Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Without love, you are nothing

Yesterday I was talking about responsibility, respect and honor as being a foundation of sorts for me.  Sometimes the only things that get me out of bed in the mornings.

But yet...

I still feel like it is not enough.

Responsibility, respect and honor make good... rocks.  Rocks to build on, rocks to develop...

But they do not make the best of soils.

I may have mentioned this once or twice, but just in case you've missed it...  I hail from the proud lands of West Texas.  Where the cattle roam, the tumble weeds grow, the wind frolics with the dust, and the skies are not cloudy all day.  (I have a sudden urge to teach Home on the Range to my adult classes now.)

Anywho.  So as I was saying.  Yeah.  West Texas.  So here's a little fact.  My hometown is classified as a semi-arid dessert.  We get triple digit summers, thunder storms are our only source of rain, the wind sometimes blows dust so thick it's hard to drive and as a child I believed that grass grew brown.  We have more shades of brown than you knew existed.  And for as long as I can remember we have either been in a drought, or on the verge of one.

So here's a lesson on the ground in West Texas.  It's not terribly great for growing things.  Before the droughts were too bad, we did have a large number of cotton farms, but lately all you see are empty fields, half blown away by the wind.  We have stunted mesquite trees, and most forms of plant life have thorns or needles or some other desirable trait.  (Just a warning, we do not walk around barefoot in West Texas.  One it's too hot.  Two you'll get poked and pricked too much to get anywhere.  Cowboy boots are more than a fashion statement.)

Now, when it rains, the ground get's really excited.  It's been waiting for rain for so long.  But the problem is, that it suddenly can't cope with all the water.  So we will actually get flash floods because the ground becomes saturated too fast and can't take anymore water.  The floods don't last for long, because of course we need the water as much as possible.  So after a big rain, we get cracked ground.  From the stress of becoming overly saturated and then just as quickly absorbing all the water.  So the top layer becomes hard and flaky, at least until it's ground back into dust by traffic.

Ok, so I'm sure you are wondering at this point what this has to do with anything.  I live in Japan, so I'm sure you are expecting me to talk about Japan.  Too bad.  This might be the only mention this time around.

The image of the cracked ground has been following me around all day today.

Because it's exactly what my heart looks like.

Cracked and dried, even though there has recently been rain.

The water is already gone.  Nothing left but hard, dry ground.

Oh yes.  This is exactly what my heart looks like.

Even though I have an abundance of blessings rained upon me, they dry up quickly, leaving me emotionally cracked and dry.

This is the part where I start beating myself up.  The self-loathing, self-shaming and self-hatred.  Yes, I really am that mean to myself.

So what's missing?  Why can't I keep the water?

I have a good steady foundation of respect and responsibility and honor.  But I'm not bearing fruit.  Why?

“A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, ... Some fell on rocky places,... Other seed fell among thorns...Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown"

Hmm.  What's this?  The quality of my soil is bad?

I see.

I have no nutrients in my soil to give life to plants.  I don't have the correct balance of soil composition to hold the water and use it well.  I don't have someone tilling and breaking apart the stones and putting in fertalizer.

In other words...

 I lack love, and joy, and peace:  the things that bring forth life.

Respect and responsibility and honor are important, very much so, but they alone cannot bring forth life.

I'm hoping this new season of my life will be a season of tilling, and fertilizing, and mixing in nutrients into the soil of my heart, so that one day I may be fit to bring forth life.  

Not just life...

Abundant life.  Seeped in joy, watered in love, and coated in peace.

Bring on the tilling.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Respect, Responsibility and Honor.

It's the middle of the night at the end of a long, hard, lonely weekend...

This is gonna be rambly.  So buckle in for a confusing ride, or wait until you have the time and energy to get pulled into the emotional vortex that is my attempt at self-counseling.


Where do I begin?

Well, why not start off on Father's Day and make our way from there.

I remember when I was in university and my younger brother was right around the age of High School graduation, not quite a man yet, but fully convinced he was already.  I remember him going through a phase where he was angry at my father.  Not that my father did anything bad or anything.  He didn't beat us, didn't yell at us, no abuse or anything.  No, the thing my brother was upset about was that he wasn't around.  He didn't abandon us or anything, he was just working.  He worked for the sake of his family, because that's what he believed was the right thing to do.  He provided for us.

Unlike my brother, who resented a lack of catch ball or "quality time", I understand where my father was coming from, the values he inherited from his generation, and how the work he put in was a translation of his love for us.  I appreciate all he has done for us.

And I think I've inherited a few of my core values from my father's example.  From my father I learned about responsibility and doing things even if you didn't like it, because that's what it means to have a job and to honor your contract.  I learned that you follow the rules, even if your employer doesn't or if it gets you in trouble.  I learned that you pay for your mistakes, and keep going.

I really, really respect my father.  He's not perfect.  He's a typical Texas "cowboy" type that doesn't say much, and doesn't know how to connect emotionally.  But I know how hard he worked, and even now, I watch how he does his best to change his ways to support and honor my mother.  I am so thankful to have such a strong and stable upbringing to fall back on.

Because I need it.

I am naturally impulsive.  I often approach things with a "I'll deal with the consequences when they come" attitude, hoping that I'll somehow avoid anything too unpleasant.

