If I had gone to the Cheesecake Factory today by myself, I never would have tasted these. These are Avocado Eggrolls and they are DELICIOUS. I never would have ordered them on my own though. Never. I have my standard order and I don't vary from it much. I have my Cheesecake Factory favorite and I stick with it.
But today, I went with my husband, my son, my mother-in-law (Sandy), and my father-in-law (Jim). Jim and Sandy like to go to the Cheesecake Factory near their home sometimes and just order appetizers and drinks. Having tried several appetizers, they now know what they like best, so they ordered the avocado eggrolls and some calamari for us all to enjoy before our entrees, and I am so glad they did! I enjoyed every bite.
So this got me thinking... We really are better together, folks. We weren't meant to walk through life alone - picking out our favorites (places, food, books, movies, jobs, stores, bible verses, activities, etc.) and sticking with them. We were meant to walk through life together, to rub shoulders with many different people and experience their favorites along with our own; opening our senses to the world as THEY perceive it. We won't always love the world as others show it to us. Sometimes we won't be able to relate at all, but even if we don't share their view we will have a clearer, broader perspective when all is said and done.
Once during my childhood my grandparents traveled from Florida to visit my family in Arizona. We were so excited to take them to see the Grand Canyon! We couldn't wait to show off the beautiful scenery and watch them take their first breathtaking glimpse of God's creative power on display. I will never forget them getting out of the car taking a look over the edge and NOT BEING IMPRESSED AT ALL. It was just a big hole in the ground to them. For a long time this frustrated me. I just couldn't understand it. I even blamed them for not having a stronger reaction, but at the end of the day: they saw it. Whether it moved them or not, they saw it. They had that experience in their back pocket for the rest of their days and no one could take it from them. For me the Grand Canyon was a place where God was to be worshiped and where my imagination ran wild. For my grandparents the Grand Canyon was a place that made them glad they lived in Florida where there are lush green trees and warm, sandy beaches and not in Arizona where deserts are beautiful, but harsh and desolate too.
Regardless of whether our time spent with others trying new things, exploring THEIR favorites, shows us what we have in common or brings into stark contrast our differences, it is time well spent.
So my question today is, when was the last time you sampled someone else's favorite anything? When was the last time you stepped out of your routine and asked someone to show you a piece of the world through their eyes? A new sight, a new taste, a new perspective/opinion, a new hobby, a new labor, a new way of doing something you've always done?
You never know... it might just be a hole in the ground, but it could be THE GRAND CANYON! It's worth a shot.
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a best selling book. Many, MANY have read it and been changed by its message. I have resisted. I have resisted because I am prone to resistance. I am known to resist the new and the popular at times. Why? Who knows. Chalk it up to whatever makes most sense to you and call it a day. What matters is that whatever wall I had built up around this book and whatever reasons I had that were keeping me from receiving its message are now gone. Today, Ann released on her blog the first 20 minute video that will be a part of a DVD set that will be available to help small groups process One Thousand Gifts together. I watched it. I now "get it." I had to let Ann know.
Go to Ann's blog to watch the video. It is moving and poignant and refreshing. I'm looking forward to seeking out the 1,000+ gifts that God has given and continues to give in my life and naming them.
"Your consistency makes us feel safe around you."
As part of my job as an executive assistant, I was asked to read this book and take the online strengths assessment that goes along with it. At the end of the process you end up with two areas of your greatest strength, a report that helps you understand how to use those strengths better at work, and a phrase that describes you. The phrase at the top of this post is mine. I've been batting it around in my head ever since. Is it true? I hope so. I want people to feel safe with me. I have seen this play out in a variety of ways throughout my life - being able to befriend people fairly easily when we have moved so many times, welcoming foster children into our home and helping them to quickly feel safe and at ease, gaining the trust of those who employ me. I guess I've always taken for granted these simple things, but I've never viewed them as what makes me different or unique.
The book describes your strengths as "those things that make you feel strongest", NOT as "what you are good at." The author makes a distinction by stating that just because you are good at something doesn't mean you gain strength from doing it. There are countless novels and movies based around this very idea... you can picture them now. The parent who pressures the child to excel in a sport or theatrical or musical endeavor because it is obvious the child is good at it, only to have the child rebel when she is old enough to say no because, while she is an amazing ballet dancer, she does not derive strength and joy from dancing... what she really gets jazzed about is Paleontology, or Nursing, or "fill in the blank." The Wall Street executive who walks away from a lucrative career to become a chef or appear on American Idol. We eat these stories up! Perhaps because we can relate on some level.
