Some Assembly Required

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tell Them They Aren't Enough

I love my house. I dare say I’m content in my home. As long as it’s clean, as long as nothing’s broken and provided I haven’t visited a cleaner, nicer, more up-to-date house this week. I’m good. Most of the time.
I love my life. I’m content. As long as I don’t read the letters from the 18-year-old me about where I’d be now or what I dreamed of becoming. As long as I don’t dwell on yesterdays and should-haves. I’m good. Most of the time.
I love myself. No, really I do. As long as I don’t drop my towel in front of the mirror. As long as my jeans aren’t right-from-the-dryer tight…I hate having to wiggle, dance and do deep knee bends just to get dressed! On the good hair, cute outfit, I’ve-got-it-all-together days, I’m thrilled with me. The other 361 days a year I don’t think about it too hard. I’m good. Most of the time.
I don’t spend a lot of time telling God the things I need. Want. Except one thing. I tell Him that daily. I ask for that constantly. And yet….
In Philippians 4:11 Paul says, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” And I trip on those words. I stop to think, to mull them over and try to figure out how Paul learned that, what was the secret he speaks of (in verse 12) and why, oh, why can’t I find that?
With laptop open and Bible software cranking, I sit ready to discover the secret, to write a post, deep with Biblical insight and incredible teaching.
With the whir of the air conditioner filling up the space around me, I wait. I read. I wait some more. Surely there is a lesson in all of this that God is waiting to teach me. Something profound that I can share and breathe in and begin to apply.
In the space yet to be filled with inspiration and answers, suddenly there are elbows and knees. A sea of blonde hair and blue eyes. Giggles and excited chatter.
And there in the adoration punctuated by dimples and fluttering eyelashes is a still small voice.
“Tell them they aren’t enough.” 

In a flash they are gone again, off to spread sunshine and remove every toy from every shelf. Unaware of the moment that just unfolded. Unaware that I can barely breathe for the humbling painful reality I just inhaled.
You see, I obsess about having more children. Maybe not outwardly, but in my own head and heart, I wish. I beg. I pray. And I feel a massive loss every time I am confronted with the truth that I am the mother to only two children.
Let’s go back to Philippians for a moment, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (4:11-12)
I don’t know the secret that Paul had learned, and perhaps it is a secret on purpose. A beautiful mystery. Because it is something we have to come to in Christ on our own. No one can teach you contentment. Nope, that is something that has to be inhaled. Like the delicate aroma of a Savior.
And what is the secret for me? The one that God just whispered. Contentment isn’t about the things I don’t have. Or even about the things I do have, really. It is about looking, in the face, the blessings that God gives us and saying, “You aren’t enough for me.”  Look at the sky, shake your fist and say, “You aren’t enough for me.”
Go ahead. Do it. Look at your husband who leaves his dirty clothes on the floor or might forget an anniversary. Look him in the eye and say, “You aren’t good enough.”  Look your children in the face. Stare into their eyes and say, “You are just not enough for me.” Go to work tomorrow and say to your boss, really, “This job isn’t enough for me.”
Did you do it?
No. Why?
Because we wouldn’t want to hurt people. We wouldn’t want to run people off. We wouldn’t want to risk loss. And yet, every day I look at things around me — bigger houses, nicer cars, more well-behaved children, a cuter outfit — and think, “What if?”  “If only.”  “I need that”. As if I am shaking my fist at the sky, I tell God it isn’t enough for me.
The truth is the love of Christ overwhelms me. To choose me unto death….no words.
The truth is I love our house, even if the paint is uneven, and there seems to be dog hair everywhere. This is our home where laughter rings in the hallways, where truth is taught and love is lived!
The truth is I have never been more comfortable in the skin I am in. Though I’m overweight, I am confident in my God-given gifts of encouragement and love. I have grown into the roles of wife, mother, daughter, friend, leader and more with an ease and a passion that can come only from God.
The truth is my arms (and heart) will always long for the babies I relinquished in adoption. And that the children we are blessed to parent fill my life with love, laughter, challenges, messes, crafts, games and God.
The truth is God made me to want more. More of Him. And by telling Him He is not enough for me or by trying to fill up with other things I am denying the very thing He made me for. More of Christ.
So, my friends, today as the world entices with big, better, newer, flashier, more, more, more, I pray that you and I look to the sky with open arms and say, “He’s enough for me.”

