Tag Archives: trusting

Black Socks and Toilet Paper Rolls

For me, Valentine’s Day has always felt like that awkward holiday in which you aren’t sure you want to participate, let alone celebrate.  In high school, the day was surrounded by a weird duality of angst and anticipation…would that special someone step out and support the sophomore class to buy a specific colored chrysanthemum signifying merely friendship, or, maybe, even be bold to choose the one that signifies “I like you”?  Years later, even through college, February 14th seemed to be the one day of the year where, as a young woman, I straddled the fulcrum, one part of me teetering on emotions of immense disappointment while immensely hoping for the joy of feeling safe and secure in a current relationship.

No offense to my husband, but during our younger years, it took us awhile to get on the same page about this holiday…and maybe a few other things…like, actually dating.  Looking back, Valentine’s Day carries a lot of hurt about my expectations versus my reality.  And, because of those feelings, I believe it has changed how I see the holiday now.

My sensitive side is especially heightened this time of year.  I always have a conundrum about posting happy marriage pictures, as I have friends struggling with their relationships.  It’s like announcing your pregnancy when you know your dearest loved one deals with infertility.  I don’t want to toss my joy around inconsiderately when there is so much pain and hurt in the world.

But, bottom line, Valentine’s Day is about love.  It’s about those around you.  Your marital status doesn’t define your happiness.  You know what does?

Black socks and toilet paper rolls.

Huh?

My dad died of a brain tumor when I was twelve.  Certainly, I know how this impacted my world and even how this loss has carried into my adult life.   Looking back, it is apparent that the early years of our marriage were rooted in my fear of losing Brad.  He was late getting home? Certainly that meant he was dead in a ditch somewhere.  Forgot to call?  He was insensitive and uncaring of my insecurities.  For a young married couple, these little issues stretched deep and wide and probably permeated areas more than I care to remember.

Finally, one night after another round of tears and misunderstandings, Brad boldly shared, “I can never be everything to you.  I can’t fulfill all your needs and ease your fears.  I will fail every single time because I am not perfect.  You need to lean on God for filling those holes and healing those wounds.”

Life changing.

Our relationship improved, because my focus cleared.  Instead of looking at all the negative things I felt Brad was doing, I asked the Lord to change me, to fill me, to ease my fears of being left alone as a young mom.  I leaned in to Jesus, deepening my faith through His Word and prayer. My attitude became one filtered through the lens of gratefulness which changed my life and strengthened our marriage.

For my mom, it was black socks.  My dad, being a pastor, would often come home and change clothes, and leave his black socks on the floor beside their bed.  Years after his death, I remember my mom saying how, if life were different, she would not complain about picking up his black socks, but instead be grateful she had the chance to do it.

For me, it’s the toilet paper roll.  It’s a choice, each and every time I see it empty.  I can lament that Brad or my kids forgot to change it out.  I can wave it around in their faces, or pout at the injustice of always having the responsibility fall on me. Or, I can choose thankfulness that I can serve them in that way and be grateful each and every day that we can share life together, empty toilet paper rolls and all.

So, this year, whether you will be spending Valentine’s Day with a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or will be passing the time alone, my encouragement for you is to not let your day be defined by your circumstances.  Let your heart be filled up by the living God, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to love well the people around you, whoever they are.  With Him at the central core of who you are, you can wait on his timing, and revel in his love.  By no means is it easy, and, truthfully, it may still even be a bit lonely. But, when He fills you to your very soul and you lean in to Him, He can help you see the smallest glimmer of good in even the saddest of situations.  Trust in that promise today because He delivers.  I’m living proof.  Personally, I think that may be the best Valentine’s Day gift of all.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.   Many are the afflictions of the
righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19

Be thankful for what you have, because each day is a precious gift when surrounded by those we love.  Don’t waste it. Single, married, divorced, widowed, young, old…choose gratitude, and choose Him first.

Challenging you to join me in changing the toilet paper roll  –

Blessed to be His,

Sarah

PS.  If you feel so inclined, would you leave me a note on my Facebook page or in the comments section on what your “toilet paper roll” commitment is?  What will you choose to be grateful about rather than see it as a chore? What is your labor of love and thankfulness for those around you?

Back to Ecuador and Ready to Write

It’s unbelievable to me, but it has been months since I last posted on this blog.  So many weeks have gone by, and I have had numerous thoughts and ideas of things to write.  To say we have been busy seems like such an excuse, but it is true.  In addition, I have also been tired.  Just. plain. tired.  Getting back in the groove of things takes some effort…something I am just starting to find again.

