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Pruning dead branches

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Last night I got a what one would describe as a fanatical piece of hair up my back end (aka a wild hair up my ass – where do these sayings come from anyhow and why do I say them?). I brought the recyclables out to the garage and whilst performing this menial task eyed a pair of pruners on my husbands work bench in the garage. I scooped them up and meandered around to the front of the house and started clipping off dead branches on the Crabapple tree. I think its a Selkirk Crabapple. At any rate, the tree is right outside the main window of my living room and I’ve been staring myself blind at dead branches, crossing branches, and clusters of little sprouts growing too close together. Anyone who knows anything about pruning would know why it has been driving me nuts. My husband, who was wondering where I had disappeared to, came out to check the mail and was somewhat surprised to find me up in the tree pruning away with a set of small pruners. It didn’t take long and he was out there with a hand saw and a ladder. We both like doing yard work and we like doing it together.

 

A part of me felt bad hacking away at that tree last night, and a bit worried that the tree would look ugly once we were done pruning- but rationality told me that a dead branch doesn’t need to stay and its not helping the tree by staying on, its literally just dead weight hanging off the tree and it has no business being there anymore. Looking at it tonight I realized that those dead branches are like our forgiven sins- we no longer need to hold on to them,  they can and should be cut loose, it is healthier in the long run. Our own guilt somehow reasons with us that the dead branches should stay, that even though our sins are forgiven we can’t really move forward. We hang on because we think by hanging on we’re performing some sort of penance we still owe despite regular prayers for forgiveness and professing every Sunday that we believe in the forgiveness of sins. It is still a sin if you don’t really believe it has been forgiven or if someone else has been forgiven and you still hold them to their past sin.

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It’s hard sometimes to truly and wholeheartedly believe in the forgiveness of sins. Its hard to leave sin at the foot of God’s throne in prayer and believe that that sin, along with the thousands upon thousands of other sins that have been forgiven,  are REALLY covered through the blood of Christ on the cross but we are assured of it in God’s word. In Acts 13: 38-39 it is written (about Jesus), “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you , and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses` . How very liberating!…and yet don`t we all find it so very  hard to live by this liberating grace. I don’t have a lot more to say on this, it was just a thought and the last thought of the night is this : when you find you have a dead branch hanging on, whether it is your own sins of the past or someone else’s sin or sins of the past,  go to the foot of God’s throne and prune that dead branch before the weight becomes too much and you find yourself crumpling under a load that only Jesus can carry.

 

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Carrying more cross than God gives you to carry

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Anxiety. I wish I could blame it all on becoming a new mother  but the truth is I can’t. I have always had to deal with an element of anxiety in my life. I sometimes let myself be scared into a corner and that corner I live in sometimes is not really living at all. I’m sure I’m not the  first or the only person on the planet to deal with it, in fact, I know I’m not. I’ve heard other peoples stories about panic attacks and anxiety and the undercurrent theme in both is the irrationality of it all.

Back in the day I used to have this fear that a bear would climb up into my bedroom and attack me. A pile of clothes in the corner of my room would become a sleeping bear in the dark, waiting for me to close my eyes so it could get me.  I had a fear of fainting after watching a few of my classmates keel over right in front of me and spew throw up all over the floor as they landed and lay in the land of the unconscious.  I dream all the time and I’ve learned over time and after more than a few sleepless nights to stay away from scary shows and movies because that seems to trigger nightmares for me. No one likes lying alone in the dark after a nightmare. I can still remember going to watch “The Skeleton Key” with another couple and my boyfriend at the time. I knew it wouldn’t be any good for me but not wanting to be the loser of the group I went along and I paid for it for a couple nights. One night after this movie as I was awaking from a nightmare I heard scratching in my basement, I was convinced the couple in the movie was coming for me and it turned out to be a cat that had  snuck in the house, its nails clicking against the cement floor.

Every now and then my husband has to work out of town and I am left at home alone for the night. I used to be fine but  just recently he was gone and my old familiar friend anxiety came to visit me each night in his stead. Here’s how it would go:

I would get ready for bed. I check on my little one and listen for breathing, satisfied she’s alive and well I hop into bed and debate leaving a light on in my bedroom closet or leaving on my bedside lamp. I reason to myself that I’ve never heard of a story where someone was saved because they left a light on in their bedroom and I’m not  any safer or less safe because my lights are on or off. I turn off my lights.  My little girl moves in her bed and the sudden noise makes me jump. I’m not as calm as I am trying to be. I check facebook, I read from my bible app, then I turn off my phone and roll over. With nothing to occupy  my mind other things begin to fill my head. My senses begin to work overtime.  A car door slams, a cop siren in the distance, a scratching sound…wait, a scratching sound? Is someone trying to  pick my locks?I know this is irrational, because the scratching sound is those blinking acrobatic, black squirrels that leap from my front yard tree onto my roof and scramble over my shingles. The door bumps…why is the door bumping? Is someone trying to get in my house? Or worse…is someone in my house?? I wait for a form to burst in my door…or picture a hooded figure stealing things in my living room. Maybe if I lay really still they won’t think to bother me. Here we go again. The open window in my bedroom causes some sort of light suction that makes the door  bounce lightly back and forth. Like I said, the undercurrent here is irrationality. More anxiety ensues as I hug the blankets closer around me (like that will keep me safe?) and when I don’t dare go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or worse, when I do and I check in the shower to see if someone is hiding in there. (don’t act like you never have!…but seriously, what would we do anyhow if someone WAS in there?)