Wendy Blackwell

Thursday, November 24, 2011


(Because of “technical difficulties” [translated “my ignorance”], I cannot send you the blog from a young friend of mine that I promised.  But it’s a great piece, and as soon as I can figure out this one little hitch, I’ll get it to you.)
I find it very interesting that we go from a season of giving thanks to a season of give me more.  One day we're sitting at a beautifully-set table loaded with food, thanking the Lord for "this our bounty," and the next day--literally--we are out there fighting the crowds for more "bounty"--more stuff on Black Friday.  That is, typically, the biggest shopping day of the year in America.  It is referred to as "Black Friday" because many businesses operate in the "red" (debt) most of the year, and it is not until "Black Friday" that they become profitable (operate in the black).
I've included below something that my favorite co-blogger--my husband--wrote, and I thought it was appropriate because it is his take on Americans and our "stuff."
I am amazed at America!  The financial picture is miserable, and Americans are in horrible financial shape with a gloomy financial forecast, according to the experts and the news media.  If that is true, how do we explain all the STUFF that we own?!
            I remember when I was in grammar school.  My parents purchased our first house with a real garage.  In prior years, our family car had sat out in the yard or the driveway.  But even after we got a garage, the car was not kept in the garage. (Read on to find out what happened to the garage.)
            As I began to grow a little older, still in grammar school, times began to get better, and people began to have a little extra money.  So what do you do when you find you have extra money after the bills are paid?  You find some STUFF  that you’ve been wanting, and you buy it.  People began buying new STUFF and extra STUFF.  Then they needed a place to put the old STUFF because it was “too good to throw away.”!  They didn’t throw anything away because it was still good STUFF, and the adults remembered the tough times of the 30’s and 40’s.
            So—some smart person began manufacturing small metal buildings that you could buy, assemble, and put in your back yard.  It had no flooring—neither concrete nor wood.  You had to stoop over to enter to store your STUFF or retrieve it on the rare occasion that someone wanted to borrow something that you had stored.  You rarely went looking for the STUFF on your own because you had all new STUFF and didn’t need the stored STUFF.  However—you had it whether you needed it or not!
            Then—some genius began manufacturing the little metal storage building with (get this!) flooring!  Plywood!  Now you could store your STUFF and not have it sitting on the dirt.  As time passed, the economy began to boom, and we began buying more and better stuff.  This trend was within the reach of most people because Sears initiated a layaway plan that you could use, or you could buy and buy and continue to buy, using (drum roll!) your very own SEARS CREDIT CARD! 
            But our little backyard storage buildings became too small and not quite good enough for  our good STUFF.  So—another genius began manufacturing (Are you ready for this?)  larger backyard storage buildings that came with (Ta Da!) a floor attached to the building.  This dude was framed out with wood studs like an actual house that we lived in!  It even had, of all things, roofing shingles just like our house as well as a window and a house-style door!
            As I mentioned earlier, I remember the first real garage that our family ever had.  It had a concrete slab, with wood studs, a shingled roof, and double doors on the end where you drove in on the concrete driveway!  Talk about “movin’ on up”!  But guess what!  Our car never—never ever—got parked in that garage.  Guess what was housed in that nice garage.  A metal, twelve-foot fishing boat and outboard gas motor for that boat—plus the rods and reels, tackle boxes and lures, and boat paddles—STUFF! 
            As time passed, kids grew up and got married, moved out, and then there really was money at the end of the month!  Guess what came next!  You got it—more new STUFF  to go inside the house and more good STUFF to go into the garage or the new improved, floored, house-doored, windowed, shingle-roofed outside building in the back yard.
            As we continued to buy more STUFF, the good STUFF that had to be put into the storage building got to be too good and too valuable to be put into the back yard storage building.  Then—yet another genius decided that there was an enormous number of backyard storage buildings in the back yards of America.  Sooooo—this genius decided that there had to be a market for people to store their really good STUFF in a commercial, guarded storage facility.  That’s when we began seeing rental storage buildings springing up near every subdivision. Apartment buildings, condos, and townhouses began springing up faster than rabbits on steroids, and it became even more evident that people needed some place to accommodate all that great STUFF that had to be stored in a better and safer environment. 
            Then—another genius (or maybe it was an older form of the genius that created the commercial storage building in the first place) decided that there had to be a dire need for “Climate-Controlled Storage units” for all that good STUFF that needed to be stored in a heated/cooled space.  After all, this is great STUFF that we will dump pass on to our kids one of these days when we’re dead and gone.  And the kids will probably be grumbling the whole time they’re  having to go through all of our junk great STUFF  because they’ve had to take days off from work for this little chore, and none of this great STUFF is anything that they can/would use in their own lives.    So—much of our great STUFF that we have lovingly preserved for years will find its way to the nearest trash dump!  Appears to me that there’s something just a little wrong with this picture, but it seems to be the “American way.”
            GOD BLESS AMERICA!!  And God bless those natives in the darkest, poorest parts of the world who labor every day for just the basic necessities—no vacations, no coffee breaks, no cruises, no shopping trips, nor the financial means to buy STUFF.  Makes me wonder—are we really better off than they are?!  Hmmmm! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

