As I drove through the city a few weeks ago I noticed something that strangely disturbed me. I started to notice this almost everywhere I went. I would bring my children to a nearby park, playground, lake, you-name-it outdoors… and I would find the same thing everywhere.
Something is taking over our playgrounds. It is all over our state parks. Have you ever driven slowly past a beautiful flowing creek glimmering with sunlight between the trees? It’s there too. The sad part is- we can all do our part to prevent this, yet many times we just don’t. It is so easy to become caught up in our daily lives that we just brush this aside and hope someone else will deal with the problem. Yet it affects each one of us.
We just have too much to do. I know the feeling… The laundry is never done. Homemade meals take time, effort, and make a mess! Taking care of a house is more than a full time job- not to mention homeschooling the kids, or helping them with homework, being active in your church, focusing on your marriage, plus trying to make a little extra money to help make ends meet!! We can so easily become stretched to our limits just keeping up with daily life.
Yet so many are struggling to find a balance between productivity and peace. Keeping busy does not automatically mean we are making the most of each moment. In fact, many times it does the opposite. We can convince ourselves that we are so busy that we just don’t have time for anything else- when the best thing we could do for ourselves, our family, and our walk with the Lord is to just STOP. Believe me- the dishes, the laundry, the emails… they will wait for you.
Are you seeing what I am seeing? Emptiness. Empty park benches. Empty trails. Empty streams. Empty swing sets. Empty slides. You name it… it’s empty. As for playgrounds- I cannot tell you how many times I’ve brought my children and we are the only ones there. As for the hiking trails… it seems there is some understanding that they are for two groups of people: the dog walkers, and the fitness gurus. I’ve got nothing against dog walkers and have a great respect for people who take good care of their bodies- but where are the rest of us?
We are cowering behind a massive wall of fear and excuses. -I’ve got too much to do! -It’s too cold outside! -It might rain! -Just one more load of laundry! -Maybe we’ll go on Saturday or Sunday! And on and on the list goes…. The internet is overflowing with websites and blogs about saving money, fighting depression, cheap activities to do as a family, date nights, quiet time with God, etc., yet the beautiful outdoors is just on the other side of our front door. Look through your car window see the beauty of the quiet stream just blocks from your house. Can’t walk much? Find a park bench. Got kids? Hit the playground! Need some time alone? Sit by the lake.
I could cite several studies I have read on the positive effects the outdoors has on our minds and bodies, but I will challenge you to make the choice to add a daily routine to your own life and find out for yourself! I know from having a dog that taking a few minutes a day to play fetch will cut behavioral problems to a minimum… yet do we think of applying that to children? Take a group of kids on a hiking trail or to a stream and see how much it affects their behavior. You might be amazed! Walk away from all the white noise generating in our technology filled houses and listen to the water rushing through the rocks from just the tiniest stream of water!
And I know we could go to our own backyards- many times that is just what we need to do. But I have found for myself that I just have too much to do in my own home to stay home without getting those things done- so for me sometimes I need to hop in the car and get a few blocks away. Leave the cell phone in the van and walk away for a while. Don’t worry, when I get back home… everything is still there!! Have I wasted my time? Not in the least. The moments, the memories, the time enjoying the beauty God has given us and the people God has placed in our lives and all around us are worth every moment we spend soaking it all in.
How about you? Do you see an empty place that you can fill? Have you listened intently to a stream or watched a chipmunk scurry among the leaves? Have you left behind your phone and focused on those around you? Don’t let emptiness invade our parks, our trails, our beautiful places that God has provided for our rest and refreshment. Take it all in. Little pieces at a time if you have to. But don’t be part of the emptiness.
Springtime is a wonderful time of year. There is something so beautiful about the world brightening and the weather warming that seems to breathe new life into our daily routines and responsibilities! As the rains falls- the grass turns green, the trees blossom, and the gardens begin to grow. Isn’t is something how we tend to focus on the sunshine- yet without the rain, sunshine would only bring a desert. Rain is not always a negative- as in the storms of life, but rain also is a way of watering the earth to bring new life. If we planted a pansy in the dry ground it might be pretty for a day, but not long after it would be withered and dried up. All color would be lost. Yet if we watered and continued to water- the bright colors and beauty would remain through the entire summer! Our lives can be a lot like that. Proverbs 11:25 “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” As we minister to others we are watering not only their soul- but ours also! We are bringing the beauty into their life and ours.
As I read through God’s Word I see so many places where women are ministering to their families, their churches, bringing people to Christ, and serving with joy. Service and ministry should be more a part of our nature rather than just something we add to our to-do list. Without ministry in our lives, we tend to wither up like an unwatered plant. Why is that? When we realize what we were made for, and how we are made to interact with others, we can see the importance of serving. We were made to glorify God. We show our love through how we love and serve others. Love is an action. When we live for our self and our life is focused on “me” we are not watering others and in turn, we tend to shrivel up and dry out just as a flower in a desert. There is no joy- there is no love overflowing our hearts.
Have you noticed that when Peter’s mother-in-law was laying in bed with a serious fever and Jesus came and healed her she immediately sprung out of bed and “ministered unto them!” It wasn’t because the men just wanted her out of bed so she could serve them, but her life was so focused on helping others and serving her family that her immediate response to being healed and well enough to get out of bed was to see the needs of those around her. (See Mark 1:31)
We can turn to Acts 16 and read of so many sisters in Christ serving in the ministry. In fact, even the men were told to assist Phoebe in “whatsoever business she hath need of you.” We see Priscilla, who is mentioned many times in the New Testament, who lived her life so much for the service of Christ and the furtherance of the gospel that Paul even says she was willing to sacrifice her life to see the work of the Lord continue. We see not only sisters in Christ, but households serving the Lord together and mothers encouraging their families to keep strong in the Lord.
Ladies, let’s take a moment to consider this. Not just to say, “my church is doing this,” or “my pastor is doing that.” Don’t underestimate your role, capabilities, or services- no matter what place you are at in life right now. Each one of us can serve the Lord with our life. What is your ministry, given to you by the Lord? Are you raising your babies for Jesus, encouraging your household to serve the Lord together? Are you encouraging and uplifting your husband to be the man God has for him to be? Are you a helper in the ministry that God has placed you in? Are you seeking to please God every day in your service to Him? Have you told someone about the wonderful love of Christ- that He willingly laid down His life in the death of the cross and rose again with the power over sin to be their Saviour?
If someone was writing a letter of recommendation to the churches today- would your name be on the list? Are you using your life to pour sweet refreshing water on the lives of others? Sister, are you serving?