As a new mother, I experience a different kind of anxiety, I worry  about if my baby is going to cry when I’m out in public, I worry about all the eyes that might be on me, the judgmental or irritated looks I might receive, will people think I shouldn’t be mother when they watch me struggle with my nursing cover as my girl’s cries reverberate through the mall? I feel more exposed when I go out, now that it takes longer to load up my groceries, my own purse, and my baby. Will someone see me as an easy target for mugging? I know I can’t live like this, like I said, I know that this sort of thinking has me in my own mental trap and is not really living at all. So if you are someone who has ever experienced any of these thoughts or  feelings yourself I have 3 sayings I want to share with you what I heard from my parents in the last few days while they were visiting and while we chatted about some of my struggles with anxiety and 1 saying I read on a pizza box from coco brooks quite awhile ago.

 

1- From Mom:

“We often carry more cross than God gives us to carry”

2. From Dad:

“A lot of us spend time building bridges to places we never have to go”

3. From Beppe:

“God gives you grace to live and He will give you grace to die”

4. From a wise pizza box :

“Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is”

 

I need this reminder to not be bigger than God or bigger than my problems and to accept that God has numbered my days and everything in my life will always go according to His plan whether I stay up to worry about it or not. I don’t know about you but I know I will be chanting these to myself the next time I find myself wondering where I left my bat and how much jail time I might get if I accidentally kill an intruder in my house while trying to defend myself.

I feel like its cliche and I debated leaving it out but I simply can’t so here it is, a hard command for me to obey:

” Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Phillipians 4: 4-7 (ESV)

 

 

Making mistakes with dignity

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I had to laugh today…a gentleman came in today and started explaining to me that he needed a fertilizer that had high phosphorous in it. He kept saying how it had to have a high middle number. On most fertilizers their will be three numbers on it like 19-12-10. The numbers stand for Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium. I remember the numbers by thinking up-down-all around. Nitrogen is good for top growth, phosphorous promotes root growth and potassium helps both. Sometimes a fertilizer will have a fourth number, that number stands for micro-nutrients. Anyways, I asked him how much square footage he has to cover. He had 70,000 square feet. Next I asked him what exactly he needed it for and why it was so important to have high phosphorous.  Do you wanna know what he did to it? He mistook round-up for fertilizer and had sprayed his entire lawn with it. My mouth dropped and my eyes got wide…I just looked at him, made a cringing face and was like…”ooooooohhhh..”. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be him the moment he realized what he had done.  He thought that if he got a fertilizer with high phosphorous he might be able to bring it back since there was some signs of the blue grass still being alive. At minimum for the the fertilizer alone he would be looking at 750 smackaroonies to cover all that ground and their was still no guarantee that his lawn would come back.

NOT FERTILIZER!!! Haha...

I thought I was having a bad day because I lost power steering  in my car the other day and will in all likelihood be facing down another garage bill in a few days here.  Not only was this guy having to fix his 70,000 square foot rounded-up lawn, he probably had undergone a pretty big kick to the ol’ pride for pulling off such a ridiculous move.  He must have felt a bit silly trying to explain to his wife what he had done and then realize how much money it would cost to try and fix the lawn. If the fertilizer doesn’t work he can look at topdressing and over-seeding or more extremely he would have to rototill his yard and re-seed or lay down sod…its hard to take care of an area of lawn that big.

I guess I just know for myself that I would have been feeling a bit sheepish about it all. I admired him for being able to just address it with a matter of fact kind of attitude.  For a lot of people its hard to admit when you make a mistake, its hard to face up to the dumb things you do sometimes. We all like to go home and talk about the great things we did that day. Most of us like to stay away from talking about all the dumb things we did. For instance, if you asked me about my day today, I’d rather tell you about the 2000 dollar sale I made, or how I surprised some old guy with a Dutch accent that I was taking out on a tree tour by speaking Dutch to him. I don’t really want to tell you how I was a bum to get out of bed today so I was late for work.  I don’t want to tell you how twice today I forgot to take down a tree row number and once forgot to write down the caliper size of the tree for the invoice. I don’t really want to tell you about the times that I quote the wrong price to a contractor calling in. It’s embarrassing when you make mistakes.