But you know--it doesn't even matter.

I, along with many other people, love HGTV—for a variety of reasons.  I’ve always enjoyed the show “House Hunters,” and a year or so ago as I watched a family of five that had outgrown their current home search for a newer, larger house, I had a real “ah-ha moment.”  They were being shown a very large, beautiful home of 3600 square feet, but the mother was bemoaning the fact that there were only three bedrooms and three bathrooms.  This house simply would not do because the children would have to share bedrooms and a bathroom, and the parents did not want that for their children. (I could get on a real soap box here and preach, but I will resist the urge.)
It was the sort of thing that just hit me in the face—such a blatant picture of the attitudes of so many Americans.  We want ALL the stuff, and we don’t want to have to share it!  For some reason, we occasionally have the attitude that we deserve all the stuff or that it’s our birthright to have all the stuff.  Where did that come from?  It’s amusing (and sometimes irritating) on “House Hunters” that young couples looking to buy their first house want the kind of  house and belongings that they are leaving when they move out of  Mom and Dad’s house.  It took Mom and Dad a married lifetime to accrue the things that they have, yet these newlyweds want it all, and they want it now.   They don’t want a “starter home” from which they will work up to a better house later as their parents did.
I’ve heard missionaries talk about living conditions in some foreign countries.  One man, in particular, talked of  ten people who all lived in one apartment that was perhaps 10’x10,’ including a hot plate for a kitchen with no means of refrigeration.  They shared a bathroom down the hall with the residents of three other apartments.  That could mean one bathroom with at least 20-30 other people.  And for most of these people, transportation meant bicycles.  And these were the fortunate people, the well-to-do of the commoners.  Can you imagine what the aforementioned “house hunters” (with five family members) would have said and how they might have reacted if they had been shown that kind of living condition as a possibility for their family?
What would the ten people in the one apartment in a foreign country think of a house that was large enough to contain 36 apartments the size of theirs?  Those ten people would not be able to mentally grasp the fact that only five people would live in that house of 3600 sq. ft.  Plus, the lawns of the homes on “House Hunters” were large and magnificently manicured, often having an in-ground swimming pool.  And, of course, those homes usually had a minimum of a two-car (often three-car) garage because everyone of driving age had his/her vehicle.
As I stated earlier, I’m not saying that any of this is bad, in and of itself, but I think that with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, we all need to be more aware of how truly blessed we are and what our responsibility is to others who are in need.  Another reason that I think it is important that we think about the “stuff” in our lives is that sometimes the “stuff” becomes the focus of our lives, and we ourselves may start thinking that the “stuff” is important because it  defines who we are.
Again referring to the book I mentioned in my last blog,  Gracia Burnham’s To Fly Again; Surviving the Tailspins of Life, Mrs. Burnham asks, Who are any of us down deep inside, minus the accessories of modern life?  If some force vacuumed away our many possessions, what would be left? (p. 32) Think about that for a minute.   Minus the newer car, the cell phone (and all the varieties thereof), our nice clothes, our beautiful home and all its decorations, maybe even a beach house or home in the mountains---take away all of that, and what would other people see when they look at us?
Some cultures emphasize the importance of a man’s having a son.  Not to have a son is considered a disgrace.  We (Americans) find that strange, even illogical.  But is it any different from our own penchant for defining ourselves by our wealth, our neighborhood, our zip code, our gold (if not platinum) credit cards, our ethnic heritage, our church affiliation, or our possessions? (p. 33)
The more we center ourselves on our true definition in God’s sight, not the possessions we have been able to gather or the esteem that others have given us, the more stable we will be in good times and bad.  What other people think of us—and the artificial scales on which they rank us—is beside the point.  They can make us neither better nor worse than we already are at our core. (p.37) 
An article in the 9/4/2005 edition of the Shreveport Times quoted a 20-year-old woman who, with her boyfriend, had fled to a Shreveport shelter to get away from Hurricane Katrina:  I never thought we’d be thought of as refugees.  We used to be popular.  We had all the new clothes and new stuff, and now, look.  But you know--it doesn’t even matter.
Indeed, it does not!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