Honestly, I've been pretty lucky in this approach.  Which is poor re-enforcement for teaching me this isn't always the best way to live.

But the one thing that redeems this impulsiveness, is my strong views on responsibility.  I've learned to accept the consequences no matter what.  It is after all the price you pay for your choices.

And looking back, there are very few choices I would say, "I really, really wish I had never done that."

When I get tired of paying school loans, I picture the faces of the people dear to me, and believe that it's worth it.

When I wonder about my choice to live in Japan, missing births and weddings and the joys and sorrows of those I care about...  and I remember the people I have met here, and how much I really do love it here...  and I accept the consequences.

I get to put my beliefs in action now.  It's not a serious matter, but not fun.  Before I moved, I was convinced to switch my internet company and get a smart phone through a campaign.  I thought it was a great idea.  I got a discount on my cell phone bill, better internet service and upgraded to a smart phone.  We even got "points" that could be used in certain stores as cash.  They even assured me that I should be able to continue the service after I moved since the company catered to 98% of the city.

Well, as I'm sure you can see where this is going, after I decided on the apartment, we discovered that the company did not service that building.  Good bye internet, good bye discount.  I needed to find a new internet provider.  (which was also a difficult, frustrating process.)

Well, I thought everything was taken care of when I suddenly started getting bills for a service that I wasn't actually fully aware that I had signed up for.  Now that the internet contract was canceled, the special discount or whatever I was getting on that was also gone.  But that contract had not been canceled.  Only the bills were forwarded to me about two months late.  Now I have three months worth of back bills and a cancellation fee to pay.  Because my paycheck wasn't stretched enough with paying back moving costs and learning to live with just one person again.

At first I was determined this wasn't fair, and I wouldn't pay it no matter what.  I wanted to blame the companies, or the salesperson, or whatever.  It wasn't my fault.  I didn't understand everything that was being said.  I was a victim.

It's an easy role to play.

But it's wrong.

I was aware it was a risk at the time.  That maybe something wouldn't work out.  But I signed all the papers anyway.  I wanted the extra 50 bucks I could get with the campaign, even though I was completely confused as to what was happening or why.  I did it anyway, hoping everything would turn out ok.  Well, you do that a lot when you live in a foreign country.  I feel like I'm holding my breath and jumping off a cliff and hoping there's a splash at the end and not a splat every time I sign a contract.  It's scary.  But you just gotta do it sometimes and hope for the best.  Well, that's what you think at the time anyway.

But this one didn't work out, not by anyone's fault.  Just happened that way.  But I still have to pay now.  Because I signed my name.

The only thing that calmed me down when I thought I was going to cry all the way home after trying to find a solution was the fact that I'm sure Jesus would tell me the same.  Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's.  Honor your contracts, even if it's not fair.  Trust God, and He will provide for all my needs.

Then the voice whispers :  Isn't this just God punishing you?  You aren't faithful enough.  You haven't been giving your tithes.  This is the price you pay.  God is keeping score and you are loosing.

It sounds so true, because there is truth in it.  I am not faithful enough.  I haven't been honoring God as I should.  But that doesn't mean that God doesn't honor me.  And it's true that God gives punishments when they are needed.  But isn't that His right?  He is Just, therefore any punishment He gives is Just.  But that doesn't meant He is punishing me now.  He wasn't punishing Job when all those terrible things happened.  When I feel like life is getting the best of me, I always have to remember Job.  He had it worse.  As did Joseph.  But they both refused to blame God or to dishonor His name.

Yes, I am stress and don't have as much money as I'd like.  But part of that is my fault as well, for not having the motivation or strength to get out of debt quickly.  I choose other priorities.  So I must pay the consequences.

Yes, I have migraines that make me feel sick for two days out of every three days I'm off of work.  Job had festering sores all over his body.

Yes, I am lonely and often bitter.  But yet I choose to stay inside that and not move on.

My choices are my responsibility, and I must pay the consequences.  Sometimes God bails me out.  Sometimes He lets me learn the hard way.

And I respect Him for that.

I believe God freely forgives my mistakes.  But I'm so thankful that He also teaches me through them.

I am grateful for the chance to honor God through my reaction to my mistakes and my misfortunes.
I still fail often, but I want to become a woman whom others can respect, a woman who honors responsibility, and Honors God in her response to mistakes.  I will never become a woman who doesn't make mistakes.  But I can be one who is responsible through her mistakes.

I might have a lot of important values I'm missing, but for me, these three values are core to who I am.


These are the words I teach my students.  These are the words I want carved into my life.  These are the words that keep me going when I want to quit.  And these are the words I inherited from my father, and from my West Texas culture.

I thank my father, and my Father who have modeled these things for me, and I hope that I can grow stronger and more faithful each time I exercise them.

So this month, I'll be trusting a little more in God's provision, because I choose to walk the path of responsibility and pay my fines.  It might be a while before I'll have enough money to be "comfortable" but that's not the point of life is it?  I trust in God's goodness and love for me, and I will live in the life I have now, made from the choices I've made, and the circumstances He has allowed.  And I know He will never abandon me.  So I must continue to Honor Him in all I do.

This is the rock of faith that will give me strength. 

Now all I need to do is figure out how to make Joy a core part of me.......