Commitment

Faithful in a Little

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Dishes are not as important as changing the world. Or so I would like to believe.

I have to credit one of my very dear friends with the idea of this post and the torture that she has caused me these past few weeks as I think about her words. I love you Laura!

Luke 16:10 says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” Yes, faithfulness.

Until Laura brought the topic to my attention, I did not consider myself to be very unfaithful. I do my school assignments well and finish them on time. I read my Bible and memorize verses almost every day. I show up to work and do what needs to be done, even when I’m tired or sick or just plain unhappy. And all of those things are good. But it is not all that I am called to do.

God has put me in a family and has given me friends and classmates. Each of those relationships also come with other responsibilities and things to be faithful to.

I’m in my senior year of high school, which, of course, means college and life planning. I have huge dreams and ideas about where I want to go next and what I want to do, but that doesn’t mean I can make this year all about me. I’ve started to notice the ways I’m unfaithful to my family and friends as I put myself first.

I work for a great family a couple days a week and as I was doing some of the cooking and cleaning a while ago, I had the thought that I didn’t do things like this at home. Of course, I’m not paid for it at home, but still. I could make dinner every once in a while or take the younger kids to the park. So I began scheming about how I could be more helpful.

But then another thought came to me: You don’t even do the dishes.

I share the responsibility of doing the dishes for the family with two of my siblings. And, busy person that I am, I often don’t make time for washing dishes and the chore falls on my siblings and parents. And that’s unfaithful. Doing the dishes is such a small thing, but I am not even being faithful in that very little.

Yes, I want to be an author and I want to teach history and I want to have a family. But right now, God has placed me here. And that means making the time to do the dishes. I can’t move on to what I consider to be greater things until I learn to do the dishes.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” I must be faithful in this seemingly very little before I can ever be faithful in very much.

Kira

An Experiment in (not) Complaining

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation which you absolutely hated, only to discover that it was due to the other party’s constant whining about their circumstances?

Have you ever been in a decent mood and dragged yourself downward by dwelling on all the things going wrong – or at least not going right?

Have you ever heard those dreaded words from the back of a car: “Are we there yet?”

Then you, my friend, have had experience with complaining.

I realized recently just how much I complain about my life and circumstances. I slip easily into a negative mindset and just as easily let those thoughts slip out of my mouth. It effects not only my mood and actions, but those of others as well, and, as a child of God, that is not something I should be allowing to happen.

This realization hit me about a month ago, and, as soon as it did, I began to notice every time I complained to myself or someone else. I often didn’t make it through an hour without some negative thought passing through my head or out of my lips. There were a few key times in which I especially noticed this unpleasant tendancy of mine, including when I got home from work, when I felt tired and unmotivated, and when other people’s actions interfered with what I wanted.

I decided that I would spend the next month doing my best not to complain and seeing how it effected me. This time included three weeks of counseling at camps, a few very long days (and one night) at work, and the gloriously high temperatures of late summer in Virginia. Here’s what I learned.

I can’t do it.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent that I was not able to keep myself from complaining by my own strength. Duh. But it was still something that I had to learn and remind myself of over and over again. Once I had that figured out, there was a lot more prayer involved in my quest to keep myself from the sin of complaining.

I really can change my own mood.

Remember when you were a kid and really angry about something and your mom would tell you to just decide to be happy and you could turn yourself around? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, the last month has shown me that my mother actually knew what she was talking about. Who would’ve guessed? There are still lovely things like hormones and bad circumstances to be dealt with, but choosing to keep a positive attitude about things really does make a difference. Sometimes, I would catch myself talking about how awful things were at work one day and realize it was putting me in a downright bad mood. When I changed my thoughts to what was good about the situation (I have a job, some of my coworkers are really great, etc.) or to something else entirely (what to blog about when I got home, how great this morning’s run was, etc.) my mood instantly began to rise. Even just the action of putting a smile on my face helped a lot.

The people I interact with impact my actions.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Show me a man’s five closest friends and I’ll show you his future. And that is true. When I’m around people who complain themselves, I am much faster to complain. When I’m with cheerful people, I’m quicker to be positive. Choose your friends wisely, for you will become more like them, whether you want to be or not.

There are other things to talk about.

I never realized how many of my conversations consisted of 1) complaining or 2) gossip. Since I included gossip in the category of “negative thoughts”, that had to go as well. And as it turns out, there are other things to talk about.

The world is full of interesting and good things to talk and think about – we need not dwell on the things that upset us.

Complaining is a form of pride.

How often do you complain for someone else’s benefit? If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. Complaining is all about me, myself, and I. It is all about what I can get out of life and what will make me happy – not what I can do to please God or serve others. It puts all of our focus on ourselves, which is not how God would have us live our lives as His children.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (giving the picture of a truly humble man): “Probably all you will think about him  is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him…He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

I complain a lot. Still.