            I have kept gratitude journals on and off for years, and now I wish that I had been more consistent about it.  This time of the year always makes me aware of how blessed I am in every area of my life, and even though I didn’t join in with those who are so consistent about their lists on Facebook, I love the fact that so many people are daily sharing their blessings with the Facebook world.
            Even though I haven’t had a blog for you in a while, please don’t think that I haven’t been writing because for the last nine or ten months, it seems that I have been made extra aware of how we as Americans have been blessed (overly blessed?)  We have so much “stuff” (for lack of a better word), and that awareness has resulted in a couple of blogs that you will be receiving soon.  My prayer is that we will all see how we have been blessed as far as material things go.  We have so much when so many in the world have nothing or next to nothing.  I think that behooves us to take care of those around us in need.  One of my former students posted something on Facebook recently that caught my attention, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  It’s a quote by Martin Luther:  God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.  Hmmm!
            The first Thanksgiving blog is included below.  You will receive a second one entitled “But You Know—It Doesn’t Even Matter” around November 20.  Then on November 23, you will receive a beautiful piece written by a special young friend of mine entitled “Tell Them They Aren’t Enough.”    On November 25 (Black Friday), you will be blessed by my favorite co-writer (my husband) who will share his thoughts on “Stuff.”   I understand all too well that this is a very busy time of the year, but please take just a few minutes to read the blogs as you get them and ask God to teach you what you need to know.    
 Truer  Words  Were  Never  Spoken
I was sitting at a traffic signal, waiting for my light to turn green.  For some strange reason, I started noticing something that had never before caught my attention.  I watched as vehicle after vehicle made a left turn coming onto the street where I was waiting.  That was when I realized that most of those vehicles were relatively new—no old junkers.  Hmmm—very interesting!  This incident happened probably ten or eleven months ago, but from that point on, I was hooked! (I hope that you start noticing, also!)   Every time I am caught by a light now, I watch as the turning vehicles pass by.  I have become more and more amazed, not only by the newness of the vehicles but by the fact that the majority of the drivers are using cell phones at the time I see them. 
So I did a little “research” on the topic.  For those of you who tend to lean a little toward legalism occasionally, I do realize the many flaws in the “test” that I did, but I do think that, as skewed as the test may be, it still proves something about us as Americans.  I threw a poll out on Facebook, asking people to give me three pieces of information:  1) The number of licensed drivers in their household  2) The year that each of their vehicles was made  3) The number of telephones in their house, including cell phones. 
It was a real eye-opener, even to some of the people who responded.  For instance, some had never realized the number of telephones to which their families had access.    Here are the results:  39 households responded, representing 78 licensed drivers and 83 vehicles.   This averages out to each licensed driver having his/her own vehicle.  We can “reason” that out if we wish—talk about why it’s necessary in America for every driver in the household to have his/her own car, but I still think it is a lot higher percentage than most other countries.  54 % of the vehicles were made in the year 2005 or later.  The average year that all the cars were made was 2003, meaning that, on average, we all drive cars that are eight years old or newer.  I’m not saying this is wrong;  hey, we have a 2010 and a 2011 at my house!  I just want us to think about a few things!  The really, really surprising statistic (even to me) was that for 39 households, there were 162 telephones.  That figures out to 4.15 telephones/household. 