Do you ever feel like you've made choices in life that have led you to the place you are now because you've always just done what you've been good at, regardless of whether or not it played to your true inner strengths? That is the question this book asks and it is a good one to consider.
An even better question to ask? Have you submitted everything you are to the God who made you that way to be used for His glory in the world? It is one thing to know how you are wired; it is another to know the One who wired you that way and pursue that which He gives you to do on a daily basis.
I submit to you that while "playing to your strengths" may make you feel strong and energized, that will only last as long as you are playing to an "audience of One." God is the one who can renew our strength day-by-day even when all strength is gone. I'm so thankful to know that this is true and to have experienced that truth in my life. No matter where I am or what I am doing, my strength can be renewed and I can "feel strong," if I am following God and relying on Him.
1 Chronicles 16:11 NASB - "Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His face continually."
Philippians 4:13 NLT - "For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength"
Today I was reminded that I live with guys. I wasn't reminded because my husband and son were being weird or gross or particularly guy-like... I was reminded because I WAS being weird, gross and guy-like! You see, it rubs off on you over time and before you know it you find yourself in the middle of a pumpkin patch on a glorious Fall day in your cutest jean jacket, black shirt, black suade shoes and turquoise and silver necklace, with your makeup on and your hair cutely twisted in a clip - SNORTING AND LAUGHING OUT LOUD at all of the really nasty rotting pumpkins in the patch. I didn't realize how abnormal my behavior was until I realized that after taking pictures on my phone of several grody specimens I found myself hunting like a mad woman for a pumpkin I'd seen when I first arrived that was covered in bugs so I could get a picture of it too! That's when I high-tailed it out of there.
I bet if I lived with girls that trip to the pumpkin patch would have gone completely differently! Still... I had fun and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
The funniest thing about this whole experience to me is that my guys weren't even with me! I went to the pumpkin patch alone! I took these silly pictures (and posted them to Facebook, no less) for my own amusement. I'm glad I stopped short of the buggy one, aren't you?
PS - Don't let these snapshots keep you away from your local pumpkin patch! There were THOUSANDS of gorgeous pumpkins and gourds growing in the patch... they just weren't as interesting to me on this particular day. Now - off to do something girly, quick!
Bikes were made to ride! I knew this from a young age, but I also knew, that riding them could involve crashing and injury, and that knowledge kept me learning to ride a bike until I was almost 10 years old. I am a late-blooming bike rider, and this is my story.
My brother rode his bike like a speed demon from a very early age. My father, knowing my intense fear (and my stubborn nature), refused to buy me my own bicycle until I bit the bullet and learned to ride one of the bicycles the family already owned. He also refused my insistence on training wheels altogether. (Remind me to tell you someday about how he made me learn to drive in a stick-shift car on a hilly road, during the time of day when the sun was right in your eyes...he wasn't big on coddling, shall we say.) Well, in my mind, the bikes in our shed wouldn't do at all. They were too far off the ground! I could fall, I could get seriously injured! So, I dug my heels in and just refused to learn.
That was all fine and dandy until ALL of my friends had mastered the art of riding a bike and we all started to get old enough to be given a bit more freedom. Suddenly, my friends were out riding their bikes around the neighborhood and to each others' houses to visit and I was being left behind. One day a friend who was unaware of my non-bike-riding status, knocked on my front door and invited me to ride to the park. I panicked. Without thinking, I said, "Sure! Just let me get my bike." I purposefully went to the shed and pulled out a bike and then proceeded to WALK IT ALL THE WAY TO THE PARK while my friend rode beside me very slowly, totally perplexed. I kept insisting, "I just feel like walking today."
The truth was that I didn't at all feel like walking. I wanted nothing more than to hop on that bike and ride alongside my friend with my hair blowing in the breeze, but I was afraid I'd crash,fall, and bleed. The truth was, I probably would fall. Most people do when they learn to ride a bike, right? My fear wasn't irrational, it had just become too large in my mind.
