Monday, April 19, 2010

FRUIT! - From a Firecracker

My name is Diana, and I am a firecracker.

No, not in that cute way you describe an ornery little old lady that makes you laugh with all her get up and go. No, when I describe myself as a firecracker, I am referring to the short fuse and the sudden, loud and violent explosions. I'm referring to the fact that if you're squeezing me when I go off, I can do some serious damage, and if you're holding me too close to a sensitive area, I could even wreak a little devastation.

It's not something I am proud of by an measure of the description, it's just an honest assessment of my natural inclination. When my flesh is leading the way, you better believe it's how I roll.

Today was one of those days. I woke up tired, never a good start, and I got out of bed a good 15 minutes later than normal. I got up and got into my workout clothes only to discover that our Wii was completely dead. It didn't even have an LED light shining on the power button.

Over the last 108 (some) days and the last 17 lbs, my Wii has become a valuable companion. I've really gotten dependant on it in my weight loss efforts and lifestyle goals, and to say I was upset to find my faithful friend seemingly deceased in the living room is a total understatement. I was heartbroken. I panicked a little, looking things up on my phone to no avail, then I madly started looking about for the warranty that I am now convinced is lost forever. I somehow maintained composure. The fuse wasn't lit.

I'll be honest, I was praying over it, unplugging it in, plugging it back in. As I stood rifling through a drawer in search of the warranty info I found myself not railing at God in frustration (yes, we firecrackers tend to rail at God,)and I was a little surprised. Instead of stomping my proverbial feet and being highly irreverent and ineffective, I just spoke honestly from my heart. Tearily I said, "Lord, this is hurting my feelings, I am really trying to give you my working out and making you Lord over that, and it makes me sad to have it taken away." But nary a spark touched the fuse!

Shortly after I found myself on my laptop on with an effort to troubleshoot the problem. I followed their directions and said another prayer and a few minutes later was thanking God for the resurrection of my Wii, but by then it was too late to work out and I was behind getting the kids out of bed. But I didn't get lit.

I was determined not to let it deter me in my renewed commitment to morning devotional time, and so I sat down in my very un-sweaty workout clothes and started my devotional time, but I was behind. By the time I moved toward getting lunches ready at the usual time I realized I wasn't exactly prepared for the day. I could forgo the shower but I wasn't exactly ready to face the day in my workout clothes.

So I enlisted help from Ethan with lunches and scurried about getting ready for the day and trying to make sure the children were ready to go too when I looked up at the clock and realized we were a good 15 minutes behind "leaving time," but I didn't panic (translation, I didn't scream and rail at my children - we firecrackers do that too,) but I hurried toward the door only to realize I was about to leave my phone behind, so I sent one to the bedroom to get it, the other to the car to get in and all the while, I was relatively calm. No sparks... the fuse wasn't touched.

When we got in the car and headed down toward the kids' school, I found myself behind four other cars who all were apparently having a much better morning than I was and had the luxury of driving a good ten miles an hour slower than the posted speed limit, and I'm not sure if they were actually traveling together but they were definitely resembling a convoy. I know this much, barring driving into oncoming traffic, there was no way around this crowd. But no spark came.

The kids and I pray in the car on the way to school, and as I found myself completely stuck behind this wall of cars, late for school and overwhelmed (firecrackers cant stand to be late? Maybe that's just me.) I uttered only a slightly frustrated, "God, PLEASE help us get to school on time..." with an exasperated sigh, not a single "IDIOT!" nary a "Son of a... gun" nor a single growl was uttered. And when finally got to school and had to rush to the sanctuary, despite the rushing I was completely pleasant with my children. You have got to understand, this is NOT how we firecrackers work.

As I took a moment to regroup during morning ceremonies I suddenly remembered I forgot to grab a deposit slip for the bank account for the kids school funds. I HAD to go to the bank today and make a deposit in order to guarantee their tuition will be paid tomorrow. The account is down to $49 and believe me, that doesn't even come close to covering the monthly tuition for the two little ones to attend private school. So after the PTA president did her extended announcements (she wasn't excessively wordy, she just doesn't usually have announcements to make) I walked Victoria to her class (yes, it's still her thing, she still wants the walk and the kiss good bye and every mom knows you have to take advantage while you can.) So I made my way quickly back to the car and headed home.

When I got home I headed back to the office and decided I better do a fast check of accounts on Quicken. Well, I intended to do a fast check because we are down to our pennies this week and before I wrote the huge check for tuition, I needed to make sure it wasn't going to be made out of rubber. Of course the office computer decided to lock up no less than four times, and all the while I was watching the clock, realizing I was surely going to be late for work, but still, no sparks. Finally figuring out how exactly to rob Peter to pay Paul to fold off the mafia and keep us just afloat I headed for the door thinking I just might make it if the bank wasn't crowded. And that's when I saw it, Ethan's lunch sitting atop the djimbe in the middle of the living room. Unbelievable! Not not that you're wondering what a djimbe is, that Ethan forgot his lunch... again. And my day just had another monkey wrench thrown right at it, but still, it didn't light that fuse.

