The Plate Spinner

The other day, while driving in the car, I heard a man on the radio talking about one of his favorite late night television moments as a child. On this particular show the host had invited a plate spinner on to his program. During his segment, the plate spinner began by spinning one plate faster and faster and then quickly adding another plate. Repeating the same procedure by spinning each new plate faster and faster before adding the next. By the time the segment was over the plate spinner had 9 plates spinning round and round. All the entertainer could do at this point was run franticly between each plate and continue to spin them faster and faster to keep them from crashing to the floor. Hearing this story got me thinking.

We’ve all seen an act like this. They make us smile and often leave us saying “How do they do that?” But in an interesting comparison I imagine we could consider ourselves acclaimed plate spinners as well. Our marriages, our families, our careers, the PTA, soccer club, church commitments, and the lists go on. Each plate representing one more thing to spin into our crazy lives. It seems like the priorities that reign in our hearts (marriage and family) tend to get the same attention as the rest of our plates.

During a recent Woman’s Gathering for church I was given an opportunity to share an inspirational story for the event. Believe it or not, as I prepared, I found a perfect example in the Bible of a Plate Spinner. Let me share with you how the story goes (interpretation mine).

Jesus is a grown man and is in the prime of his ministry. He has already done a few healings and the buzz concerning who he really is has made headlines around the countryside. While traveling one day he comes into a village where a woman named Martha opens up her home to him. As Jesus is talking and telling stories to the guests Martha is franticly running around trying to get everything ready. I assume she is making all the preparations for dinner along with all the other responsibilities involved with hosting a special event. Just then, as she is running around, she glances over and sees her sister Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Irritated that her sister isn’t helping she later says to Jesus “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all this work by myself?” Jesus then replies by saying “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I think that there are a couple very important things to point out. Its obvious to me that Martha really loves Jesus. If she didn’t, all those preparations wouldn’t be that important to her. Secondly, Jesus isn’t saying to Martha that her sister is a better person. He simply says that she has chosen what is better. Similarly, I think that if we take a closer look at our plates we would find things that we love about each of them. But the real question is are we choosing to spin the plates that will not be taken away from us?

This plate spinning scenario can apply to us spiritually as well as literally. Once we slip into our “doing” mode, it’s often hard to downshift. Being quiet and contemplative makes us feel guilty- shouldn’t we be doing something for someone somewhere? I believe that as we enter the New Year we should all resolve to stop spinning our plates for just a moment. Take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and really hear what he is trying to say to us. Maybe just maybe He is trying to walk with us down a path that is better!

Fear: Part Two

In my previous entry I offered a glimpse into my personal foundation of fear. Yes, it’s true. It has always been that small, scurrying creature that has reigned in my minds-eye as the ever clutching base of FEAR. Through the years I have attempted a variety of means to overcome the ridiculousness of it all. I have even received counseling over the matter. Thankfully I did not have to pay for the session since my good friend is a psychologist but I did bake her some cookies for compensation.

In taking a deeper look I’m beginning to realize something about myself that I wasn’t aware of before. My entire life has been governed by this fear. In a closer evaluation I discovered that in almost every area of my life I have some fear driving factor. When I run outdoors I fear I’ll be chased down by a dog and bitten, if our first floor windows are not locked and sealed I fear that someone will break into our house, and when driving next to a semi I wouldn’t dare pass them for fear that I will be crushed beneath its massive frame.

A few years ago I had a very candid conversation with a good friend of mine concerning God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty, its such a big word. Weather it rolls off your tongue or is overheard in conversation it seems to belong to a special club. But what does is really mean? It seems the full comprehension of “sovereignty” falls into the gray area for most of us. We think we know what it means but what the heck do we do with it? As my friend further explained, this sovereignty is the definition used to describe a peace-filled state of mind where we rest in God’s complete and total control over EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that he is Almighty (ALL MIGHTY), the possessor of all power in heaven and earth. No one can defeat Him or His purposes. He is the Governor of all nations. He is absolute and completely infinite.

