Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Day in the Kitchen

Well, harvest is now in full swing. Gone are my carefree days of doing what the kids and I wanted to do. Now, we are kept busy with the demands of helping with harvest.

Last Saturday began like most of our Saturdays do. We all got up at our usual time, and I set to work making pancakes and bacon. Shortly after breakfast, my husband began to unfold the plans of the day to me. Some family was coming to help pick up tree limbs out of our field. (We had just had a bunch of trees taken down do we could have some more farmland. Limbs and branches were the only survivors.) So, after I cleaned up breakfast (dishes are one of my least favorite chores!), I headed to town with the kids to get some items to feed everyone for lunch.

After the trip to the grocery store, the kids and I whipped up some boxed brownies. Then, my sister-in-law reminded me that I had ordered some homemade, authentic tamales from a friend of hers in town. She was bringing them over. Right then. I altered my plans for lunch. We would have the fresh tamales (YUM!). I got toppings ready for them. Salsa, cheese, sour cream, and fresh garden tomatoes.

The eight of us ate and then dispersed. I set to work cleaning up the kitchen again (Did I mention I dislike doing dishes?). The cleanliness of the kitchen only lasted a short while. Once the kids went down for a nap, I decided it was time to make muffins for church the next day. For some reason, I decided to make homemade, cinnamon roll muffins. And while they are quicker than cinnamon rolls, it is still a process. I decided the end product was worth the effort, so I got to work.

My husband then called me to say they were picking beans. I would need to bring out supper, and also, would I like to bring our son out to ride in the combine? So, with hamburger thawing and my muffin batter half way done, I took my son to the farm. My daughter and I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the muffins and making lasagna, complete with homemade sauce.

After bringing supper out to the field and feeding my own kids, I, again, had to do the dishes! ARGH!

At last it was bedtime for the kids! Sweet relief! But, oops, the muffins had to be glazed! Easy enough except then, I had to clean up. Again!  (They really are worth it though!)

When I finally sat down at about 9:30 that evening, I realized, I spent most of the day in the kitchen! What was I becoming?

In my college days, I had plans. I would work as an English teacher, get a Master's degree or maybe two, have a couple kids, and keep working. But some alternate plan was put into place during our premarital counseling. My then fiance stated that he would like it if I would stay home and raise our children. Seriously, I never thought I would actually do it! My semi-feminist college attitude was fired up! Why would I sacrifice my career and my education to just stay at home with my children?

Well, it's pretty common in my life for God to change my plans. I can now say I'm blessed to stay at home and raise my own children, a privilege many women would like to do, but can't for one reason or another. God has a sense of humor and a better plan, that's for sure!

But now, I had literally spent all day in a kitchen! I felt my feminism flaring once again! What could I say I actually accomplished that day besides cooking and cleaning? What had I contributed to the world?

Thankfully, at this more spiritually matured station in life, I could answer my own questions. I had fed my family and some hard working hungry people. I had fostered an atmosphere of hospitality
when we had our extended (soon-to-be) family into our home for lunch. I had, in my own way,
assisted with the farming operation, providing food for the farmers so the combines would not have to stop picking the beans. I had helped my kids learn about cooking and farming and working.

I had accomplished quite a bit, if I do say so myself.

And might I add, Colossians 3:23 adds a deeper meaning to any work that we do.
"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."

So, if I perform my daily duties, however menial they may seem, with a willing attitude, I am serving and honoring the Lord. For certainly, I wouldn't complain about doing the Lord's dishes!  But, when I serve my family happily and positively, I am doing the same for God.

In my opinion, this is something every mom needs to hear from time to time. It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves. It is easy to doubt our importance and our role as a mom/wife. Doubt is one of the devil's favorite tools. It works like a charm.

But friends, don't let it work on you. Not anymore. Cling to the verse in Colossians. God uses and honors any work we do in His name. Our cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing are not in vain. They do not go unnoticed. We are serving our family. We are serving God.


Linking up most weeks with these encouraging blogs: #soulsurvival,  #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #threewordWednesday, #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #dancewithJesus, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth, #coffeeforyourheart, #TellHisStory, #Reflect, #livefreeThursday, #thecozyreadingspot

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Go ahead...say it!

A few weekends ago, I decided to head to a neighboring town to run some errands with just my two children. My hubby was busy, and I was tired of being home. So, I decided to go it alone. The first stop went pretty smoothly, but by the second, my kids were at the height of their orneriness. It's not that they do necessarily bad things when they get going; it's just that they goad each other and tune out my voice more and more until something does happen that is naughty.

We were at that point in Target, one of my favorite stores to just stroll through. But when your kids have turned into Thing 1 and Thing 2, that is impossible. I was on a mission for a portable bag chair. Having lost all reasonable thought when my kids started picking at each other, I was struggling quite a bit to find one. My brain did not tell me the logical place to look (the camping section), so I was wandering here and there. I was also failing to locate a red-shirted savior in the form of a Target employee.