So back to school, back to the office and off to the bank (thankfully, no convoy in sight this time.) The line at the bank was short, it didn't take any time at all for me to get to the front to have one of the checkers (bankers?) shut her window so I could wait the extra 5 minutes for my turn. I was completely late by now, so what was another 5 minutes? Did I even still have a fuse?

By the time I got to work I was 15 minutes behind, which actually if you think about it isn't all that bad since I was 15 minutes behind two or three wrenches ago. When I got upstairs I found an extra pile of "do right away" work waiting on my chair, so I did. As I was in the thick of it my dad (and one of my bosses) came upstairs and needed to know if I had finished the regular part of my job, and I hadn't since it had been bumped by the "do right away" pile. So I spent a good 10 minutes helping him find his answers the old fashioned way before returning to complete the "do right away" and "what I would have usually done" work. Sigh. Was it lunch time yet? Why as a matter of fact, it practically was, and it was time to spend time with my hubby, who I usually pick up lunch for on my way to work. But not today, so either I had to make a run for lunch before his 30 minute break or we'd have to rush off together during it to grab some lunch for both of us, and we opted for the latter. I went to lunch feeling fuse-less.

By this point in my day I just felt late, felt behind, felt the pressure of what needed to be done. But what struck me was what I didn't feel, I didn't feel overwhelmed, I didn't feel out of control, and I didn't feel firecracker-like... at all. What was THAT all about?

All day long, I had been experiencing... self-control?? As I took stock, I was kind of shocked. That's not like me at all. And not only that I was feeling peaceful... and I had patience....

Oh my goodness, I knew what those were... I realized suddenly what was going on, I had FRUIT! How could that be?

The verse came to me, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.

I have to tell you, I have a theory about this whole fruit of the Spirit, and the order it's listed in, I honestly think it's listed in order of the difficulty of the fruit to grow, and I think they sort of build on each other. Love comes more easily, and leads to joy, as we grow in joy, we find peace, the peace in our hearts leads to more patience, and so forth, and it is no accident that self-control is last on the list. Now I am no theologian, so like I said this is all theory, and it's possible it's just a firecracker thing, but self-control is no easy fruit to bear.

But today, I suddenly looked up and found this pitiful little fruit I had never experienced quite like I did today. Really, standing there looking at my proverbial tree, it was no gorgeous or enticing piece of fruit to speak of, but it was surely there, and it was good and it was sweet.

Honestly I have to confess I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I was blown away, but in the non-firecracker sense. Who knew?

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8)

Oh snap! (As the teens would say,) Jesus knew, and He told me so! And here it was, His words coming true in my life.

And you know what? It kept on coming, the potential for a lit fuse, when I left work late, when I made the wrong turn picking up my honorary son, and when he wasn't waiting outside when I got to his house, and when Neal wasn't able to to pick up Victoria from gymnastics like we'd (hoped) planned. And when I had to drive her to her dad and when I had to make dinner for the boys and when in the midst of that my dad called me 5 minutes to find someone to use the Angel tickets for tonight. The pressures came, the wrenches were tossed and the peace, patience and (wait for it) even the self-control remained. It's a miracle. Not a firecracker moment to speak of.

I even got extra-blessed when a friend sent me a quick message on Facebook in the middle of my challenging day and told me I was oozing peace lately. OK, she used a far more sophisticated word than ooze, but I can't remember exactly what word she chose, and doubt my spelling skills anyway. Eminate? Iminate? (Are those even words?)I don't know, but the point was, she too was seeing the fruit.

It wasn't Ef-FRUIT, it wasn't out my own efforts. Not at a single point today did I determine, purpose, plan or will myself to remain calm, to not react or overreact, to ACT patiently, or ACT self-controlled. It just... sort of... happened. Much like the fruit on a tree. It's not as though you walk through an orchard and can hear the strains and see the efforts of the trees.... GrrrRRRrrrr..... FRUIT! Nope, it doesn't happen like that, the trees aren't making the effort, they are just abiding deeply into the root sstem beneath, and with a little time, the fruit comes.

I cannot take any credit for how today went. I know it wasn't about me at all. I cannot tell you how many times today I was myself amazed by... well, the fruit. And I never for a moment doubted that it was fruit of the Spirit.

The things the Lord has been speaking to me, calling me to, have been drawing me to Him, and I have willingly made the choice to put him back on the throne of every area of my life (and don't give me too much credit for that, because He really should have been there all along). But at the same time, it is worth celebrating, not because of anything I did, because I really didn't do anything, but just simply because the Lord has kept His word. As I have drawn near to Him, He has drawn near to me. (James 4:8) And as He promised, if I would abide, He would bring forth the fruit.

So I want to encourage you, are you lacking fruit in your life? Don't strain and try to force what you cannot grow, but very simply (and once we do it, it really is simple) rest in Him, abide in the Vine, and let the Lord keep His word to you. Because if He can grow fruit out of a firecracker like me, He can grow fruit in any branch that abides in Him.

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