February 24, 2015

Preparing for Next Steps

It is spring here in Phoenix, and spring usually means "cleaning" is in order. There is something about making plans, being prepared, and getting organized that seems to coincide with the warm spring days. I love to clean, well not house clean (like in weekly cleaning), and I love to be organized, and prepared for whatever might happen. It is good to be prepared, and it is not difficult to do it, so long as you have a plan of attack. Most people do not plan out their approach, so when the day or week comes to get organized, they are overwhelmed by all the work involved. However, if you have a good plan of attack, a good approach, it is easy to divide and conquer the mess. I think some people are naturally organized. I know that I am because my life is scheduled, very routine, and very ordered. I like to know that everything that "must be completed" is accounted for, and that time has been allotted to accomplish each task. My worst fear is that I will forget to do something or I will run out of time to do all the required items on my "to-do" list.

This morning, I was thinking about being prepared for whatever next steps the Lord has in mind for me. 2 Timothy 4:2 came to mind, and even though it is speaking of being prepared to preach the Word, it is a good reminder to always be prepared (in every area) regardless of the time or season. Some people feel that they can only preach the Word of God in certain situations or only when they have enough training and teaching. This is not accurate according to Scripture. God calls and He equips so the preaching and teaching of the Word occurs whether or not we THINK we are ready. For example, we often teach Scriptural principles through our daily lives. We may not think we are teaching the Word, but we are modeling behavior (Christ-like or not) for the world to see. In our homes, our schools, our workplaces, etc., we are modeling behavior that either aligns with Scripture or it doesn't. Our witness, therefore, is always on display for other people to see. We don't always end up teachers in the professional sense. We may not be a pastor or a Bible teacher. We may not be a full-time missionary. Yet, our actions, our words, and our character teach our worldview, and give testimony to that which is most important in our life. If God is first, then our testimony will bear witness. If the world is of more value to us, then our life and our character will reflect this point of view. So when Paul writes to Timothy these words, "Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching," we should consider them a forewarning to be on guard and to keep watch over how we live our life for the world to see. Be ready. Be prepared.

There are many ways to show the world that we live ordered lives. I am amazed at how many Christian's live in disarray. Not only are they fueled by gluttony, but they live no differently than their neighbor. Our lives should show a mark of distinction and not just in what we say and do. Our entire lifestyle should bear witness to our service to the Lord Jesus Christ. In my view, that means that a person of Christian character should seek to manage their affairs well.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already."

Paul exhorts those in leadership to be good managers of their homes. More over, Peter reminds his disciples that "God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another." It is important to remember that everything we do, everything we have (or own) is a gift from God. God gives us the ability to live, to produce, to earn, to work, etc. Therefore, we are encouraged by Paul to "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ." Our reward for doing good, for living appropriately is coming to us at the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, our Master is the Lord, and not the world.

Consequently, how we live our lives, how we order our days is of great importance to the Lord. We can live our lives in dissipation (squandering our money, our energy, and our resources) or we can live appropriately because we work and serve the Lord, our Master. In my perspective, living appropriately means to live within the borders of the Lord's provision. It also means using whatever gifts and talents the Lord has given to you for His service and His work. It also means taking care of the treasure (the gifts) He has given to you, treating them with care, tenderly and considerately demonstrating attention to them, and generally taking concern for their well-being (whether a person or a thing).  Our lives should be run well, managed well, and the details of our days should be well-kept. Let me explain...

The Power of Color on Mood and Temperament

When I was young and foolish (naive), I wasn't always a good steward of the gifts God gave to me. I didn't always live a very ordered life. In fact, for many years while growing up, I lived a very disordered life. I was messy, and I didn't really know how to keep my room, my clothes, or my toys organized. My Mom cleaned my room for me, and while she would try to show me how to be organized, I didn't really care that much about listening or obeying her instructions. Thus, my room was a mess most of the time.

