Write It Out: Meal Plans

Not everyone is a meal planner. And that’s okay. For those that are, there’s something important we must be sure to remind ourselves of: It’s okay to disrupt the plan now and again.

I struggle with that. I want my meal plan to work for the circumstances and I don’t want to have to change it. If you look, though, at my meal plan for the past month, you will find that every week there was a reason to change things around. Sometimes this has been a source of great frustration for me. I write my grocery lists based upon my meal plans and I don’t like having to go to the store again because something changed.

The danger in not being flexible with my meal plan though is that I can quickly become inhospitable toward potential guests. I can be demanding and controlling of my husband and his time. I can become a downright grouch!

Meal plans are meant to be a tool to help us organize, shop, and prepare more efficiently. Inflexibility in those plans really diminishes the effectiveness of the tool. When we meal plan with open hands, we are able to enjoy the plan. It works for us, allowing us to prepare for meals in advance and saving us time and often money. When we hold tightly to the plan, we allow ourselves to be stingy and harsh. We don’t allow for taking care of unexpected needs. We create tension where none need exist.

Write out your meal plans, planners, but be willing to have them change. It will make the plan a more joyful thing!

Snapshots of Grief: Let It Go

There is a delicate balance in grief between the remembering and the letting go. It is not at all wrong to remember our loved ones, to cherish their memories and to miss the moments we had with them. In fact, that is a good and healthy thing. Those memories are, after all, a big part of what shaped us. It is not okay, though, to hold onto that in a way that turns missing into resentment.

Loss, whether in the moments immediately following a loss or in the long term, is quite easy to turn into an occasion for anger and resentment. I’ve seen a lot of that in friends, family, and even myself. And part of where it comes from is a lack of perspective.

In my angriest moments, and I suspect yours too, I have seen loss not just as God’s divine, sovereign will, but as His malice toward me personally. I refuse to see any good things about those losses. I hold them up as unfair because someone didn’t live long enough, they didn’t get to see a special occasion, they were too good a person to take. The list goes on and on. I let my anger fester while refusing to see that the life they had was beautiful; it had to be because it made an impact. I refuse to see that God’s purposes are fulfilled always. I refuse to acknowledge that the lingering impact of a life well spent is just as important as that of the life itself. I refuse to admit that perhaps some of the greatest lessons of trust, devotion, and love I have learned have come from the loss of someone I cared for deeply. My perspective is one of: My hurt outranks God’s plans. The problem with that being chiefly that I am looking at myself and not at God. Obviously, we have to consider aspects of ourselves. We need to clothe and bathe ourselves, feed ourselves, and care for our emotional needs. These are truly important things, but we also must understand that perpetually looking only to ourselves with eclipse the work of God in our lives. When we look to Him, the rest tends to take care of itself without our even really noticing.

Our perspective further needs to take into account that eternity is far more important than present. We struggle and suffer here on earth, but 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us that what we struggle through here on earth is nothing in comparison to the wonder and glory of eternity. Is suffering pleasant? Of course not! Is it easy? Not remotely. But it isn’t everything. The ones we’ve lost, if they are believers in the finished work of Jesus Christ, are now in heaven experiencing that eternal glory we can only groan with longing for at this moment. They are rejoicing. They are praising. And while today it may feel like it will take forever, we really will be with them very soon joining in their hymns of worship to our great God. Our perspective needs to look not to the temporary of our time based lives but to the eternal where time will be no more.

This is not at all to say that loss is easy and just get over it. Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t have days where the tears overwhelm us. We are going to miss our loved ones; my children will only have one set of grandparents and that hurts my heart. But that doesn’t mean we have to live in that spot. We can honor their memory; we can celebrate birthdays and home goings. We can talk about memories and lessons. But in those moments, when our perspective is correct, we will experience joy alongside our sadness. It’s not wrong to grieve. Not at all. It is wrong to live only in the grief. You have a life to live; live it. This will honor the memory of those who have gone before.

Miscellaneous Monday: Sometimes They Just Need Sleep

After an incredibly busy week of church related activities and my husband filling pulpit at another church, we were exhausted. We got home mid-afternoon yesterday and slept. A lot. Part of me felt guilty; we’d been apart quite a bit this week. Shouldn’t I have been trying to talk to him about what we’d both been experiencing over the week? Shouldn’t I have been trying to make the rest of the day a special time for us? Shouldn’t I have been up and doing stuff? My counters needed wiping down; my floor could probably have stood to be swept. The laundry basket is pretty full. But as I started to drift off again, I knew that wasn’t what either of us needed.