 I ended up in a giant display for the new Star Wars movie. It looked like Halloween for adults on steroids. Of course my kids were intrigued, but I kept pushing on, all business. There was an adult male in the same area, just browsing. He was alone and in his forties. I didn't really pay much attention to him. I was too busy navigating my kids out of the costumes before they started trying them on.

In the main aisle now, I concentrated on the next area I should check to locate the bag chairs. Coming out of another aisle was the same man. The one that I had barely noticed. Do you know what happened? It was amazing and attitude-altering.

He told me with a smile, "You're doing a good job."

I looked at him and smiled and said, "Thank you." Emotions flooded my heart and mind. I appreciated his kind words beyond belief. I was so grateful someone had noticed. I was so grateful that someone had told me that. A stranger, none the less.

This incident got me through Target, and it made me think. What a simple gesture, and look how much it blessed me! Why don't I do this more? It's so easy, so simple.

I live in Minnesota now but was raised in Kansas. We have this thing up here called "Minnesota Nice." It's where no one really says how they feel because they don't want to hurt other people's feelings. It sounds kind of good, right? Like maybe less people get hurt?

No, I've decided it's not nice. No one says anything rude, but then you know what? Sometimes people don't say anything nice either. (NOTICE: This does not apply to every Minnesotan. It's just a stereotype of our people. It may apply to people in every single state!)

Why are people apprehensive about saying compliments? More specifically, about giving compliments that really matter. It's easy to tell a friend, or even a stranger for that matter, "I like your shoes. They are so cute!" In reality, those shoes probably have nothing to do with the heart and soul of that person.

Why is it harder to tell a person, "You are doing a good job at raising your kids, or "You are being so faithful in your service to the children of this church," or "I appreciate you're hard work at keeping the school clean"? We just don't say those things as often as we should.  We think them, at least I do. But why is it hard to just put it out there?

Is it time? Really, it doesn't take any extra time at all. We say so many useless things with our mouths sometimes. It shouldn't take much effort to throw out something that is kind. Are we afraid what other people will think? Not necessarily the one we give the compliment to, but others around us. Will they think us over-sensitive? Nosy? A gooey, gushy goody two shoes?

Who cares?!

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul writes, "So encourage each other and build each other up." This was written to the church in Thessalonica to encourage them in their faith. Isn't easier to grow in your faith, or in any activity really, when you have someone encouraging you?

Paul knew encouragement. He even selected such a man for his travels. He knew he and the other believers/apostles might need someone with the spirit of encouragement. "For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means 'Son of encouragement'). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). The man was called "the encourager!" Literally! What a nickname!

I have decided that we all need to be more like Barnabas. We need to do more of what Paul instructed the Thessalonians, and us, to do. We need to build each other up. We need to be more encouraging.

Maybe you're too embarrassed to say it. Maybe you may think that a person probably doesn't need to hear it. Well let me tell you friend, they do. You do. We all do. Go ahead...say it!





Linking up most weeks with these encouraging blogs: #soulsurvival,  #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #threewordWednesday, #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #dancewithJesus, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth, #coffeeforyourheart, #TellHisStory, #Reflect, #livefreeThursday

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

Thank you. It is one of the first phrases we teach our children. At first, it begins as an automatic response. I mean, what parent hasn't repeated this question a hundred times: "What do you say?" I even asked my child this question, hoping for a different response (like good bye because someone was leaving), and got a robotic "thank you" in return.

It is definitely an important phrase to know and wield when appropriate. A nice "thank you" can soothe someone's annoyance. Like, "Thank you so much for waiting. I know that line was really long." A "thank you" can express appreciation. For example, "Thank you for feeding the dog, outside in the dark, so I didn't have to do it." The phrase "thank you" can express so much. Relief, gratefulness, and sometimes even sarcasm.

So, it would seem like most of us in society are pretty accustomed to the phrase, and most of us are probably pretty good at using it. I know, there will always be some people who never want to say it, but I'm not addressing those right now. That's a whole other issue.

But, the attitude that goes along with being truly thankful is an area that we can struggle with. It's easy enough for me to say "thank you" to someone who deserves it, someone who's earned it. But why is it so hard for me to continually cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

This has been on my mind lately. Not that I'm not happy, not that I'm not thankful for my blessings. It's just that sometimes, I don't feel it.

The last few devotions in my Jesus Calling have all been about thanksgiving. (Don't go look up today's date. I'm way off!) I've read the suggested verses before, so what the Bible says on being thankful is not new to me. However, there is a concept in Psalms that has had me stewing over my attitude and how thankful I really am acting.
"Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High" (Psalm 50:14).
"But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God" (Psalm 50:23).
"Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts" (Psalm 107:22).
"I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord" (Psalm 116:17).
Did you catch the common word? In all of the verses above, the authors refer to being thankful as a sacrifice. These two words do not seem to go together in my mind. Thankful. Sacrifice. When I think of a sacrifice, I think of the Old Testament version, with the killing of the perfect animal, or I think of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross for my sins. I do not think of saying a simple "thank you" as a sacrifice.

