Doing What You Don't Know How to Do

by Sally Matheny
Flower Art provided by Dreamstime
“I am always doing that which I don’t know how to do

 in order that I may learn how to do it.”



     Friends, if only you knew how often I read this quote posted above my computer! How many of you are doing things you don’t know how to do?
     So many of my middle-aged friends are learning new job skills. Some are doing this because of our county’s 12.5% unemployment rate. Others are seeking a change.
     I know a carpenter studying to be a pastor; a teacher pursuing a physician’s assistant degree; and a musician going into social work. Then there’s me.
     Ever since I was a little girl I remember wanting to be two things—a mommy and a teacher. So, after high school I pursued a teaching degree. Later, I earned a master’s in K-6 Education. I loved teaching kindergarten for eight years. Well, I didn’t like the discipline issues, or bus duty, but everything else I loved!

     Later, I was blessed to become a mommy, too. When my girls were ages two and four, I felt God leading me to become a stay-at-home mom. We had to make several adjustments in our lifestyle. I will always be grateful to my husband for taking this leap of faith with me. Most days were wonderful. Some days were exhausting. I wondered how I ever managed housework with an outside job. But, I loved being home with the girls. Then, they went to school.

     After my oldest completed first grade and my youngest finished kindergarten, God called us to make another transition. This was our biggest leap of faith yet—homeschooling! I wrestled with this call for almost a year. Finally I conceded that we would try this homeschooling thing for one year. We are now in our thirteenth year and love it!

     It's funny when you look back over your life. I knew I was called to be a teacher. I just never thought it would be a homeschool teacher! Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t clue me in on that before my parents paid for one degree and we paid for the other. If God sent me a sign before college, I totally missed it. I believe my college and job experiences all had a purpose. If I missed God’s nudging somewhere along the way, he was merciful and still worked things out for His glory. I am so thankful when he does that, aren’t you?
     Our two daughters are in college now. Currently, I’m homeschooling our son. Homeschooling a boy (and without siblings as playmates) has different job requirements. The new skills I’m learning include target-shooting, dragon slaying, and trying to make learning good manners as manly an endeavor as possible.
     To add to the mix, about two years ago, God planted a seed in my heart to write. Uncertain of the direction God will take my writing but I know he wants me to encourage others in their life journey.
     The work has been more challenging than I ever anticipated. I doubt I’ll ever learn all there is to know about the craft and business of writing. But the more I learn, the more I enjoy this new assignment from God. As always, I’m counting on him to use my feeble attempts for his glory.

     And, thank you, friends, for allowing me to do that which I don’t know how to do in order that I may learn how to do it.  
     What about you? What job assignment is God giving you? I encourage you to embrace it and trust Him with the details.


No Trespassing!

by Sally Matheny
No Trespassing!
  A previous post mentions creating a special place in the woods behind our home. Although originally intended as a quiet place for my bi-vocational pastor-husband, we invited our family and friends to come enjoy the peaceful trail.
  There is a fallen tree near the chair at the Quiet Place. Underneath a slab of bark, we tucked a plastic-wrapped Bible. It is a hidden treasure for anyone to use during his time with God by the creek.
  The trail itself became a treasure to us. My husband and I worked together extending it around the back of our property. There’s something very therapeutic about working outside. We didn’t mind the sore muscles at the end of the day. It was satisfying work. The time spent together was great. Peaceful.

  Well, most of the time. Sometimes all three dogs wanted to walk with us. That’s fine except when they decide to wrestle with each other. It’s hard to walk with a rolling ball of dogs in front of you.
  Our son has a blast with imaginary adventures in the forest. He has friends over and they are either hunting wild hogs, dragons or the elusive Big Foot.
  So, the freshly made trail led us to fun times as well as peaceful times. That is, until it was violated.
  Before the trail was two months old, someone trespassed against us. Someone stole my sweetheart’s chair from his Quiet Place one week before Christmas.
  This may sound trivial, perhaps even humorous to some. But, when I heard the news, I experienced five of the seven emotional stages of grief.
  I was shocked. Gone? What do you mean gone? The day before was a windy day. Surely the wind had just picked it up and it was somewhere in the woods. I was in denial. We looked everywhere. The heavily wooded area would make it practically impossible for the chair to blow very far. I kept scanning the treetops for the dangling chair. Nothing.
  I skipped the bargaining and guilt phases and jumped right into anger. How dare someone come on my property and take something that is not theirs. Who do they think they are? A person would have to carry that chair over the top of his head and walk through briers uphill to get the chair out of the woods. Perhaps someone was out hunting and thought the wind dropped a chair in the middle of the forest, free for the taking. Now, we've resorted to posting ugly “Private Property- No Trespassing” signs.
  More than the loss of the chair (which was a gift from my parents), I grieved over the violation of our Quiet Place, our safe haven. So, depression (more like sadness), mixed with a little fear, came. Why would someone do such a thing? If they wanted a chair that badly, all they had to do was ask. They took more than the chair. They took my feeling of safety. I thought this would be a wonderful place to let my boy loose to roam and have adventures. Now, someone will have to go with him, carry protection, and constantly scan the area.
  Acceptance followed. While we still take extra safety precautions, we do not live in fear. God inspired us to make the trail. He meant for us to enjoy it. He is the one who supplies all our needs and gives us a peace that passes all understanding. God's grace reminded me about forgiving those who trespass against me.
  We haven’t replaced the chair yet. But when we do, we’ll have a sign similar to this one hanging over it.

