Friday, August 8, 2014

Dorothy's Mexican Cup

Today my Grandma Dorothy would have celebrated her 97th year on Earth. 
She is still teaching me new things even after she finally went home last January. 
After one of our more recent revelations, my husband Stephen and I decided to thoroughly go through our possessions and begin minimizing.
We started with our clothes.
Isn't it funny the rationalizations we make to hang on to a piece of fabric? 
"I'll wear this again… someday" -even though we said the same thing last year
"I'm just saving it for when I grow into it" -even though we know we never will

I think my biggest problem with getting rid of old clothes is that it makes my closet look so EMPTY. I start to feel like I don't have anything to wear so I go out and buy more that I don't really need.

But it doesn't stop in our closets, does it?
Couldn't we say the same for the rest of our homes?
We tend to think that the problem is being unsatisfied with simplicity which is true, but the bigger problem is that we give ourselves excess space and then become unsatisfied with vacancy.

We are taught to fill.

Fill our houses.
Fill our free-time.
Fill our minds.

It is hard for our generation… and probably the world… to be un-filled.

We cringe in silence and put our headphones in.
We get antsy when alone (and even when we aren't) and check our feeds.
We instantly seek artificial modes of capturing awe instead of being in the moment.
We see an empty shelf not as room to spread out but room to stuff in.

We find comfort in staying so busy, because sometimes the silence, the lonely times, the awe inspiring kodak moments, and the empty shelves require something from us.

They require us to reflect.

And sometimes looking at our reflection is the scariest part of all.
We know that someday when all is stripped away and our life ends, we will suddenly come face to face with our Creator. Now, if our treasures are based on the temporary fillers that this world offers then eventually we will be extremely and desperately let down and facing our extremely evidently existant God in absolute terror. However, when we store up our treasures in heaven, we can recognize that although the things of this world will come and go, that God and eternal life through Jesus Christ is not only dependable, but something worth living our earthly time for.
When we have that assurance, we no longer have fear.

So back to Grandma.
She was a filler. Nothing TLC "Hoarders: Buried Alive" worthy, but a stuffer all the same. My dad is that way too, and I fight it in myself. The things we collected weren't always obsessive or worthless, actually much more of the opposite. 
You see, Grams grew up during the great depression and was therefore taught not to waste ANYTHING and that EVERYTHING could be used again. From washing baggies and saving jars to having three back up toasters and every other household item—she saw great potential in every item.
In reality however, her possessions only held her back. She created a beautiful safety net around her, one the “American Dream” would be proud of.
But that safety net was the same thing to cause a lot of strife and stress in the years to come. 

I know this, because I was there.

Three years before she passed away I was given the immense pleasure of living with her while I was attending a local community college. She gave me some of the best years of my life. Her 9.5 decades of faith, wisdom, wit, and humor will always be something I treasure. I supported her as she began losing her eyesight and bits of her memory, and watched as her three-story home slowly became a snarled maze of frustration. Every cupboard, every drawer, and every shelf was bursting with mostly organized treasures. I swear she could feel her way around the house to pinpoint a paperclip from 1976 if she needed to. Her possessions, though hardly used, were comforting landmarks for her withered hands. Her "things" gave her responsibility and importance and assured her of her full life. But every once in a while, we would find a hole in the safety net. 
A missing paper. 
A new item without a home, thus becoming a wheelchair obstacle. 
The slightly moved mexican cup.

At the time we had a live-in caretaker to clean and cook. She was great, but she had one flaw. Though our family cringed at Grams clutter, we knew it best to never make radical changes without her permission. The caretaker, however, learned that the hard way.

She didn't think it was a big deal, but Grams did.

You see, there was this shelf on the side of the refrigerator. One with teas, spices, cups and things that were rarely used, but disorganized to say the least. She thought it would be okay to move the more frequently used items to the lower levels so that Grams— who already stood shakily and had a wonderfully stubborn "I can do it myself" personality— could reach them without assistance.
Bad idea.
I came home to a yelling match between the two of them over her precious cups. I remember bits and pieces… something about them being hand-blown… rare… expensive… from Mexico… but most importantly I remember how much she treasured them. She was furious that the caretaker had even TOUCHED those cups! 

Years went by and that memory was woven into the string of other similar instances, but only did I remember once she left us and our family stripped her walls bare of her belongings.
Some items were trash. Newspapers dating back 30-40 years. Sobe bottle caps. Aluminum cat food tins. Others had little sticky notes on the backs with names of family members for who she was saving that particular item for. But most were little treasures; paintings, jewelry, some antiques.
But oh man, when I stood before that little shelf, you wouldn’t believe how quickly scooped up those little mexican cups. I might have hissed and bared my teeth like Gollum holding his little ring if someone were to challenge my find. They were so special that I immediately wrapped them in paper and carefully put them in a box hidden in my garage.

And there they sat… for a year and a half… until we started to minimize.

After we had gone through our clothes, we started on the garage.

