Sinful Normality

Every day we live and breathe, work and enjoy, with the “necessities” of life. Some nourish us, others assist while some are just for pleasure. We cannot imagine our lives without them yet we rarely think of life without them or take the time to thank God for them. Needless to say, we take our “necessities” for granted. Today, I learned part of what it means to have a necessity taken from me…

I was on my way to answer the door when my mom told me not to turn on the tap as our drainage was clogged. If I let the water run, then the whole laundry room would flood. I continued on my way to the door where I let my friend Holly in. She took off her boots and we spoke for a little bit. And then I realized: I cannot use any water!

Normally, it wouldn’t be an immediate problem to me but Holly had just come over to make sugar cookies with me for our Valentines Party on Friday. There wasn’t any water directly in the recipe but we would need to wash our hands! What am I going to do? I wondered.

As I led my friend up the stairs, I began to think of all the things that were now changed, at least until we fixed this problem. I won’t be able to have a shower! At least I had one this morning. There’ll be no baths either or way to wash dishes. I won’t even be able to have a cup of tea  or water!

Just as I was panicking, my mom came into the room with a green tub. “You can use this for washing your hands.” She said.

I was relieved at that moment! It was like the long needed rain had come after a drought or a water shortage had ended. I had gone through the feelings of being without something, to having it again.

I wasn’t feeling so relieved as I did the baking and various meal dishes an hour later. You see, it is much easier to just run water normally and let it stay in the sink instead of trying to prevent it with a tub that is about half the size that you normally use. Big dishes make it even more difficult! And then, the real challenge came: dumping the water out! The first time I did it, I didn’t realize how heavy the water would be so I left it a bit late. Not being very strong, carrying it across the kitchen floor was difficult and then, when I was about an inch away from the deck doors, I spilled!

“Why couldn’t you have waited to spill, water?” I thought.

The water only responded by spilling twice more once I was on the deck, splattering me along with the deck.

At last I reached the end of the deck (why did we ever build a bigger deck?) but my trials were not over yet. As I dumped the water out, I heard a clinking sound. I looked down and was dismayed to find the dish cloth along with two forks and a measuring cup down on the grass.

My dish-washing set up.

When I started round two of this procedure though, I felt a bit ashamed of myself for my inward complaints. I was reminded of Mexico, when the YWAM staff taught us about water shortages. They told us that children have to walk miles (and I only had to walk across my deck and kitchen) just to get a small glass of  filthy water that makes them sick. I remembered how we had to try water mixed with salad dressing, spices and bread crumbs. I felt a shiver of disgust and shame in my heart at this memory. I had merely tasted a bit of yucky water which only made me feel like throwing up while children in Africa drink real dirty water, if they have anything, which makes them die. And now, I stand in front of a tub full of water and I complain because getting this water is just not convenient.

How selfish I am! How terrible are these thoughts of mine! And how awful is it that I live and breathe, work and enjoy with all kinds of things like long, hot baths, and warm cups of tea, refreshing showers and cold glasses of water without a second thought. It’s a sin, to be sure and I am ashamed of this for granted attitude that I posses, of my thankless heart and selfish ways, of this sinful normality that I live in.

So God, I’m going to take this moment to say Thank You for all you have given me but especially for….

As many glasses of water as I want.

Enough water to bathe myself and wash the dishes in.

Extra liquid for my cups of tea.

A tub to use when the drain isn’t working.

And most of all, for this lesson that you have taught me.

Note: From talking to my mom afterwards about my dish-washing escapades, I was informed to use the drain outside next time instead of killing God’s wonderful grass and plants outside!

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The Peace Of Thanksgiving

I may be young, and my life may seem simple but I am, without a doubt, a constant worrier. Just give me a topic or a phrase and I’ll go off in a tangent, either in thought or spoken words.

What do I worry about, you might ask? The list is endless….School deadlines. Selling enough tickets for a show that I’m in. If I’ll ever get my Learner’s license after failing it and being a bad test writer. Finding the right clothes to wear to church. That my friends will take what I say to them the wrong way. That I’ve made a bad impression on someone. That a director doesn’t like the way that I say a certain line and consequently, won’t choose me again. Over the projects that I am working on. That I won’t wake up on time.  About getting into my choice university and having enough money for it. That I won’t get married and have kids. And the list goes on…

I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried about something, I get really worked up with anxiety and I can’t concentrate or fully enjoy anything. I end up getting irritated with my family, which gets them annoyed or crying which makes me even worse or just simply not getting any of the things that I need to get  done finished (which creates even more worries, by the way.)

I’ve tried saying a quick prayer to God about my problems and while that does help, my worries still bother me from time to time. I was at my whits end for a while: there just didn’t seem to be a way out!  That is, until last Wednesday when I was at my GEMS (a group for girls held at my church) meeting and one of the other counselors read a devotion on worrying! And God used her words to speak to my heart…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Phillipians 4:6

Such a simple verse, such a simple lesson. A passage that I’m sure I’ve heard many times between church and it being the GEMS theme verse last year. A verse that I even had memorized for a while and which came flooding back to me as “something I knew” when I heard it read. Yet God spoke through it in a new way. God revealed something that I’d never seen before, though I’d taught it and memorized it. God showed me how I can cure my worrying heart…by giving thanks. 

Of course, being a procrastinator, I didn’t put it into practice right away. No, I was too tired that night from teaching my group of girls and working on school stuff throughout the day. Thursday and Friday were filled with school and rehearsals. Saturday I slept in, hung out with a friend and went out with my mom. Sunday I had bible study, church, and a rehearsal. Of course, I prayed during those times and read my bible but I was too caught up in my own things to apply thankfulness. That is, until Sunday night when my worries caught up with me and I realized that it was time for a real prayer, one from the heart, one of thanksgiving.

And you know what, it worked? When I got into bed that night I had the Math and the Social Studies that I had fallen behind in; the Student Council issues to which I fall heir to taking care of, being the president; the worries that I had been too silly when I was with my friends on Friday and that they all thought that I was weird now, that my church family thought that I was not as “Christian” as I used to be and that my fellow actors thought I was strange and the fear that I wouldn’t fall asleep in time to wake up at 7:00 and would have another bad dream were all weighing on my mind.

But then, I started to pray…I asked Him for help…and then I thanked Him for all of the things that were weighing me down (for, without the stress, they were good things) and most of all, I thanked Him for always, always being there for me and helping me through each situation, no matter how big or small. And then, it started…I can’t explain exactly how it happened but by the time I fell asleep that night, my mind was at rest and I no longer worried about the problems that had haunted me.

My mind was completely refreshed this morning: in fact, the things of yesterday seemed quite trivial. As I walked home from my morning Spanish class at school, in the lovely fresh January air and beautiful glow of the light winter sun, all of my worries truly felt washed away. For the first time in a long time, I felt good and even (gasp!) excited and motivated about my assignments. I remembered with a smile that my wonderful secretary had emailed me today about the things that I had been worried about and although it wasn’t all taken care of yet, it would be soon. I realized, with an even bigger grin, the sheer triviality of my worries over what other people thought as I had no reason to think that they believed those things about me — I had simply made them up! And even if they did, those things are not what God thinks, and He is what really matters.

And I gave thanks again…for peace.

Elizabeth