But now that I'm thinking about it, it is hard to sometimes offer our thankfulness to God. It is hard to live in a constant attitude of thanksgiving.

So, the English nerd in me looked up the word sacrifice. It can be a noun (like the animal being sacrificed) or a verb (the act of). In all of the verses above, the word is used as a noun. Well, the first two definitions listed on dictionary.com all describe the animal part of sacrifice. But the third and fourth ones get interesting
3. the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.
4. the thing so surrendered or devoted. (www.dictionary.com)
These definitions help me understand why it is so hard to cultivate a thankful attitude. Each definition mentions the word surrender. The third definition really speaks to me. A sacrifice is something we surrender, something we deem as valuable, for the sake of achieving or gaining something better.

When we admit our deep thankfulness to God, we surrender our own lives. We humble ourselves and admit that we cannot achieve anything without God. We admit that He is better than us. We admit that He is smarter than us. So that thing we surrender is our own pride. No wonder it's hard!

But no wonder the Bible says that thanksgiving is a sacrifice that truly honors God. It is a true act of praise! It puts God in the position that He alone deserves. It declares Him as Lord and King of our lives.

Back to that third definition of sacrifice. It says that we surrender something for the sake of gaining something better. So what do we gain when we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving? I know one thing: joy. God honors this kind of sacrifice by giving us joy. He blesses us for being thankful. Doesn't this really just give us more to be thankful about? Such a great gift.

I find that I also receive peace when I am thankful. When I humble myself and admit that God is better, I am actively trusting Him. When I trust God fully, I experience His peace. I can know that He is in control of any difficult circumstances that I may be facing. And while it still might be hard, He is handling it all on my behalf.

Wow, I've been a little deep today! But this is something that has been bubbling around in my heart and mind for awhile now, and I just had to share it with you all. Plus, it's fun for me to get back to my English teacher roots and do a little word study.

God is so good! We really do have so much to be thankful for. And when we decide to sacrifice our own pride and give Him the praise He deserves, He is so good to shower us with joy and many more blessings. I'm going to be working on this in the days and weeks to come. I am going to trade my grumpiness for joy. I decide to be more thankful.




Linking up with these encouraging blogs: #soulsurvival,  #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #threewordWednesday, #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #dancewithJesus, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth, #coffeeforyourheart, #TellHisStory, #Reflect, #livefreeThursday



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beginnings

We have been busy, like many of you, I'm sure, getting kids ready to go back to school. We bought the clothes and school supplies and discovered who the kids' teachers were. We sent my oldest off to his second year of preschool today, and my daughter has her first day of preschool tomorrow.

Yep, things are beginning in the Johnson house.

There's more though! I am currently looking out my living room and admiring the view. To be honest, I'm a little intimidated by the view. From my current vantage point, I can see many acres of soon-to-be combined corn. Yes, as I am typing this, the corn is outside beginning to dry up, making it ready for harvest. (Picture coming. I'm having issues with my computer!)

So yes, the beginning of school signals that harvest time and all of its busyness and excitement is about to begin.

A little bit about our harvest time...We have soybeans and corn that need to be harvested, usually between the months of September and November. Sometimes, it stretches into December, depending on the weather. So, for these months, my husband and father-in-law are super busy. They probably average about 4 hours of sleep a night. They must pick the crop, haul it, dry it (if it's corn) and store it. Then, the fields must be worked, meaning the husks and other pieces of the plants are turned back into the soil. Then, if the field will be corn next year, fertilizer is applied. It is a rush to get the crops out while they can yield the maximum number of bushels. It is also a race to get it all done by winter. That is the wild card! Snow in Minnesota can come early. Last year, it was in the middle of November!

So, this time of year, while exciting, is super stressful to me and my family. The kids see less of their dad, I parent alone most of the time, and I also must keep all the men well fed. Because, of course, they do not like to stop those machines! I end up looking forward to and somewhat dreading harvest every year.

Such is my life, I guess!

But God's word offers us a lot of encouragement when we face new beginnings. I read in my Proverbs 31 First5 app this week that God is the God of new beginnings. Think about it: He existed before anything else. He is the beginning. He creates beginnings. He sets out, in advance, every new beginning that we will face. Here are some of my favorite verses that bring me comfort and encouragement when I'm nervous or anxious about a new beginning.
"The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights" Habakkuk 3:19.
"For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs" Zephaniah 3:17.
"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand" Isaiah 41:10.
"The Lord says, 'I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you'" Psalm 32:8. 
"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand" Psalm 37:23-24. 
Bottom Line for New Beginnings...
When facing new beginnings, remember: God is with you. He holds you by your hand. God is directing your steps. He is making your steps sure. God delights in your new beginnings.

Linking up with these encouraging blogs: #soulsurvival,  #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #threewordWednesday, #livefreeThursday, #belovedbrews, #dancewithJesus, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth, #coffeeforyourheart, #TellHisStory, #Reflect