Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The One Where I Admit I Was A Whiny Baby--But I Got Over It

The sign of a fun vacation--dirt filled shoes

There I sat, on a plastic wrapped mattress resting on a camp cot in a tiny room with blue walls and a wallpaper boarder put up in an attempt to make a sad room look less gross.  There were ladybugs crawling the walls.  Dirt on the floor.  Well worn carpet over even more worn linoleum.

We were an hour into our Memorial Weekend "camping" trip and I was throwing in the towel.  Pre camping, I was excited how we were in a cabin while all our friends were in tents or campers.  Ya, baby!  How quickly the mighty fall.  Upon seeing the cabin, I was ready to claw my way into my friend's camper and refuse to set foot outside until Monday morning.  I was overwhelmed.  I was ready to go home.

I spent the rest of Friday in a state of semi disgust and frustration.  I didn't want to touch anything.  I was afraid of being attacked by bugs in my sleep.  I was not the most easy going camper in the bunch.

Saturday morning I was laying in bed, trying to ignore the sun shining in my eyes through the thin curtains at way-too-early AM, when thoughts started running through my head:  If I can't even stand this semi rustic 2 bedroom house, how could I ever make it in a place that is really dirty?  Africa?  Central America?  Detroit?  I'm a failure at wanting to be a light in a dark world and I haven't even started!  

I felt defeated.  If I shrunk back over a few ladybugs and some dirt, there was no way I'd ever be able to endure true yuck.  It was time to give up my dreams of ministering to the poor.  I got out of bed, got ready for the day, and went out onto the screen porch to have my prayer time and face my shortcomings head on.

God, I can't live like this anymore.  You've helped me conquer so many of my fears already; now it's time for me to get over my distaste for dirt, filth, bugs and yuck.  Lord, help me.  Help me to embrace all situations I find myself in without freaking out.  This cabin is fine.  I need to let go of my discomfort.  

To which God replied:

Lisa, this is My earth and I created it all.  It's time to stop shrinking back.  Embrace My creation, My world--all of it.  I will help you.

It wasn't immediate, God meeting me.  It more caught me by surprise.  Sunday morning Lizzy commented to a friend how our house was full of ladybugs, and I said, "Most of them are gone now."  She looked at me sort of funny, "No they aren't, Mom."  Huh.  I had stopped seeing them.

Both Saturday and Sunday night I got into bed without shaking my blanket out or checking every inch of my bed for bugs before getting into it.  I just plopped right down and went to sleep.

Sunday night a friend of Joy's came for a visit to our cabin site and the girls were looking at the frogs that David and Lizzy had caught--over 20 tiny frogs were being kept in 3 plastic containers.  Lizzy opened one of the containers and 3 frogs escaped.  "Catch them, Mommy!"  I looked at Lizzy like she was mad--I do not touch frogs.  Ever.  And yet I found myself chasing after the frogs and catching them.  Even picking them up and holding them in my hands.

I didn't die.

A container full of frogs--I touched them

By the end of our trip, I was ready to sign up again for next summer.

Last night, after a sanitizing shower and a change of clean clothes, from the comfort of my own, mostly clean, mostly bug free home, I was reading a book called Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch.  And I figured out something monumental.

When I honestly looked into my heart, I knew I equated Jesus with comfort and blessings...My happiness in life was always conditional, ready to disappear with every storm that blew into my life.  It was contingent upon what I had versus what I wanted.  There were always strings attached...In that faraway, uncomfortable place [Africa], I discovered just how much I needed Jesus to be Lord of my life.

I sat in that little cabin, at first in discontent, and then in peacefulness, and I realized that I also have been equating Jesus with comfort and blessings.  When things get tough--or icky--Lisa quits.  God, why is the air conditioner on my van still broken even after paying almost $200 to repair it?  or God, why haven't You answered my prayer yet?  or God, why aren't you making this bug spray miraculously keep the million mosquitoes from biting me?  or God, this place is gross.  My germaphobia, bugaphobia, and grimeaphobia are going crazy!

And I realized that I was wrong.  I could not let discomfort rule my life.  It was time to attack this fear head on.  No more searching all the beds for signs of bed bugs before unloading the car.  No more gingerly touching things that have been used by many other people.  No more being uncomfortable with staying overnight at new places for fear of picking up lice, bed bugs, or some other equally horrible bug.

Some people have few physical blessings and comfort (people living in the slums of Africa come to mind), yet they are happy and content and thank Jesus for their cardboard houses!  I had a sound roof over my head with a working toilet, microwave, mini fridge, beds, couches and a wonderful screen porch--and I turned into a whiny baby.  It wasn't good enough because it was worn down and dirty.

This weekend I learned that my peace and joyfulness cannot be contingent upon my circumstances, no matter what they are.  I can no longer draw a line in the sand and say, "I will be happy if ____, but if we cross that line, I will not be happy."  It doesn't work that way.  God says to be Joyful in all circumstances.  All.  Even those that stretch our comfort zone.  Even those that make our comfort zone break.

And I learned that God likes to throw me into situations that stretch me and make me realize how much further I have to go.  Where I have to depend on Him to change me so that I can be the woman He needs me to be.  God likes nothing more than to have His children cry out to Him in need.  He will meet us where we're at.  He will transform us so that we can be a people who are Joyful in all circumstances.  Who don't shrink back when things are less than desirable.  Who are able to serve and love even in the most wretched of places.

One prayer at a time.

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