I’ll have to admit that if we truly put these matters into our heart its all too overwhelming to comprehend. Its easy for us to see God’s face painted upon the pictures of good but when it comes to the bad, rotten, and ugliness of this world it really challenges our hearts and mind to step outside of our faith-filled comfort zone and proclaim “God is Sovereign.”

I believe that in order for us to be freed from fear we must begin to see the healing elements that sovereignty has to offer. The pieces of our fears, our failures, our joys, and our sorrows all must join together with God’s Sovereignty. When we embrace the “sovereignty” puzzle in our lives we have the potential to see a much bigger, clearer picture through the eyes of a peace-filled heart.

Fear: Part 1

When I was 9 years old I saw my first mouse. Growing up in the city did not foster the kind of appreciation for creatures, critters, and dark open spaces that the country so easily provides. Thankfully my childhood wasn’t completely void of these certain experiences.

My grandparents, Roy and Dorthy Rohlik, grew up and raised up their ten children on a small farm in southwestern Minnesota. Going to the farm meant feeding the chickens, milking the cows, playing in the grove (it’s a wonder we never contracted an infectious disease from all that debris), rolling in the hay which included an onslaught of asthma attacks, and then of coarse; the late night game of kick-the-can. Among all those beautiful early childhood memories on the farm; seeing my first mouse has achieved substantial ratings in the memory department.

There is no big story to tell other than this; it was a typical warm summer afternoon on the farm. As I was strolling along the gravel driveway in search of that afternoon’s mischief I decided to poke around in the cow barn. Maybe I would watch Grandpa milk a cow or maybe I could feed a bottle to one of the babies? That would not be the case on this particular breezy manure scented day. In fact, on this day I would see my first mouse scurrying across the floorboards of the barn. In awe of what I was witnessing, I froze in amazement.

Definition of Amazement:
Bewilderment; overwhelming wonder, as from surprise, sudden fear, horror, or admiration. Frenzy; madness.

The later two definitions could easily sum up my thoughts concerning the subject at hand. Fortunately, the remainder of my city-life childhood offered little opportunities to face this certain fear but that is not to say that the feelings have dissolved. In fact, as a grown adult I find more and more paralysis over the issue than I care to admit.

Mice, snakes, spiders … they may be small but they often pack a powerful punch in the fear department. The popular book series “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” offers thousands of simple suggestions designed to shed those little fears and anxieties so that we can finally have the happier more harmonious life we long for.

But what happens when the small stuff snowballs into the larger and larger stuff. How does one stop the frenzy that often ensues from those mere small, seemingly innocent fears?

Let’s face it; you just need to face it. Look at it square in the eye and tell it what you think about it. Seems easy enough but when it comes down to it, it’s just not that simple.

About seven years ago we rented a small farm house just outside of Cannon Falls, MN. At the time, my husband was just getting his financial practice off the ground which required some overnight travel on his part. This particular night, after a day at the office, I intended on curling up with a good movie for the night however; after I took one step into our cozy little farm house I realized that there would be a change of plans. Evidence of the furry visitor was everywhere. From contentment to sheer mental hysteria I would need to muster up the courage to face the deep seeded fears of my youth.

So that’s what I did. Mustered something, trapped it, and the following morning looked it square in the eye and told it what I thought.

If My Life Were A Bank Account…

If my life were a bank account, many times I would be considered bankrupt. Withdraws titled “life’s monotonous hum-drum”, “broken expectations” and “misguided judgments” are highlighted in crimson red as I look upon my statement.

In 2003 the book “Beautiful in God’s Eyes” completely captivated me. Elizabeth George’s portrayal of the Proverbs 31 woman, whom God sees as pleasing and beautiful, was a woman that felt I could reach out and grab a hold of if only I stretched myself a little further. By my side, with George as my literate cheerleader I became filled with joyous anticipation of this new discovery and charge upon my life.