The past month has not cured me of my desire to complain (or my all-too-frequent fulfillment of that desire, as my family can tell you). I am still working on this discipline, and I probably will be for a while. Thankfully, when I get discouraged, I can return to the first point: I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve learned a lot from just the realization of how much I complain in a day, and I am grateful for the conviction, painful as it may be at times. I hope that my experiment in complaining will cause you to examine your own life and thoughts and will lead you to a more God-focused, self-forgetful way of being. Because that is what we are made to do.

Kira

What helps you keep yourself from complaining?
Are there any places/circumstances that trigger complaint?

The Upside of Gutting it Out

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“You seem to be disenchanted with life this morning.”

My mother’s words before church on Sunday perfectly captured what I had been feeling for the past week or so (and am still feeling as I write). Disenchanted with life… I don’t want to get up in the morning because it’s just another day of school and work until falling into bed. I’m exhausted from the minute I wake up to the minute I fall asleep. Social interactions and books don’t hold my interest. There’s not much time or energy for writing. And don’t even mention working out – that hasn’t happened in weeks.

Living like this is frustrating. It feels like nothing’s working even though I’m trying so hard. I just don’t love life.

I don’t know what the cause of this is. Maybe it’s just a phase or season. Maybe I’m not getting enough vitamin C (though I know it’s not that – gotta ward off those germs). But I do know something that has helped me. Habits.

A couple years ago, I formed the solid habit of doing devotions (Bible reading, prayer, verse memorization) every day. I don’t often miss it. When I got a job and suddenly became busy, I formed the habit of praying constantly. Through years of siblings waking up bright and early, I formed the habit of getting out of bed by 7:30am at the latest (and considering that sleeping in).

I’m in the shower by 7:10 every morning. I work on school with most of my spare time. I get my chores done (mostly) in between various things. These things help me mechanically move through time, even when I’d rather not move at all. I can still get work done, I can still move forward, even though I feel terrible.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it rather to urge you to form solid habits. Decide when you need to get up in the morning and work on it until you wake up before the alarm rings. Pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter every day, at the same time every day, and pray afterward. When do you need to work out? Do it (and I say this one as much to myself as to anyone else).

We have so many feelings and they’re not always good. Bad moods, frustration, “disenchantment with life” will sometimes overstay their welcome. But life can’t stop for a week of disenchantment – or two or three.

Use the good times to form habits. They won’t fix the bad, but they’ll help.

Kira

What habits help you keep moving when life’s got you down?

Any new ones that you need to form?

All is Vanity

Academics are important to me. Good grades, knowledge, degrees. They always have been and I’m sure they will continue to be as I move on to college and (maybe) grad school. I want my education to lead to a good job and success after graduation. I love knowing things, whether they be random facts or how to solve complex problems or the stories of heroes in history. Just having that knowledge always at my fingertips makes me feel good.

What makes you feel good? What seems to give you satisfaction in your life? Maybe it’s friends, work, money, parenting, relationships, or something else entirely. We all enjoy good things.

But Ecclesiastes calls all these things vanity. That paper for history I spent a solid month on? Vanity. All the time you spend with your friends? Useless. Saving enough for retirement? Without meaning.

Solomon, of all people, knew the good things of the world. He had great wisdom and knowledge. He had hundreds of wives/concubines. He was king of a magnificent country with other rulers coming to visit his beautiful land. Solomon knew the world. He eventually wandered into it, forsaking God and giving himself over to the empire of wealth, beauty, and pleasure he had around him.

Ecclesiastes is after all that. Solomon is supposed to have returned to God in his old age and written Ecclesiastes as a book of what he learned, especially in his folly. And what did he learn?

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 1:2

The things of this world aren’t worth it. They may provide comfort and pleasure, but it is only a temporal happiness. Compared to the glorious riches we are to inherit with Christ in eternity, they do not satisfy. They never will.

Praise God, then, that He satisfies us, comforts us, brings us joy. Praise God that He knows what’s best for us and we can trust and follow him. Even if it means giving up all the vanities.

Kira

What gives you joy in this life? Would you be willing and obedient to give it up should the King of kings ask it of you?

From the Archives: Devotions and To-Do Lists

This is a post that I cannot leave behind. It’s still something I have to work through over and over again.

For a different angle on the same subject, you can read this post. A friend of mine wrote it around the same time I wrote mine (the same day, I believe) with no collusion whatsoever. And even though we appear to be of opposite opinion, I entirely agree with what he says.

Originally published: 6/16/17


“Devotions aren’t something to mark off a to-do list.”

I can’t remember when I first heard that, but it’s stuck with me for a long time. The intended meaning is that you shouldn’t rush through devotions to get through the next thing, but should rather spend time on it and put in effort.

What made it into my head though was the literal meaning. I’ve had the subconscious thought for a long time that if I write down the word “devotions” on a to-do list, it doesn’t count. If I actually do them and mark it off, it’s even worse.

For the past few days, I haven’t wanted to read my Bible and so I just didn’t. I of course felt guilty about it and, one day, wrote devotions on my to-do list. I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that it was wrong and told myself that it was the only way that I was actually going to do devotions that day.