Jacob pitching

Photo credit: Rick Nath

The summer was fantastic.  We were able to watch a tremendous amount of baseball games (sixty or so), visit family, spend time with friends, and relish our time of worship at our home church.  We refueled and recharged, but, honestly, it is good to be back in Quito.  That statement does not, in any way, diminish our love to be with our family and friends, or downplay that we do miss each and every one of you while we are here.  But, there is a certain normalcy about returning to Ecuador and picking up where we left off last spring.  The fact is, God has called us here to Alliance Academy International for this time, and coming back to Ecuador does provide us with a sense of peace and, dare I say it, “coming home.”  I believe there is some sort of confirmation in that – knowing that the restlessness that we perhaps feel in the United States stems from the fact that we are away from the very place that we are to be at this current time.

Last August brought earthquakes and this year our return has been greeted with governmental protests and volcanic eruptions.  Meetings at school are focused on multiple areas, including what to pack in your evacuation backpack.  We have experienced a “run” on water, helping us understand that we indeed do need to have some level of preparedness.

cotopaxi volcano in Ecuadro

Photo credit: Lucas Bustamante/Destination Ecuador

Even though Cotopaxi is 30 miles away, we could experience issues with water supply and ash cover should it finally fully erupt.  It is truly a scary situation for those in its shadow, as the current ash plumes are affecting livestock, plants, and breathing.  Additionally, they predict a twenty minute evacuation window should there be a full eruption, which would melt the glaciers and send the lava and water flowing into the nearby towns.  We are far enough away to be safe from the immediate impact, but would certainly be affected by the residual results of a limited or contaminated water supply as well as heavy ash fall.

Despite the uncertainty around us, we know with ALL CERTAINTY that we are held in the handsLake 2015 of our Lord and Savior who knows what happened yesterday, today, and what each and every day of the future will hold. Worrying about any moment is futile and changes nothing.  So, why not embrace the future with the certainty that comes from knowing Christ?  If we place everything in His hands, and trust in His promises, we can claim them with every assurance that our future is certain, safe, and secure.

Writing those claims and promises seem so easy.  Interesting how knowing and doing are two different ends of the spectrum.  In fact, I would go so far as to say I have struggled more lately with wondering about what each day will bring than I ever have in the past years. I am finding multiple areas of insecurity as I realize how little I can control in my own personal circle. If I let it, these areas can grow and consume me, making me feel like life is spiraling out of control…ironic, as I have no control of any of it anyway.   And, once you start this cycle, it gets harder and harder to not have every little decision or discussion be about how the illusion of control is no longer in my grasp.  Not a fun place to visit, and certainly an even worse place to live.

I have discovered, much to my shame, that it is simply my pride that gets in the way of me wanting to strive for a fuller life ~ one of less control, and more of Jesus.

I deceptively think I can hold it all together, manipulating my little world into a facade of happiness and perfection, only to find that if it is built on my own tasks and plans, it is only an illusion of foundation and strength, which can tumble and fall in a moment’s notice.

That is no way to live.

When you say you want to give the Lord your life and entrust all you have to Him, you can’t pick and choose the areas that are excluded.

Because, anything short of everything will eventually fall apart.

It is indeed a daily surrender to pride and control and a renewal every morning of submission to the Lord of my life.

Simply put, there is an easy solution to avoiding the angst, and, instead, walking toward a life of peace and hope.  I have found that my discontent and fear of the unknown directly correlates to how much time I have spent…or haven’t spent… filling up with God’s Word and spending time in prayer.

It’s that basic, yet I seem to have the tendency to make it complicated.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
 
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds
anything we can understand. His peace will guard your
hearts
and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-8 NLT (emphasis mine)

See how we have a part in this?  We are to pray and thank him…and then we will experience God’s peace…and he’ll take care of what is in our heart and mind.  We need to ditch the pride, the facade of control, the illusion that we actually have some say in what the future can hold.  We’re not innocent bystanders – no, we play an active role in decisions and paths we travel.  But, we can do it thinking that simply by making good choices and plans our life will be worry-free, or we can live with Christ at the helm, ask him to guide our decisions, and then we can know with all certainty that the peace He promises is ours now, tomorrow, and forever.Baños_Shell 010

If you struggle like I do in relinquishing control, thinking you can make any difference in what actually happens in the future, or worrying about what happens tomorrow or beyond, won’t you recommit today with me to spending time in prayer and focusing on Christ Jesus?  Won’t you join me in claiming the promise of His peace to those that pray to Him and thank Him for what He has done for us?

It’s basic.  Move over pride…God is in control.

Working on humbling myself each day,

Sarah