We tend to discount our need for sleep. Yeah, sleep is good, but there’s so much that needs our attention. We neglect this very basic need because we feel guilty not being busy. Even when we take days off, we fill them with chores that have piled up or fun activities or social events (that may or may not be fun). We worry so much about how a nap might disrupt our sleep habits that we refuse to take one. What I find though is that we often end up so tired because of this that it’s harder to sleep. When we’re that weary, our bodies don’t feel very good and we really struggle to get comfortable and relaxed.

This trend is particularly true of those who serve in full time vocational ministry. The guilt is compounded by individuals and congregations that see their leaders as supermen who don’t need rest. Throughout my life, I’ve had some unique behind the scenes looks at perception versus reality. Church leaders are seen as somehow impervious to pain, exhaustion, and depression. They are chastised harshly for needing a day off, vacation, or even sleep. They are expected to be available anytime (including the middle of the night) people need or want their attention, to be a wealth of answers, and to always be the perfect combination of polite and direct (that, of course, being subjective based upon who they are speaking to at the moment).

Not every church goer acts this way or thinks this way. There are those who are very sensitive to the needs of their leadership and seek to be a support. Sometimes those people are hurt though when their leaders don’t share intimate details with them. Church leaders are bombarded on a regular basis by information they can’t share, and it is often this information that most wearies them. When they are able, they seek connections with other leaders in order to have a safe outlet to express their hearts. Sometimes that isn’t possible. And sometimes, the leader is so protective of his flock that he still cannot share. Sometimes he desperately needs to share and can’t because of the nature of the information; it would cause problems in some way even if he shared within a group of fellow leaders. It weighs on him.

He’s also supposed to balance the needs of his family with the needs of his flock. There are times where these are at odds with each other, especially if his flock is filled with people who criticize his need to have time outside of “ministry” activities. Which, by the way, is a myth. Every believer with a family has a ministry within that family; there is no break. And all of us, whether we are paid to preach a sermon or not, are in ministry.

One of the things we need to understand about church leadership is that, even aside from the rigors of dealing with people while also fighting their own sin nature, the very teaching of a half hour to forty-five minute sermon is draining. There’s the mental exhaustion of preparing and then delivering that message. There’s the physical aspect of standing, probably while fighting some nerves. There’s the emotional aspect of nerves, hoping people will be receptive to the Word of God, knowing you may be stepping on toes and hear about it later. And we cannot neglect the spiritual aspect. There is a very vicious enemy out there who HATES when any of us speak truth and he directs substantial attack at leaders. He reminds them of past sins and failures. He stirs up discord. It’s a wearying fight. And there are many more aspects to it, but I think this gives us a good basis for understanding why it’s a hard thing to preach.

So sometimes, our church leaders just need sleep. Uninterrupted sleep. Yesterday reminded me an awful lot of Elijah in the Bible. He went through a pretty difficult time where he’d had a great victory in the Lord but went away discouraged. I’ve heard lots of opinions recently about whether he was being sinful in that discouragement or not. Personally, I can see both sides of the issue. We aren’t given God’s perspective on whether Elijah sinned or not, only that God took care of him. He caused Elijah to sleep and gave him food. All Elijah did for a while was eat and sleep. And sometimes, that’s really what we all need. That was yesterday for us. We needed time together to just sleep and eat and sleep some more.

Don’t begrudge your spiritual leaders their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Sometimes they just need sleep. Let them have those moments. We all know true emergencies happen and require immediate attention, but where possible, let your leaders have a night of solid sleep and a day off. They’re human, not supermen. Deserving of great respect and love, but still human with human needs.

Write It Out: A Song Of Praise

You take the wind and the rain

In the palm of your hand

And scatter them where you will.

You blow upon the deepest waters

And churn the storms,

Bending them to your will.

You weave together a tapestry

Of the weary

And the rested.

You know beginning;

You see the end;

You hold it all.

A burden too heavy for me

You lift with ease

And settle my wildly racing heart.

If I was to think on majesty

And beauty,

Wonder and glory,

Joy and peace,

I must meditate on you

For you are sovereign and just,

Righteous,

Holy,

You are all I can never be.

You are my God

And I worship you

For all glory and honor and power

Are yours.