As I got older, I started to collect things, and the more things I collected, the more of a mess I found my room and my closet. One day when I was about 15, my Mom said that I could redecorate my room, and change the color and pattern to something more grown up (and remove the pink and green Holly Hobby doll wall paper). I jumped at the chance to redecorate my room. My Mom thought I would pick more flowers, mod colors (this was the 1970s) because that was the fashion. Instead, I chose a geometric pattern in browns and rusts. My Mom said no at first, telling me that it was too "boyish" of a pattern. I stuck to my guns and said that this is what I wanted. In fact, I remember saying that either I got to pick the pattern or I would stay with Holly Hobby until I left home! I guess my Mom didn't like the pink and green because she gave in to my demand for a design rather than floral wall paper.

My room was repainted a warm cream color, and a geometric wallpaper was put up on the walls. My bedding and curtains were a warm rust color. I picked new pictures for the walls, and I painted all my furniture brown to match. In some ways, my room did look a bit masculine, but I loved the colors. I loved the warm tones, and I loved the fact that the colors represented my personality more closely than the bright pink and neon green of my younger years. 

I loved my new room so much that I took the time to organize all my things. I threw away all the childish things I had collected, and I started to keep my room in order. I found a great relief in living in an ordered room. My new room was peaceful and it was calm (soothing). I loved the low-light, the warm glow of my desk lamp, and the feeling that came over you when you walked into the room.

We moved to San Jose later that year, and my new room was stark white. I can remember my Mom purchasing a new comforter for my bed. It was white with pink and green flowers on it. It was nice, don't get me wrong, and it did match the carpet in my room (celery green), but it reminded me of those bright Spring colors in my old room in IL.

In no time at all, I found my room a mess again. Mom remarked how my room was always messy, always disordered. She was correct, of course. It was a mess. It wasn't until a year later that my room got a makeover, and I once again found myself choosing the same soothing colors. My room makeover coincided with the recovery from my car accident. I had been in a pretty serious car crash during my Senior year in high school. My recovery was slow, but progressing, and the doctor suggested that I get a different bed for my injured back. He said a waterbed might be a good choice. I had received a small settlement for my injuries, so I took part of that money and I purchased a dark pine four-poster queen size waterbed. 

My Mom said I could paint and decorate my room so I chose a warm yellow paint color for the walls. I also put up wall paper that was cream colored with small rust flowers on it. My dad installed dark pine shutters on the windows and my grandmother made me side curtains with pinpoint lace. Once my bed arrived and we put it together in the room, there wasn't much space left over, so I had to pair down my things. My bed had drawers under it, so I used it for clothing and for storage. I loved my waterbed, and it was by far, the best thing for my back. My room turned once again into a place of retreat for me. It had that same warm mellow cast to it, and it provided solace for me, a place of order, of peace, and of comfort.

It is curious to think how colors can influence mood. There is a lot of research that suggests colors are important to help us feel good about our environment. Some people pick colors based on preference, while others think about their color scheme carefully in order to establish a particular mood. For me, color is very important. I am stimulated by light so I need certain colors to create the right kind of atmosphere. I do not like bright light, so most often I use indirect light in my home. My color scheme then is vitally important. Bright walls and colors are too jarring for me. Soft palattes of warm colors are soothing, and they make me feel at ease. When I am at ease, I am more able to consider, to concentrate, and to control my day, my week, and my life.

As I consider moving again, moving on my own, I have started to think about colors, about patterns, and about styles. I don't know what the Lord has in mind for me other than I know He will provide a home for me to live in. I am open to location, but if He intends for me to move to the Auburn area (near the job), then I will need to think about location and house type. I have lived in houses for the past 25 years (with the exception of 2011-2013, when I was in a rented town home). I like houses best since they offer the most room, and there is that built in distance factor between neighbors. However, the Lord may choose to have me rent for a time, and that means that there will be little room for decorating (the walls may be white) in my style. I am hoping the Lord will provide a permanent home for me, but that seems so out of reach at this point in time. I believe He can do it, of course, but it seems like TOO BIG of a gift at this time in my life.

