Once Upon A Time: Part II

“And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you.”

When I was five years old, I attempted to fly like Superman.  I have no recollection of ever watching Superman or reading the comic, but, somehow, I knew he could fly.  My Aunt Debbie, who I idolized as a child, jumped from the fifth step down to the landing in my grandparent’s farmhouse.  So, when she jumped, I just had to do what she did.  I remember her trying to convince me that it was a bad idea, reminding me that my grandparents had just gotten new carpet in the living room.  I didn’t heed her advice, told her I was going to fly like Superman, and jumped.  The next thing I remember was blood everywhere and my grandmother rushing me to the doctor’s office.   The resulting five stitches ended not only my attempts to fly, but any future attempts at risky behavior.

That incident may seem minor, but I realized the impact of it on my identity years later.  I have defined myself as “clumsy” at worst, or “not graceful” at best.  This identity was reinforced by my failure to complete a back somersault in gym class, breaking a few bones over the course of my life, and never mastering roller skating.  Furthermore, it has impacted choices I have made in my life.  I sometimes wonder, what if I had succeeded in that attempt to “fly”?  Would I have been more apt to try different activities, not fearful of getting hurt?  Would I have had been graceful enough to figure out how to roller skate?

My Aunt Debbie and me!

We all have stories in our childhood that impact our lives, both positively and negatively.  Often, these stories shape our identity, self-confidence, and sense of security.  They often determine the things we care about, what drives our passions, what triggers anger and depression, and how we handle conflict.  Although these stories often have similar themes, how they impact us is not a mathematical equation that can be calculated.  Even within the same family, although people can live the same story, how the story affected each individual family member is as different as the fingerprints that identify us.

About six years ago, a young teenager was asking me about my childhood.  He specifically asked what made my childhood wonderful.  I was a bit startled and unable to formulate a response.  While I do have some good memories, I would not describe my overall childhood experience as wonderful.  A lot of the good memories were marred due to the secrets I was forced to keep.  I stumbled and said to the young man, “Honestly, I don’t have a lot of good memories, my childhood was not so great.”  My fifteen-year old daughter, who was sitting next to me, was a bit surprised and said, “Mom, you never told me that!”

 My daughter was right, I did not tell her anything about the negative parts of my childhood.  To protect my children from information that was too much for them to handle, I had come up with a general statement about my childhood that was truthful, but vague.  It was the right decision at that point.  Yet, the question about my childhood forced me to pray and reconsider this decision made years earlier.  I asked myself some hard questions.  What is my story?  Why share my story with my children?  What purpose would it serve in their lives?  Why bring up ugly, painful memories?  Why rehash ancient history?

I have always been rather vocal about my opinions.  In the last few years, I have gained some self-control by choosing not to share every opinion or thought that runs through my head.  Yet, there are a few subjects that still fire me up!  One of those subjects is related to history.  Like a cartoon character with steam coming out of her ears, I cringe when I hear, “I hate history and find it boring.”  I instantly want to get on my soapbox and extol the virtues of learning history.  Now, I recognize not everyone has been as privileged as me to have Mr. Bemis, Mr. St. Pierre and Dr. Bader as teachers who made history come alive through stories.  I know that, for some people, history has always been just a list of battles, dates, and rulers.  Yet, I feel passionate that history is not just ancient information, dusty and worn out.  History is an epic story filled with adventure, intrigue, plot twists, plagues, and romance.  Furthermore, I believe we can apply the lessons of history to our lives today.  We can learn from Neville Chamberlain that appeasement does not work and leads to harm.  We can learn from Abraham Lincoln to surround ourselves with people who have different opinions to help make us more effective leaders.  We can learn from Martin Luther King Jr. of the importance of taking a stand for equality.

Philosopher, George Santayana, once said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I have often used this quote when I discuss the importance of history with others. I think an adaptation of this quote can be applied to our own individual stories.  It might not make the latest edition of Bartlett’s Quotations, but I believe that “those who are not aware of the stories that shape them are not likely to move towards wholeness with God.”  We need to be aware of our stories and recognize how they shape us.  We need to be aware where our lives are broken, allowing God to do a work of restoration in those broken places, moving us toward wholeness.  We then need to share with others the restoration work God is doing by sharing our stories.