 Even though I was in the right mindset as Stephen and I began sorting through our garage and giving somewhat valuable things away on our street corner, as I reopened that box and looked at the mexican cups, my initial reaction was to close the box up again and stuff them back on their shelf.
And then it hit me.
I couldn't even remember why they were so precious. I didn't even know their full story. Their valuable story died with my grandma. It was her that had made them so precious. I looked around at my treasures and thought about the "things" that I was making into treasures and realized that when I die, they will just become "things" once again to everyone else. Almost like Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. I realized that the cups didn't have any markings to prove they were Mexican, hand-blown, or precious whatsoever. They were cylinders made by someone for someone else to drink things out of! Oh I wish I could hear that creator’s reaction to the fate of those cups.
"So you never even drank anything out of them?"
"You kept them on a shelf all of their life?"
"You went to all the trouble of bringing them back from Mexico… to never even use them?!"

And so the same can be said about these Mexican cups and our lives.
Our life is like the cup and God expectantly asks us to go ALL IN.

We have been given a gift. The gift is life.
We have also been given a choice. 

The shelf life: a safe and predictable, self-centered & self-improving lifestyle
All-in: Being used for what we were created for, taking great risks with great reward

Like a cup, we have a purpose. We were created to be filled and to pour out. Filled with his Love, humility, passion, and grace and in turn outpouring it into others.

I think most American Christians are plagued of living between the two lifestyles. Sure, we have accepted the Gift and we are trying to follow God's will, but we stuff things into our life so that we can’t possibly be completely filled with what God originally planned for us.
I have found that I can fit quite a lot in my little cup, which doesn't leave much room for God's living water.
And somehow in our minds we make that okay. I think a lot of it has to do with being an American, but even more so because of that internal justification that "everyone else is doing it." There are a lot of things that this world tells us to fill our cups with that take away space for God to move, and the truth is, most the time we are unaware that it is even in the way.

When we pray boldly, we can expect God to convict us of the wordily values we have that cause separation from Him.
Lately I have seen it in my own life as

I'm sure you struggle with some of these things too, and in the Bible we see that these things were already spoken of. 

2 Timothy 3:
 "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!"

that last verse hits hard. That is ME. Paul is telling those people to turn away from people like ME! Here I was thinking that I stand out from the rest, but as far as struggles go, I am learning that I am no different than the rest.
And that is why we depend so much on His Grace.

Titus 3:
  "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

As I let God reveal these issues in my life, I have the option to let Him take over. Giving him the authority to give and take away my "stuff" that either promotes His grace or slanders it. Going all-in and letting God remove what hinders me from running the race He has marked out for me. Throwing aside everything that easily ensnares me and fixing my eyes on Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12)

For this is what will set me apart from the rest. 

The moment I die to myself, I let Christ live in me. And as we abide together, I can learn to walk in his beautiful way. As he begins filling me, and I in turn can overflow his riches into others. 
I don’t think this means that we all need to completely deny wordly desires and pleasures. I think that God wants us to enjoy the gifts of the Earth. But I also think that each of us have different things that easily become more important than God. In the “rich ruler” story, Jesus knew his heart and could see that his riches were the last thing that he held on to that were separating him from God. What are you holding on to?
I don’t think that God wants us to necessarily cut out all the good things He has given us. I think he simply wants us to stop trying to cram it into our little cups and instead let him hold them on the outside… in his hands. There He will keep our worldly desires in order for us and allow us to be completely filled with Him.

Authority Over My Life:

There are 3 reasons why I will always choose God over myself to plan my life:
1) He is Sovereign
2) He is Unchanging
3) He is Good

Lets break that down.

 Sovereignty means that God, as the ruler of the Universe, has the right to do whatever he wants. Further, he is in complete control over everything that happens. Choosing him over myself is easy when God has already Chosen Himself for me. I just need to choose to see it that way.

Proverbs 16:9 "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord determines their steps"
Psalm 115:3 "Our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases"
Psalm 18:30 "As for God his way is perfect, his word if flawless"
Romans 9:20 "But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"
Daniel 4:35 "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?'"

I also choose God because he is unchanging. He keeps his promises that were written long before me. 

Numbers 23:19 "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
Deuteronomy 7:9 "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."
Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever"

Not only is He in control and unchanging, but He is good.
Romans 8:28 "and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose"
James 1:17 "everything good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father who created all the lights in heaven. He never changes"
Matthew 7:11 "the father in heaven gives good gifts who ask him"
Psalm 25:8 "Good and upright is the LORD"

Not only that but…

God can't get tired.
Isaiah 40:28 "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary."

God can't abandon me.
Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, he is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

God can't stop thinking about me.
Psalm 139:17-18 "How precious also are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with you."

God can't stop loving me.
Jeremiah 31:3 "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."

All that being said, how could I ever choose someone besides God to have complete authority over my life?

Based on His character I choose to trust him. He will fill us as we draw near to Him. As we seek His will and study his word, as we talk with Him and trust in Him, He pours into us if we free ourselves of this world.
We can only see our little cup, but God sees everything.
Even our concept of God filling our cup is skewed.
I used to imagine it as a pitcher held above me waiting to be poured out…
But no,
God is an all-consuming flood of grace and love and he doesn't just ask us to take our little mexican cup down off our shelf, but to freaking chuck it into the depths of his lake. To be fully surrounded. Fully submerged. 

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