At that time, two major life events spurred on this venture. First, I bid farewell to my professional “corporate ladder” management career and secondly, I welcomed the arrival of my second child Walker.

Today, I realize that the simple stretch I set out to accomplish five years ago has become increasingly far fetched. You see my intention was simple. I was eager to earn the trust and respect of God and my husband in such a way that their pleasure in me would and could be used to do some really great and powerful things for my family and God’s will.

Looking back on this journey, I have found that I HAVE grown and I AM better today at some things. I’ve taken some of the books ideas and invested them into my own family. For example, a deeper evaluation of Proverbs 31:17-18 (She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night) inspired the birth of my cookie business. Today these cookies still provide my family with simple, extra pleasures we would otherwise do without. In addition, I’ve worked hard at being more conscious of commitments I make for myself and our family.

This leads me into my synopsis for the recent overdrawn statement. Over the past five years I have become increasingly consumed with one’s pleasure in me. The way others view me has become an almost anxiety ridden ordeal. My ability to talk and thing big has frankly been consumed by how and what the most important people in my life think.

Instead of getting the results I’ve longed for, which would be a reciprocated feeling of joyous approval and verbal appreciation for me; it has been met with, in my eyes, significant failure. At times, I’ve felt like Rachel’s authenticity has been compromised. All of my passions and feistiness is futile when I consider the loss of myself.

What should one do to regain herself? The thought of ceremoniously burning that book has come to mind yet it would be unfair to blame a book for ones feelings of loss-of-self. In fact, maybe the book will prove to be the greatest forge of rebirth after all. It may be possible that my approach and attitude was all wrong to begin with.

God being the master behind life and death has encouraged me to think outside of myself. 1 Samuel 2: 6-8 provides an offering of peace and comfort that propels me to rise up.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the Lords; upon them he has set the world. “

The Essence of Pearls

In July of this year my 89 year old grandmother passed away. She was one of those women that we often hear about; one who was faithfully devoted to her husband (70 years I might add), family, and the church. When we think of these certain special people and the impact they have had on our lives our memories tend to lead us into an abyss of sensory overdrive. For example, my Grandma Mabel carried the scent of Irish Spring within the fabric of her being. It’s been said that when Grandma gave you a bath she would about take your skin off, scrubbing so hard. I assume that years of her own bathing regiment had enabled this fresh soap scent to naturally permeate her body. A hug from Grandma was always sealed with her signature smell. The list goes on. Her homemade apple pies, a game of Scrabble, and watching bowling on TV are just a few more that come to mind. Most of all, I believe that I will miss that sparkle in her eye. She always knew more about life than she let on and her eyes (not her words) spoke loud and clear.

After her funeral I was given one of her necklaces. It is a genuine cultured pearl necklace. For me, it offers a tangible reminder of the woman she was and the legacy that she has placed within me. Her life was simple. She wasn’t renowned for any major accomplishments according to this world but her presence in my life has left a mark that will undeniably run within me the remainder of my earthly days.

Clinging to this delicate necklace has sparked my curiosity about pearls. What I’ve discovered is beautiful in it’s own right. Did you know that the formation of a pearl takes years? The journey first begins when a foreign substance slips into an oyster and begins to irritate it. It’s kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. Over time the oyster secrets nacre, this shiny substance that coats the “foreign substance”. Then, in a process that takes years and years, a lustrous pearl finally forms.

I love the beauty of this process because in many ways I see a sweet, simple comparison of how God takes those irritations or pains in our own life, covers them with a little bit of His “shine” and over time turns us into a rare, organic gem.

This blog, The Essence of Pearls, is a document of discovering those gems through my own life’s experiences. In the book of Habakkuk, God tells him to record his visions and inscribe them on tablets so that when the time comes the message will bear truth to the recipient (Hab. 2:2). This year God has given me a precise call to write. The foundation of this platform is fully intended to bring glory to the work that God plans to do in and through me. I pray that you may find familiarity and comfort in my “work-in-progress” life.