Still, I am thinking about what my home might look like and I am getting excited for the opportunity to decorate in my own way (right now, my home reflects my parents tastes, and not mine). With the exception of my room, which is very small, most of my things are in storage or they were sold at a garage sale right after I moved into our shared home.  My color scheme is going to be similar to what I have always liked. I am particular about my beiges, so if the house I purchase has cool beige or beige-gray tones, it will have to be repainted a warm beige color. My rust and my red are similar -- they are both warm in tone. My brown is also a warm color. I have thought about this a lot (can't you tell?) because it is so vital to me for my happiness. Color, light, and order all are keys to help create a warm and inviting atmosphere for my family and my friends. I want my home to reflect a certain appeal. My approach is not to present the perfect home with perfect furnishings, but rather to reflect a tone that says "come on in and sit a spell." I want people to feel comfortable coming into my home to rest, to relax, and to spend time just being together. It is very important to me to create this type of space.

I have thought about a lot of things lately, about how I will leave Phoenix and move across the country. I have thought about what I will take with me (furniture) and what I will need to purchase. I have thought about all the logistics involved in moving, and truthfully, the details overwhelm me. I am certain that the Lord will provide, yet still, I worry about how it will all come to pass. Yes, I worry about the details, the UNKNOWN that goes along with making a major life-changing decision.

Being Prepared

One thing is certain, and that is that I believe the Lord is calling me to begin preparation for moving. So while I am not starting to pack (LOL!), I am thinking about things related to moving. I am preparing my mind to move. When the Lord gives the command to go, and I believe He has done so with me, then He also gives plenty of time to get things in order, to prepare, so to speak. According to Merriam-Webster, the word "prepare" means,
  • to make (someone or something) ready for some activity, purpose, use, etc. 
  • to make yourself ready for something that you will be doing, something that you expect to happen, etc. 
  • to make or create (something) so that it is ready for use
The Lord has been making me ready for His purpose and His plans for some time now. He has been working to recreate me so that I am useful to His service. Now, I believe that He is asking me to make myself ready, to prepare myself for something that is about to happen. This makes sense to me because I have felt Him moving in my life, creating change, and I have been feeling the effects of that change. The Lord is doing something in me and through me, and I believe that part of the overall change He has in mind includes moving me to a new city and a new job.

Until I see the job offer, of course, I am settled where I am and I am focused on doing good work in my position as adjunct instructor. I am also working on completing my courses at Regent. Both of these things take the majority of my time, and my focus is almost 100% on teaching school or completing school assignments. I also am supporting myself, my son, and my parents (in part), so I spend a lot of time in personal care and connection. I am busy doing life, so to speak, and making sure that my family is well cared for and comforted. Then I have my friendships and other relationships, and they take various levels of my time. My most significant friendships take priority, and I devote a great deal of time to making sure I am giving my part, and spending quality time developing and building trust. All of these things factor into my life, my entire life, so to make a major move means that everything I know right now is going to be shifted, changed or altered in some fashion. I need to prepare myself for these smaller changes, especially the personal changes that involve family. So while I may not like to think about these changes, I must. I must be prepared mentally and emotionally to handle whatever next steps the Lord has in mind for my life.

In closing, today as I think about spring cleaning and getting organized, I cannot help but think that these feelings are all part of the Lord's gracious approach to helping me prepare to move. He knows how difficult it is for me to move. He knows how I struggle with logistics, with the details. He knows that I love my family, that I worry about them, and that I want what is best for them. He also knows that while His plans are first and foremost, and that I am wholly devoted to following after Him and His plans -- I am flesh, I am weak, and I struggle with emotional change. The Lord knows this well, and I believe He gives me extra time to process change, to consider the ramifications of change, and to accept the inevitable elements of change. He has done this for me repeatedly in the past, always allowing me time to accept what is coming, to mentally and emotionally and physically prepare for it. He knows that I am on board spiritually, but it is my flesh, my weakness that causes me stress. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Lord, 

I ask today that you oversee all the details in my life. You know exactly what I can and cannot do, and you know the timing of your planned change for me. Therefore, I rest today and I let things go, all things, so that I don't become overly fixated on what is coming my way. I accept the change, all of it, and I trust you to know that you have me well-covered. I ask now that you will move ahead and do what needs to be done so that I can step into the next phase or season of my life. I want to give you all the praise, all the honor, and all the glory, so I ask Lord that you do what is needed. I will rest. I will trust. I will let go of everything I hold now so that you can provide for me everything you desire to give to me. May your Name be praised today and forevermore! Selah!

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