So, in thinking about remembering my own “history” with my children, I thought it could illuminate the work God has done in my life, and in turn, in their life.  One evening, I sat down with them and shared my story.  I told them about the physical and emotional abuse that ensued in my home.  I spoke about the fourteen years of sexual abuse that I was forced by my stepfather to keep hidden.  I didn’t burden them with the gritty details, instead sticking to generalities.  But I did detail the restoration God did in my life starting with reporting my abuse to the police.   I shared with them about the three visitors I had in the hospital that impacted my life.  I described the incredible peace I felt when God filled me with His Spirit.  I shared how God redefined my distorted image of a father by observing their father, my husband, love his children unconditionally.  I shared how, over time, God has taken the broken parts of me, and lovingly repaired the damage, creating a masterpiece.  Although my story started off tragically, I closed by pointing my children to a God who is my Redeemer!!!

Both of my children were glad I had shared my story with them.  It helped fill in some blanks that they did not understand.  Furthermore, it gave them a greater understanding of who I was and what I had become with God’s hand on my life.  Finally, it serves as a reminder to them that there is always hope.  God can take any brokenness that they might experience and bring about restoration.

As a writer, I have the ability to self-edit as I write.  I might start with one story to illustrate a point and realize that the story doesn’t work, only to choose a better illustration.  When the reader sees the final product, they are unaware of how many times I have deleted a word, sentence or even a paragraph.  They only see the final product, the words I have penned.

The beginning of our story is often penned by others.  Our lives our shaped by events, people, and circumstances that we don’t have control over.  Unfortunately, we cannot hit backspace to delete the painful stories, erasing them from our memories.  We cannot create new characters that rescue us from the bad events penned by others, but we can rewrite our future stories.  We can allow God to speak into those painful places and restore what was lost.  We can allow God to rewrite our future, no longer allowing those beginning stories to define us negatively.

One of my favorite literary characters of all time is Jean Valjean of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables”.  It is a long book, but so worth the investment of time to read.  If the book is too daunting for you, I encourage you to listen to the dramatic adaptation from Focus on the Family Radio Theater.  Jean Valjean was born in France in poverty.  He was caught stealing bread for his starving sister and her children, sentenced to prison, and attempted to escape, resulting in a longer sentence.  When finally released, Valjean had to carry the stigma of being an ex-convict for the rest of his life.  Yet, a kind priest shows Valjean mercy which allows him to redefine himself for the rest of the book.  This is such a powerful depiction of God, who shows us mercy and offers to rewrite our story.  Just like Jean Valjean, we do not have to live with the stigma of our past.  Throughout the rest of the book, Jean Valjean wrestled with the effects of that stigma.  Yet, he did not let it define him, instead choosing to lead others to restoration from their own pasts.

In this post, I have shared a little about my story and the restoration work God has done.  I am still working on my book about this restoration that I hope to complete sometime in 2021.  A scripture that has inspired my book is found in Joel 2:25.  Joel prophesies to Israel that God “will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm”.  He goes on to say in verse 26, “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD, your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you”.  What is your story?  What events, people, or circumstances have shaped your life?  How has the stigma of your story affected your life and those you love?  What scenes or stories do you want to delete?  What areas do you need to allow God to restore so you can be satisfied and know that God has dealt wondrously in your life?  Spend some time thinking about this, write it down in a journal, share it with those you trust, and ask God to heal those places.  Remember, your story is important to you and to God!

Once Upon a Time

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony;” Revelation 12:11

I have loved stories my whole life.  As a little girl, I read about Sam’s dislike of green eggs and ham and laughed at Curious George’s antics.  I pretended I was Laura, playing in the attic with my corn cob doll while Pa played his fiddle.  I searched desperately for a magic wardrobe so that I could enter Narnia and meet Aslan.  I looked for Charlotte in every spiderweb and wished I could float down a chocolate river with the Oompa-Loompas.  As a parent, I shared my love of stories with my children, making frequent trips to the library, returning with piles of books.  We giggled at Pooh’s simple brain, traveled around the world with Phileas Fogg, solved mysteries with Frank, Joe, and Nancy, and fought dragons with Bilbo Baggins.  As an adult, I still love stories, cheering with Emma when she finds her Mr. Knightly, hoping Jean Valjean is vindicated, chuckling at Don Quixote’s assumptions, and hoping Frodo finishes his quest.

