions to the car itself. (See, I would get to colors at some point!) The idea being that a car is a car regardless of what color it is, what kind of radio it has, or whether it has leather seats or not. None of those things are critical to it's function. They are nice additions, colors so to speak. They simply are means of convenience.

All of a sudden it dawned on me. I have spent the past several months focusing on colors and not on the critical necessities of life. I have been distracted by the constant thought of colors, when I should have been fixed on the critical aspects that are necessary to do the Lord's will.

I plead ignorance here, because I really did want to do His will. I just got distracted by options and choices. In hindsight, I can clearly see how I got off the mark, how I ended up where I did, focusing on the non-essentials instead of being doggedly pursuing the BIG things.

After a time of confession, I began to see it all in focus once again. Several months ago, the Lord told me what to do. He made my way clear, but there were choices to be made, options to sort through first. I sorted, I chose, but in doing so, I lost sight of the purpose and plan. I became more enmeshed into the little things, rather than directed to deal with the BIG things.

For me, the BIG things are this:
  • Graduate School - this is something I am sure of, and I know that the Lord has chosen this path for me. I was focused on this path until I started worrying about work, jobs, and such. The Lord has consistently said not to worry about these things, yet I have done it any way. I know now that I need to stick to my guns here and follow His leading on this point.
  • Language Study - this is something the Lord has asked of me. He would like me to learn a new language in preparation for ministry. I know what to do here, I just got distracted by smaller things and put it off for a time.
  • Bible Study - the Lord has asked me to spend more time in His word. I know what I am to do, have some good ideas on study materials and such. I have been distracted here as well, thinking about other things instead of His word.
  • Lastly, I am to spend time working on my music studies. The Lord has gifted me with the ability to learn a new instrument. He has given me permission to study it, provided a teacher (whom I dearly love), and even provided a free cello. He has blessed my studies and asked me to spend time focusing on this one thing.
So, how did I get all mixed up? It was colors really. It was whether or not we would stay in Phoenix or move away. Either option was Ok to the Lord, but staying put was easier for us. Getting a job was part of the process, but so far no job has materialized. However, I still am being considered for a position here in Phoenix. I guess I got so sidetracked by what the big needs were as far as moving, that I missed the opportunities right here in front of my nose.

Today, I learned that when it comes to the Lord's will (at least in my life), there are essentials and colors (options). The essentials are those elements that must be completed because He has said so. The options are simply colorful add-ons that bring comfort, joy, happiness, and the like. They are not bad in and of themselves, but they can be a distraction if you allow them to be. If you keep them in proper perspective, and only focus on the essentials, then you will enjoy these options, but not allow them to control your decision making process.

In short, a home is a home. It may be blue or brown, but neither the color nor size nor location will really change the fact that it is warm and dry and provides security. Whenever we focus on these things, while at times nice and sometimes important in the sense of lesser decisions (such as good schools for your children, safe locations, close to work, etc.), we lose sight of what really matters to God. Our Father already knows that we need the essentials. He has Graciously provided for some add-ons too. For me, I just needed to come back down to reality and realize that the Lord was already providing both essentials and colors to me. I was just thinking that the colors were more important than the BIG TICKET ITEMS.

News Flash: in light of my recent discovery, I have decided to focus on those things that I know the Lord wants me to do. I have already applied to graduate school. I know what is involved in getting a Master's degree, and I am hopeful that after I finish, I will be able to teach college English. I am also committed to pursuing my Ph.D. (Lord willing) in English here at Arizona State University. It is local, well-respected, and a program that fits my needs and desires and interests. In doing so, this means we will stay here, we will stay put until the Lord actually decides to move us.

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