To help you see the comparison, let me tell you about a book I recently read.  The title is To Fly Again; Surviving the Tailspins of Life by Gracia Burnham.  She and her husband were missionaries until May, 2001, when they were kidnapped and  held as hostages in a jungle in the Philippines for one year (That’s 12 months; 365 days—in a jungle!!)  She was eventually rescued, but he was shot and killed in the rescue attempt; it was finally determined that he was killed by “friendly fire” (That’s got to be an oxymoron.)  If  you want to read about two people having strong faith in their omnipotent God, this book really is a must-read! 
Some of the statistics in this book are mind-boggling in contrast to the numbers I’ve just given you about America.  According to Mrs. Burnham’s research and data, 80% of the world’s population has never made a telephone call—not one—ever!! (p. 35)  Unbelievable!!   And here in America, we have 4.15 telephones per household.  (If they wouldn’t know what to do with a telephone, imagine their reaction to a computer!) 
She also points out that less than one-fourth of the world’s population sleeps in a bed at night.  (I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled to be in that 1/4!)  Three-fourths sleep in a hammock of some kind…or a mat on a floor…or on a floor with no mat…or on the plain dirt.  She goes on to point out that,  Obviously, even fewer have a bedspread that matches the curtains, or a TV across the bedroom with a remote control to turn it on and off from where they recline.  The belongings that matter to many of us are beyond the comprehension of at least three billion other people on our planet.  (p.33)  (emphasis is mine) 
Our daughter, Kristy, and her daughter, Erin (who is 10), were blessed with the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador this past summer.  Kristy had been there before, but it was a first for Erin—a real eye-opener because of the desperate living conditions and general poverty of the people there.  Before the mission team had left the United States, Erin (with the help of her mom) had made and sold ribbon bracelets to help pay her way to El Salvador.  She had some of the bracelets left over and took them with her to give to the young girls at one of the schools they visited.     Kristy said that when the little girls saw what Erin was doing, they rushed her, all wanting the little bracelets—made out of ribbon, glue, and the pop-top rings found on canned cold drinks!  They were thrilled with their gifts from America.  I had to wonder what little girls in America would have done/said if they had been given one of the simple little bracelets.
In preparation for the trip, Kristy had gone to one of the local dollar stores and bought several small photo albums with plastic sleeves that would hold 4”x6” cards.  Several women helped her find Scriptures that would be appropriate for evangelism, and then she had someone translate the verses into Spanish to be written on the cards.  The cards were put into the small albums with a few blank pages so that the women could perhaps add their own favorite verses.  Kristy said the experience of giving these little gifts to the locals was amazing and very humbling.  Most of the women cried and were overwhelmed that someone in America had actually taken the time to make something especially for them.  Kristy relates how one woman clutched the book of Scriptures to her heart, teared up, and said, “This is the best gift anyone has ever given me.”
Truer words were never spoken!