The love of stories transcends all cultures, ages, and times, capturing the hearts of people everywhere.  Heroes and heroines fill our imaginations with hope and awaken in us the desire for adventure and significance.  Even cultures with no written language have oral traditions rich with stories.  What is even more amazing is how often similar themes of stories exist among different cultures.  For example, the story of Cinderella, as depicted by Disney, is based on the Western European version written by the Grimm brothers.  When my daughter was little, we discovered Native American, Korean, and Indian versions of the same story, written by different authors in different places and times.

Even the various authors of the Bible, inspired by God, wrote large portions of the Bible in the form of stories.  We learn about the plight of all humans in the Garden of Eden.  We see the rescue of a baby boy by an Egyptian princess, only to see him grow up to challenge Pharaoh.  We see the redemption of a faithful daughter-in-law.  We watch David start off as a shepherd playing a harp, grow into a young man who defeats a giant and later a king with a rebellious son.  As the Old Testament continues, kingdoms rise and fall with various rulers and prophets playing lead roles.  In the New Testament, three gospels recount the story of a simple carpenter and his teenage fiancé giving birth in a dirty stable to the Savior of the whole world, Jesus.  Miracles happen throughout Jesus’ ministry with the biggest miracle unfolding in his death and subsequent resurrection.  Shipwrecks, poisonous snakes, and jail breaks due to worship service are a few of the stories we read in the book of Acts, as different people are changed by the Holy Ghost, later becoming disciples of God.  The Bible ends with an exiled disciple’s vision of fantastical beasts, battles, and the end of the natural world.

Photo Creativity and Credit to Margaret Collins

We cannot forget that God had an overarching theme to the whole Bible, all the stories are part of a bigger picture, the story of God.  It tells about His creation, humanity’s fall, His redemption, and His restoration: the metanarrative of the whole Bible.  God cares about stories!  More importantly, He cares about the parts each of us play in His story.

Over the course of four years, I read biographies of each of our presidents.  These were men who shaped policy and the direction in America.  It was an incredible scope of American history seen through the stories of these men’s lives.  But more than just American history, these were the stories of the events that shaped them as men.  For example, Teddy Roosevelt was devastated when he lost his first wife and mother in the same day.  He disappeared from the political landscape for a few years.  Yet during this time of escape in the Badlands, he rekindled his love of the outdoors, along with a renewed sense of purpose, eventually leading him to the presidency.  As a young man, Harry Truman, worked for his Jewish neighbors while they practiced their Sabbath.  This later influenced his decision to recognize Israel as an independent nation.  These stories, and many more, changed my own perspective on the presidency.  It helped me to see them as ordinary men, like you and I, who had extraordinary opportunities to do great things.

Like these men, we all have stories, stories that have power in our lives.  These stories shape and mold us into the people we are.  They define our passions, determine our strengths, push our fear buttons, trigger our anger, and sometimes hold us captive.  In the past few years, my husband and I have spent some time understanding our own individual stories and each other’s.  Sometimes, this work was hard, exposing character flaws and leaving us feeling vulnerable.  Yet, this understanding has led to healing and wholeness that we needed individually and in our marriage.  Furthermore, it has helped me overcome destructive habits and patterns in my life.  In Revelations 12:11, the Bible states, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”  Knowing my story helps me overcome!!!

Over the next three posts, I am going to explore the power of stories through the following topics:

I. The importance of knowing your story, as well as how it impacts you and your relationships with others

II. The importance of acknowledging that others have a story.  This acknowledgement frees us from judgmental attitudes and increases our empathy towards others.  I hope to explore the importance of creating communities that are safe for people to share their stories

III. The importance of relating your story in the context of God’s story.  Our lives are so much larger than the few years we live on this earth.  We have the power to impact others by reflecting Christ in our lives

The following quote from Christian therapist and author, Dan Allender, sums up what I hope to convey in these upcoming posts.  In his book, “To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future”, Allender says, “So take seriously the story that God has given you to live.  It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze.”

Yes, “reading your own life” can be hard work, akin to reading Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and deciphering the many Russian character names.  Yes, it can leave you feeling vulnerable, like Louis Zamperini did in the Japanese POW camp in “Unbroken.”  But it can also result in finding a treasure beyond imagination like Mary did in the “The Secret Garden” or Oliver did in “Oliver Twist.”