That’s when I realized that the guilt I felt is ridiculous.

The idea behind saying devotions aren’t for a to-do list is a good one. We, as believers, need to invest in our relationships with God just like we would other people. We need to spend time in His Word and in prayer on a daily basis in a deeper way than we would spend time on the dishes. The Psalmist tells us that the righteous man spends a lot of time in the Bible.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

But sometimes we just don’t want to. We’re busy or in a bad mood or don’t feel like it or any number of other things. It’s so easy to just shrug our shoulders and miss it for one more day.

It’s only this last school year that I’ve been able to make a consistent habit of doing devotions. The key word there is “habit.” Habits take effort to form. If you wanted to form the habit of running, you’d have to make yourself run regularly, even when you didn’t want to. Day after day, you’d lace up your shoes to log some miles.

Devotions require the exact same thing. It’s not different because it relates to God. It should be a normal part of our lives and we have to work to make it that way. Sometimes running makes it onto the to-do list and sometimes it is enjoyed.

The long term benefits come from investing when it’s hard and when it’s not. If you want to run a marathon, you have to do those long runs that make you want to die. But they make race day easier. If you want to be grounded in God’s Word, you have to spend time in it when there are a million things you’d rather be doing.

So go ahead. Write devotions on your to-do list if that’s what it takes to get it done. Enjoying it is a benefit that comes with time. Even now, when I generally like doing my devotions in the morning, there are still days that I dread the time and have to make myself do it.

The rewards will come, but the foundation must be laid.

Kira

Do you have the joy that comes from just spending time with God? What are you doing to encourage that joy?

Find What’s Best

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Let your weary spirit rest.

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best

And be. Just be.

“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz

This world is crazy. We don’t need to go over that again. We are all guilty of getting caught up in all of it, of placing mountains of importance on temporary things and forgetting the eternal for a while. That’s been especially true for me this week as I’m once again trying to balance school, work, social life, and all the rest, just like you are, I’m sure.

The song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz is incredible. If you are so inclined, I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing. The piece that has especially been on my mind lately is the chorus though. He says, “Lay down what’s good and find what’s best.”

That’s an easy concept, but a hard thing to do. I know that I (as a Type-A personality) want to do everything that is good. And there are a lot of good things in the world. So many of them are available and easy, but they add up. They fill up your time before you realize it. They become overwhelming and “what’s good” turns into “what’s draining.”

We must lay down the good in order to pursue what is best. So how do we discern what falls into these categories? How do we figure out what’s only good and what’s really best?

The answer is prayer. To give an example, I’ve been planning to do National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November all year. I’ve done it for the last two years and once a few years before. I love NaNoWriMo and everyone’s talking about it amongst the writerly communities.

I’m also in the middle of editing a manuscript which I sincerely hope to have published and maintaining and growing this blog. Not to mention the rest of life. NaNoWriMo looks so appealing and it is definitely a good thing. But I don’t think it’s the best for me right now.

I pray before I write every day and pray about my writing at other times too. As I prayed about NaNoWriMo, it became clear that, while it would be good, it would take away from school, relationships, and other projects (not to mention physical health during those midnight writing sessions). So I won’t do it this year.

Are you doing too much? Do you always feel hurried or exhausted or frazzled? Feelings are not generally reliable, but they can be helpful here, in figuring out if you’re trying to juggle too much. I feel busy most of the time, so I’m laying down the good of writing a novel in a month to pursue the best of being able to handle school, siblings, and editing.

Finding the right balance in life is not easy. It takes years of trial and error, prayer and evaluation. And it keeps changing, based on what stage of life you’re in. But it’s worth it for you and the people around you. Pray about everything. How you should do it, when you should do it, whether you should do it. That is always best.

So let your weary spirit rest. Lay down what’s good and find what’s best. And be. Just be.

Kira

Are you tring to do too much? What could you lay down in order to find what’s best?

Commitment to Christ

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What are some things that you have committed to? I’ve committed to be part of a ministry, turn in my assignments for class on time, and show up for work when I’m scheduled.

I’m also committed to follow God, which is bigger than all of my other committments combined.

Have you ever thought about that – that being a Christian is a committment? Giving your life to Christ is just that – handing over your entire life. That’s sacrifice.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:37-39

Christianity is a huge committment. But what about the little things? It sounds nice to be willing to give your life as a martyr or suffer persecution for your faith, but there’s not as much glory in reading your Bible every morning or forgiving your brother for seventeenth time this week.

We may be willing to do huge things for God, but we have to be faithful in the small things first. How can we witness to the world when we don’t consistently love our family? How can we suffer for our faith if we don’t have enough to turn to God first every day?

That’s what I’ve been convicted of lately. When God shows me how He wants me to change, how He’s going to sanctify me, I need to be committed to that. Otherwise, there’s no point to any of this. So I leave you with a question to wrestle with daily. Are you committed?

Kira

What are some of your commitments? Is there anything that you commit to more than you commit to following God?