Can I fess up right now? This still happens to me to this day. Oh, I learned to ride a bike alright (with minimal bloodshed, thank-you-very-much), but fears can still become inappropriately large in my mind if I let them. There are legitimately concerning things in this world, don't get me wrong! We are all bound to take a tumble or two (or 10) financially, with our health, in our relationships, at work, at church, in service to others, at school, the unknown is vast and the likelihood of coming through life unscathed is nonexistent. So what is a girl to do? Fake it? Pretend to take risks while always keeping one foot safely on the ground? Not an option - we aren't fooling anyone! Everyone can see when you are walking the bike and everyone knows it isn't because you "feel like walking." You are afraid. Admit it. Confess it. Ask God to help you through it.
As someone who is currently and has in the past navigated some pretty treacherous terrain in life, let me tell you - the ride is worth it.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you."
Every so often, things get a little too serious. Am I right? In those moments, I go back to Facebook and Twitter and look over the last several weeks and find the funniest things my friends, and family, (and strangers for that matter) have posted that made me laugh and I compile a top ten list here on the blog to share with this serious world. You never know when something YOU've posted might show up here! As always, names have been removed to protect the hilarious.
1. "When having a smackerel of something with a friend, don't eat so much that you get stuck in the doorway trying to get out." Winnie the Pooh
2. My 2nd grader just told me, "Mom, don't bother looking at my homework. You won't be able to understand it."
3. "Some folks don't deserve thumbs."
4. "If you ever got sick from playing a kazoo, it would be a humbug."
5. "You know you have issues when you don't want to use a GPS because you HATE being told what to do."
6. "History will someday explain how, early in the 21st century, all the pastors' wives suddenly became smokin' hot."
7. "I believe the children are our future" -Hopeful song lyric now made depressing because of that Honey Boo Boo show.
8. Mom to 4 of 5 kids: "What r u doing downstairs?" Kids: "Reading where it's quiet & there are no moms yelling at the football game."
9. "Teacher, you look like Britney Spears. But the good version, like before she went crazy and shaved her hair and stuff."
10. A first grader telling her Dad about her soccer game: "A grandma for the other team was yelling, "kick it in the goal!" And I was yelling, "DON'T LISTEN TO GRANDMA!!"
Today I had the opportunity to share with subscribers of Cedarville University's ParentPrep blog about the top fears Christian parents have when sending their children off to college. Check it out and pass it on to those who may be encouraged by the message. CLICK HERE
"You and I are in little (our sins excepted) what God is in large." - A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.
I am pondering this quote today. Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were made in God's image. With the exception of our sin nature, the stuff that makes us up is a minute version of the stuff that makes up God. That is worth a few moments of reflection, and could even change the way we view ourselves and others forever if pondered with the proper weight!
If you are single, you have probably been asked what you look for in a potential date/spouse. If you are married, chances are you've had a single friend ask you what they should look for in a mate. How do you answer? Our laundry list of desirable traits might read like this:
- a sense of humor
- good with children
- spiritually mature
- attractive (to you)
- a good communicator
The list could go on and on. Look back over the list for a moment. Is there any trait that does not apply to God? God embodies the most complete, perfect, holy version of every trait that is attractive to us in another human being. The qualities in others that draw us to them, are the very qualities of God; the qualities that God himself possesses in FULL MEASURE.
The challenge that comes with this knowledge is three fold:
1 - To view God accurately - not to withhold from him in our minds the very characteristics that we admire in others, not to downplay His perfection or His ability, not to make Him something that He is not in our thoughts - something that is on the same level as what we have observed here on earth. He is entirely other, beyond what we can fathom in His perfection.
2 - To view ourselves accurately - not to beat ourselves up for having emotions (our God experiences emotions), not to accept a lower standard when a higher one has been set by our Creator, not to see ourselves as greater than we are - no matter how much we excel in a given trait, God is greater still to the nth degree.
3 - To view others accurately - to admire their positive qualities without elevating them to the place of demi-god in our minds, to expect and hope for the best in others because we know they are made of "god-stuff," just as we are (even if they aren't demonstrating it for a season), to refrain from judging them for the qualities that are lesser developed in them than in ourselves - to quote a former Sunday School teacher of mine: "Comparing my vertical leap with my neighbor's is pretty foolish if the moon is the goal." No one can can jump to the moon and the few inches that I may have over my neighbor in my vertical leap is a pretty ridiculous comparison when I consider the actual goal. (Thanks for the illustration, Doug Bridges, I've never forgotten it.)
The lyrics to this song say perfectly some of what I have just stumbled through trying to explain, I hope it blesses you and increases your scope of who our God is and how great He is:
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!