Graphic Design by Margaret Collins

Autumn Abundance

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Ephesians 3:20

Fall has arrived, arraying the trees with reds, yellows, and oranges, while fields turn golden as harvest is nearing completion.  My favorite farmer’s markets are filled with pumpkins, squash, and apples.  Ingredients for soups and chili fill my pantry shelves.  My heart echoes the same sentiments of Anne in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

Although I appreciate all the seasons, autumn is my absolute favorite.  I have fond memories of going to Waldo Apple Orchard as a child and eating a caramel apple.  I love hiking, hearing the crunch as I step joyously through the leaves.  I love wearing warm, cozy clothing and sipping mulled apple cider.  It stands to reason that I also love to decorate my home for fall.

My fall decorating started off very humbly.  Having a limited budget, I started with a homemade leaf garland.  My husband and I cut out hundreds of leaves in different fall shades of construction paper.  We then misted them with water, crumpled them and let them dry.  After attaching them to twine, the leaf garlands graced our home.  For years, this was our only fall decoration.

Then I discovered Hobby Lobby.  As I had more disposable income, slowly I started adding to my fall decorations.  This included a more elaborate leaf garland, some fall signs and even a few critters.  I continued to make some of my own decorations, including a thankful tree and a short acorn garland to hang above my kitchen sink.  My fall décor collection now fills two large storage crates.  Every year, shortly after Labor Day, my home transitions into autumn while “Punky Pumpkin” by Rosemary Clooney plays.  When its all done, I sigh deeply, ready to embrace the cooler weather and my fall traditions.

For the past few years, I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to decorate my front porch.  To be honest, my “porch” is not really a porch at all but just a small slab of cement in front of my door, lacking any curb appeal.  In summer, I typically have a few flowerpots greeting guests as they enter my home.  As the weather cools, I place a few pumpkins and mums on my front porch to create a fall ambience.   For some reason, my fall ambience seems to fall flat.  Being a bit spatially challenged, my pumpkins and gourds are either too small or too few and my mums are too low or wither quickly because I forget to water them.

This year, I decided to go big.  Instead of grocery store mums, I went out to a local Mennonite market and purchased two large pots of bright yellow and wine-colored mums.  I then went to my favorite farm stand for pumpkins.  It is such a great time to be alive, where we are no longer limited to only traditional orange pumpkins!  Now, they come in all shades, including white, green, gray and my favorite “warty pink”!  I gathered a few pumpkins and gourds and headed home.  As I started decorating the porch with my treasures, I realized something was still missing.  A week later, I made a second trip, purchasing more pumpkins along with a small hay bale.  As I loaded them in the car, I realized I might have gone a tad bit overboard.  In jest, I sent my husband a text saying, “Remember how much you love me.”  After unloading the stash and rearranging my porch, I realized I needed one more small orange pumpkin to make it complete.  So, I made one more trip, grabbing the last pumpkin (or two), to complete my porch display.

Photo credit to Margaret Collins

When all was said and done, I somehow ended up with thirteen pumpkins and gourds on my small porch.  I won’t tell you how many fake pumpkins are inside my home or you might start to think I have a problem.  Now, I know the current philosophy is “less is more”.  There are books written about the concept of minimalism along with new vocabulary like “Konmari Method” and “Capsule wardrobe”, encouraging us to be mindful of how much stuff we have.  In fact, the opposite of minimalism is looked down upon.  We have reality shows depicting the shocking lives of hoarders!  Thrift, resale, and vintage stores abound, helping us to get rid of our excess “stuff”.  Even restaurant menus and food labels are embracing the concept of simplicity with emphasis on fewer but better ingredients.

Even as a Christian, we are encouraged to live in moderation.  Paul challenges Christians in Philippians 4:5 by saying, “Let your moderation be known unto all men.”  He also says in Galatians 5:23 that temperance is one of the fruits of the spirit.  Temperance is defined as self-control, and no one could argue that a hoarder is modeling that fruit of the spirit.  In 1 Timothy 6:6, God also encourages us to live in contentment by linking it to godliness, concluding that we will have great gain.  The scripture continues in verse seven with Paul’s words, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”  This implies that we must be careful not to attach ourselves to “stuff”.  God clearly wants us to avoid materialism!