Its hard for us to be honest with ourselves, even harder to be open about it with other people. It’s much easier to brag about the good stuff we do. Its so funny how one of the first sins after the fall into sin was some serious blame shifting. Eve was feeling the heat and so tried to point the finger at Adam.  Lets face it, we all do the same thing. We try to save our own ass.  My instinct even when I was telling you about my mistakes and shortcomings today was to make up some excuse how I was thinking about my car and had lots on my mind today,to tell you that my brain was in the clouds, so OBVIOUSLY its okay I made those mistakes.  I hide behind my character flaws sometimes. “Everyone knows I’m a procrastinator”. “I’m not a morning person”.  “I forgot to eat breakfast, I just wasn’t functioning properly”. We all make excuses for ourselves when really we need to learn to face ourselves and recognize when we’re trying to make our mistakes and sins okay. Also, it makes us all a little bit less intimidating and more human to each other when we know that we all make mistakes. I’ve always thought it was interesting how you can talk to just about anyone and they can tell you about some idiot at work. Very rarely does anyone ever go home and talk about how they were the idiot at work that day. Intriguing huh. At any rate, I admired the man’s pluck for just biting the bullet and coming to the service center for some advice knowing full well he was gonna get some funny looks and some “oooohhhh’s” .  We all need to work on being a little bit more honest with ourselves and with eachother. We all need to work on making mistakes with dignity, humbleness, and personally, I think we need to make mistakes with a sense of humor. I know I would have been able to laugh at myself at some point pretty hard if I rounded up my entire lawn. Haha…makes me laugh now just thinking about it again. I don’t think that you need to confess every mistake to everyone. Sometimes its beneficial to just ponder on a mistake on our own and decide to do better next time and bring our failings and mistakes before God. Sometimes we make big obvious mistakes that others can see, then its crunch time and I would suggest walking through the aftermath of your mistakes honestly. Don’t point fingers or blame shift. Learn to shoulder the responsibility of your own mistakes. Last but not least learn to bring mistakes before God and ask him for the strength and dignity to admit and deal with your mistakes.

If only, if only, if only….

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You know those days where you can’t look good in anything? I’ve sort of been having a day like that. Its not like I was having trouble putting together an outfit. My clothing pattern is pretty darn predictable being a waitress and all. I stand infront of my closet in the morning thinking, ‘hmmmm…this black shirt or that black shirt? Those black pants or these black pants? I think I’ll go with the black shirt and the black pants”. Hahaha..its seriously like that. Anyways, it was just one of those days when I was looking at myself in the mirror thinking, if only my hair was like this, if only my teeth were straighter, if only I was ten pounds lighter. I know that all of us girls have those days and some struggle harder with it then others. I guess guys might struggle with this too to some degree.

Last night one of the girls I work with was telling me she used to work at this certain restaurant renowned for only hiring extreme hotties.  She told me that along with the rest of the girls there, she would actually be lined up before the shift and the girls would be critiqued.  The manager would actually tell them to wear more makeup or to lose some weight or send them home if they weren’t looking good enough. Now I know that some of this could just be exaggeration or not the entire truth but we all know these restaurants exist. It brings the men and the wallets in.  After that chat I got to thinking about how everyone keeps telling me to go waitress downtown. I started thinking about that and then I started thinking about how I would never get hired downtown anyhow because I’m not thin or pretty enough. I started thinking of all the things that that manager would tell me to fix as I stood in front of the mirror this morning facing myself. I left for work feeling pretty self conscious. When I got back I sat down to read my Bible. Funny how sometimes you feel like God isn’t really around, like hes tied up somewhere else helping other people and then you pick up your Bible and get a big biblical hug from Him. I know that sounds a bit weird but reading the Bible is sometimes like getting a hug for your soul. I read Proverbs 31. This verse was my biblical hug and encouragement for the day,

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a women who fears the LORD is to be praised.” -Proverbs 31:30 (NIV)

Aaahhhhh! There now don’t ya feel better! I definitely did! hahaha. Its so important to not let ourselves become entangled in this worldly drive to be perfectly beautiful on the outside.When I think about the people that I love and I realize they’re not perfect but I love them dearly anyhow, not for how they look, but for their insides it makes me realize the foolishness of being overly vain:). haha. I don’t love anyone because their hair is always perfect. In fact people who always appear so perfect and put together on the outside I think give the rest of us this vibe that we’re not good enough if we don’t do that too.  That perfectionistic (I may or may not have just made that word up) attitude can sometimes create a sort of stumbling block for others around them . I’m not saying go ahead and leave the house every day in stained sweat pants and a serious case of bed-head, but don’t freak out if your shirt has a wrinkle in it or your not wearing two gallons of makeup on your face. I guess part of this is about finding a healthy balance when it comes to maintaining ourselves inside and out. The other part of this would be learning to be content with who God made you and working with his word to be a women of noble character. To focus on fearing the Lord instead of thinking about how your going to show everyone else up in the supermarket in your high heels and lipstick.

Hahaha…did i really just say that? High heels and lipstick in the supermarket?…sometimes I’m not sure where I get this stuff…..anyways, this is what I’m trying to say:

Focus on who you are in the Lord, not who you are in the worlds eyes.