Friday, November 9, 2012

Do You Believe Life Is Tough?

by Donna L. Watkins

I was emailing with my friend, Joni, as we were discussing our natural tendencies to consider work our priority. The Bible tells us if we don't work, we don't eat, but some of us can take that to an extreme with 60 hour work weeks and beyond. It doesn't exclude stay-at-home moms either because when I chose to stay home with my child it didn't stop the increasing demands I placed on myself. I was still very works oriented since my identity back then was wrapped up in what I got done.

© Donna L. Watkins - Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom
What a Contrast Between The Flower and The Thorns
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden - Belmont, NC
My grandfather that raised me used to consider my grandmother lazy and made many comments about it. Truth is she wasn't in good health but she never let on by complaining. I'm sure hearing him condemn sitting still, and taking that to the opposite extreme, was why in my teenage and single years I had several jobs and never sat still for more than a moment.

My grandmother was certainly the simple type and even though she didn't get a lot of housework done, it seemed that what she did do was made more difficult by her choices. She didn't want an electric can opener nor a mixer. It seemed anything that would make her life easier was shunned. Most likely from a feeling that she wasn't worth it. Considering we lived in Pennsylvania Dutch country with Amish and Mennonites all around us, it may have been a "theology" many people took on.

As a child you don't analyze these things ... you just remember stuff that makes sense later.  I did grow up thinking "life is tough" and what we think on and believe is what we get from life. There's no magic in the fact that two different people with the same childhood environment can become two totally different people. One outrageously successful while the other is barely surviving. Somewhere you will find that the successful one began thinking along the lines of "I CAN" rather than "IT'LL NEVER WORK FOR ME."

As I look back on my 35 years of marriage I see I had/have some of the same issues that she had, wanting to do everything the "old fashioned" way. Maybe by keeping life a bit difficult, I felt I was worth more than those who took easier paths. Believing that "life is tough" brought some kind of satisfaction when I saw that it was obviously so in my life.  It's not that I wasn't enjoying it ... I seemed to love my days filled with checkmarks on my mental and paper list.  But I do remember how often I would be frustrated having so much to be done.

Flipping through many past years I see how I kept life difficult even in small ways, like not using brighter lights to see better as I read or cooked in the kitchen. Avoiding electric appliances if I could get one that didn't need electric. Food preparation was a major part of my day since I demanded of myself to make everything from scratch ... even crackers, jams, sauces, tortillas, grinding my own grains, etc. Gardening with small tools that made the task take so much longer to accomplish, while my husband would get a larger tool and have it done in a few minutes. What was I trying to prove?

I still love fresh foods and buy natural food products avoiding the chemicals as much as possible, but it's no longer a 'failure' if we eat outside that realm. We love fresh-ground grains, but now use a VitaMix to grind them in 1.5 minutes. I use an electric can opener and mixer and other appliances to make my life easier. I purposely turn on lights when I enter a dark room and remind myself that God gives us all good things. What parent would want his child to suffer through daily tasks?

For 25 of our 35 years of marriage I had a daily "To Do" list and if I got near the end I would add more on to it. You'd think I would be glad that I was getting to the end, but no, I couldn't rest (be lazy) when so much was to be done and of course, only I could do it the right way, so even if somebody offered to help, that wasn't allowed. It certainly affected relationships in the home since I was always on the move. How I regret that now in many ways. I always spent a lot of time with our son, Ben, (homeschooling would definitely do that), but it was scheduled events and structured ... not much impromptu back then.

Now I write things down that need to be done and work the list as I feel led, not at the cost of ignoring other things like lots of time alone with God, relationships with friends, scheduled play time with my husband, and lots of little getaway times to head out of town for the day. It broadens the mind and gives me more opportunities to share smiles and life with those I meet along the way.

One of my reasons for keeping life more difficult was because I believed that it would make me more self-reliant when the world began falling apart in the end times. It's like I was in my own never-ending course on survival. Is it wise to focus on and expect the world to get worse in our lifetime? Isn't that doing the same thing as believing "life is tough?" What about the Bible telling us that God will always protect us and take care of us and our provision is in Him (Psalm 91). You either believe the Word or not. I don't like the thought that my actions showed that I was not believing.

Or is that simply a sign that I'm not trusting in Him? I know I've had big issues of trusting God, as He's been revealing them to me over the past two years. Most of us have had trust issues from childhood affect our relationship with God, but the Word should make us realize that God is worthy of our trust. He changes not and we know that He IS love, not just that He loves us, but IS love itself.

© Donna L. Watkins
Bee Gathering Nectar From Prickly Pear Cactus

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden - Belmont, NC
So, how many years have I lived with less than God provided for me, waiting for the worst to happen. A life with more nectar than thorns.  And how many generations before us were doing the same? So many hundreds of years and Christians thinking this was the end time and Jesus would be here soon. When you consider that to God a thousand years is as a day ... it really shrouds the timing factor.

When the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) got bad enough that I couldn't do things "the old fashioned way" and hardly at all, a thinking process needed to change within me or I would've gone into deep depression. I think it was the spiral downward back then that made my survival instincts stand up and demand attention. I began to wonder if the RA came on because of my belief that "life is tough." Did it open a doorway for the devil to wreck havoc in my health?

I believe our bodies reflect our thoughts and when I began to realize how many autoimmune diseases I had, it made me begin to seriously wonder if my thoughts were the problem. (Recommended Book: A More Excellent Way)

Sometimes we have to stop and tune into what we're thinking and realize that we condemn ourselves a whole lot more than we ever thought. The devil didn't have to condemn me because I was doing a great job of it myself. I was my own judge, jury and prisoner. It's been a slow road out of that thinking model, but now I see it and rebuke it away, telling myself that I am loved by the Creator of the Universe and I love me also.

I began to realize that with all the complex (I called it simplicity) way of doing things, I had no time left over for relationships, so I wasn't into people at ALL! They were an interruption unless they were scheduled into an event. So, the devil was also stealing the "community factor" from me also. We were made to live in community with others, in like-minded relationship. Jesus' told His disciples to make more disciples. These days most folks take Jesus for a ticket into Heaven and out of Hell. Discipleship isn't being taught in most churches.

Praise God for grace and our ability to renew our minds with His Truth and change our doubts and beliefs to something that will bring life into these bodies. Jesus said He came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). It's so blatantly opposed to what I have been willing to allow myself to have.

John 10:10 - "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

If you can relate to any of this ... meditate on this Scripture until it's in your mind AND heart, which means until you really believe it. Don't let the devil steal anything else from you! Be the well cared for child of our Heavenly Father. Jesus wanted us to have all that the Father created us to have (and that has nothing to do with accumulating more stuff) so He took on the poverty, disease, iniquities of us all so that we could live without them.

Do you want to continue believing that life is tough? I pray not. Let me encourage you that it feels a whole lot better when you realize that we don't have to beat ourselves up every day to have a bit of self-esteem. How many times have you said to yourself, "I'm so tired of having to do all of this"? If you're not excited and happy with your daily tasks, change the picture!

I also believed that there wasn't anything I could take off the list since all these things HAD TO BE DONE. I have found that's not true and it's definitely not true that they have to all be done NOW or at the expense of lack of sleep and times of resting in Him each day. Life can be different, but only YOU can change it!

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