For the Christian, the contrast to materialism is living an abundant life. Jesus told a crowd of Pharisees in John 10:10, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”.  Paul reiterates Jesus’ words in Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”  Jesus came so that we can live an abundant life.  This life is not measured in possessions or status, but rather an abundance of love, peace, joy, and hope.  We can show unconditional love to others, not because we are self-righteous, but because God has shown us love.  We can have abundant peace in our relationships, not through the absence of conflict, but because we know that God will work it all out for our good.  We can have joy overflowing in all situations, not through a lack of sadness, but joy in knowing that God has it all under control.  We can have abundant hope in desperate situations, not by being eternal optimists, but because our hope is not in this world but in heaven to come.

My sweet mother-in-law had a dismal view of fall, she saw it as a season of dying.  She dreaded the cold Illinois winters, and saw the changing of leaves as the first indication that winter was on its way.  I always found her perspective a little sad and depressing.  From my perspective, fall is the opposite of dying.  It is the time to celebrate the abundance of our natural world though harvest and the plethora of colors on display. The fruit of the harvest spilling from the cornucopia, the horn of plenty, depicts the season so well!  Furthermore, fall climaxes with Thanksgiving when we acknowledge all of God’s blessings at a meal with family and friends.  I may have gone a little overboard with my pumpkins this year, but maybe, just maybe, it is a reminder to us all of God’s desire for us to live in abundance!

Green Thumbs and Pride

“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.”

Proverbs 3:7

I love houseplants despite my thumb being a shade of not-quite green.  I do manage to keep flowers alive on my patio, although they are never quite as vibrant as those of my neighbors.  A few years ago, I started adding foliage as décor in my home, one by one, with reasonable success.  Instead of the traditional flower bouquet for Valentine’s Day, I received a big floor plant that I had been longing for, quickly naming it “Phoebe” (my daughter and I have a habit of naming birds, squirrels, ducks, plants, etc.)!  Feeling confident in my ability to care for it, I bought an English ivy.  I found a cheerful yellow pot on clearance, envisioning my ivy, properly named “George”, spilling over the sides.  I carefully transplanted it, set it near the window and watered it faithfully.  Over the next three months, “George” slowly withered and died a painful death, after dropping all its leaves, one by one.  I was so hopeful each time I watered it until the last few brittle leaves took the plunge.

Disheartened, I went to my favorite local greenhouse, searching for a new plant to fill my now empty pot.  Finding something I thought would work, I brought it to the counter, inquiring of the young clerk how big it would get and described the yellow pot in which I intended to put it.  Then I made the mistake of telling her about “George”.

She seemed genuinely baffled.  “You killed an ivy?  They are really easy to grow, in fact they grow on the sides of buildings.  Did you water it, and how much?”  When I told her my approximate measurement of water, she replied, “Are you sure, was it near a window?”  Again, I responded favorably, and then she said, “I have never heard of anyone killing an ivy!”  Sheepishly, I handed her the new plant I now wondered if she would allow me to purchase.  She admonished, “This plant needs a lot of TLC, I’m surprised they are still in the greenhouse, I thought the owner was going to remove them.  This plant really needs a lot of TLC!”  The implication was clear: she didn’t trust my skills or ability to care for this plant!  I muttered that I would be careful, listened to her advice, and walked out with the plant.

Photo credit to Margaret Collins. In the spirit of being somewhat of an anglophile, I am going to name this plant “Henry”!

Although I felt a little demeaned by the clerk, her questions were legitimate.  Being a plant expert, she was trying to troubleshoot my problem.  Instead of letting her questions derail me, I listened carefully to her suggestions for caring for this new plant.  I even bought a different soil mix she recommended to ensure the plant’s growth.  After a few weeks, it is starting to perk up and flourish!

To be honest, a few years ago, I would have been annoyed with the clerk’s response and likely have ignored her advice.  At the time, I would have let my pride hinder me from further learning and growth.  In my twenties and early thirties, I actively sought information to improve my marriage, parenting skills, and knowledge in God.  I listened to radio programs and discussed principles with friends.  I recognized I was young and needed the wisdom of others to help me grow.  As I grew older, I eventually formed some core philosophies and principles and became locked into my beliefs.  And then I made a mistake: I sought out sources that only supported my way of thinking and agreed with my ideas.  Letting pride creep in, I ignored anything that might challenge my way of thinking.

Anyone who owns a front-loading washer knows the challenges of preventing mildew from growing on the rubber seal.  After every use, I must dry the seal and door carefully, leaving the door of the washer open for twenty-four hours.  I also clean the machine with a special product monthly.  I stay on top of these tasks because, if I slip up, mildew will not only form but grow, eventually ruining my washer and clothes.  Like mildew, once pride creeps in, it starts to grow.  It clouds your vision and keeps you from recognizing your weaknesses.  It leads to sin, and it can destroy relationships and hinder potential.  It permeates every area of your life!  Caleb Holmgren, my good friend’s 23-year-old son, said it best in his vernacular, “Pride sucks. It keeps me from admitting when I’m wrong, and hinders me from reaching out for help as well…”

My pride stopped me from growing.  I became judgmental of others’ shortcomings, elevating myself in my own mind.  Outwardly, I acted humble, but inwardly I thought my principles were not only the right way to live life, but the only way!  I stopped seeking wisdom for my marriage, parenting, and my life, in general.  I became stagnant and arrogant in my way of thinking.

Then a series of events happened that crushed my pride.  Problems arose in my marriage and I started to see flaws in how I had parented.  I was faced with the ugly truth; I had relied on my own knowledge instead of God’s.  I had chosen to direct my own path, instead of realistically evaluating my own lack of skill.  I basked in the glow of my so-called “perfect life”, ignoring signs indicating that something was wrong.  One morning, feeling completely broken, I felt God was revealing that pride was at the root of my sin.

Generally, I have seen two responses when pride is brought to light.  The first response is to remain prideful, either by persisting with an arrogant attitude, or living in shame.  This paralyzes you from dealing with the problems.  The second response is to be contrite, admit your sin, and take full responsibility for it.  On that morning, it was only by the grace of God that I chose the second response when faced with the revelation of my sin.  I swallowed my pride, examined my heart, spent some time in repentance, and made a lot of apologies to those I had wronged.

Pride is a common theme throughout the Bible.  It is a major character flaw in both antagonists and protagonists in the Bible, including Saul and Hezekiah.  In the New Testament, both James and Peter state, “God resisteth the proud.”  God also makes an interesting contrast related to pride.  In Proverbs 8:13, Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way and the froward mouth do I hate.”  Based on the way this verse is punctuated, one half of the things that God thinks are evil are related to pride.  Both pride and arrogance, although they are different words, are rooted in the same Hebrew word “ga’ah”, which means “to be exalted in triumph.”  The fear of the Lord is to hate exalting ourselves.

God not only revealed to Solomon what the fear of the Lord hated, but also what the fear of the Lord looked like in practice.  He remarks in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  He continues in Proverbs 13:10, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”  God contrasts exalting oneself and relying on your own opinions with being well-advised by others in the pursuit of wisdom.

It follows that one of the keys in developing wisdom is to be well-advised.  So, one of the steps I have taken to prevent the “mildew” of pride from spreading further in my life is to be well-advised.  First, I have made studying the Bible a priority.  God’s word can magnify my prideful attitudes and show me examples of how to remain in a posture of humility.  In addition to the Bible, I have spent the last two years reading some books that address marriage, parenting adult children, and growing as a woman of God.  I have also listened to podcasts, paid attention to sermons that have pricked my heart and have talked over some of my problems with people who could speak wisdom into my situation.  I have actively chosen to be well-advised!

One of the most popular passages every Christian memorizes is Proverbs 3:5-6, where it says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  Recently, I heard someone say that this was their life verse.  Verse seven, which is less quoted but just as important, continues, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”  Again, God is contrasting wisdom with pride.  In writing this post, I have decided to make this plant in my yellow pot a prayerful reminder to me. This is my prayer:

God, I am so grateful that You revealed my prideful attitude and Your kindness led me to repentance.  Help me to continue to fear You by seeking Your wisdom.  Challenge me on a regular basis to grow in wisdom through Your Word, sermons, books, and podcasts.  Let the wisdom of the well-advised transform my way of thinking to align me with Your way of thinking.  God, as this plant flourishes and grows, let it always remind me to remain humble in Your eyes.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!