  What about you? Has someone trespassed against you? If you hold onto anger or hurt—you lose peace. Grieve if you must, but keep moving towards forgiveness. Your hope is in the Lord.


Do You Have a Quiet Place?

by Sally Matheny

  Do you have a quiet place? Not just a state of mind, but literally a place where you can go sit and think, without interruptions?
  There’s a popular story among homeschool moms about a mother who only had one place—under her apron. When she desperately needed a moment of silence with the Lord she would find a chair, sit, and pull her apron over her head. Unless someone was bleeding or dying, no one was to bother Mommy when her apron was over her head!
  Sometimes we stay-at-home-moms have to go to extreme measures to find a quiet place. 
  Dads face the same dilemma. Recently, I felt challenged to make a quiet place, not for me, but for my husband.
  Serving as a bi-vocational pastor, my husband stays quite busy between his two jobs, family, and daily life events. After visiting Carl Sandburg’s home recently and seeing his chair perched out in the quiet woods nearby, I decided I would carve out a quiet place for my husband. A special place he could go and be alone with God.
  We have a creek on our land but it's overgrown with underbrush and briers. So one afternoon, while the hubby was at work, I set out to clear a path to the creek. I had high aspirations of a beautiful winding path curling along beside the creek leading to a special place set aside for solitude. I grabbed the rake and some hedge clippers and took the 8-year-old redhead with me for backup.
  The hedge clippers were so dull they were tossed immediately. The redhead lasted ten minutes before he tramped off through the woods in search of dragons with his Nerf gun. He insisted my protection was much more important than raking leaves. It was difficult raking through the thick, damp leaves. It was easier to swish the leaves to the side with my feet. I set about like a rhythmic robot. Right leg swings and leaves swish through the air. Then the left leg swings. Back and forth, I carved out a rudimentary path.
  The path hugged fairly close to the creek. Who knew the creek was so pretty, so peaceful? As I did my robotic sweeping, I prayed. I prayed for my husband, my children, all our family and friends and for our church. While I was making a quiet place for my husband, I was having my own quiet time with God.
  Searching for a stopping place was not easy. I wanted the path to lead to just the right spot. A place where I could place a chair for my dear one to go sit, to pray and to read his Bible.

  Finally, I came to a level piece of ground. It was big enough of an area to put a chair and continue a path around it, if we decided to lengthen it later. The spot was perfect. I nestled a chair under the trees facing the bubbling creek. Sinking into the chair, I was exhausted but happy. Leaning back, I gazed at the flickering of sunlight in the creek. The bubbling sounds soothed the soul. I closed my eyes and thanked God for this place of peace. 
   Before I left the spot, I cleared every tiny leaf off the ground surrounding the little nook where the chair sat. I raked the ground until a smooth, dark brown carpet appeared with its earthy smell. I longed to bring my husband to this consecrated place.
  In Mark 6:31 Jesus tells his disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 
  Have you carved out a quiet place where you can go and rest in God’s peace?

(*This article is part one of a two part series. Check the "No Tresspassing" post to find out how the quiet place was violated.)


2012 Obstacles become 2013 Stepping Stones

You had some accomplishments last year but you also ran into a few snags didn’t you? Is progress impeded because you’re still standing behind those obstacles? Be strong and courageous. Let’s make our 2012 obstacles become 2013’s stepping-stones.

Not long ago my family was walking on a beautiful trail at author, Carl Sandburg’s home in North Carolina. The air was as crisp as the leaves floating gracefully to the ground. We had just finished a picnic and decided to meander around the lake. After awhile, we saw a sign pointing towards the Sandburg home. The map stated two ways to get to the home. One way was on the paved driveway and the other path led through the woods. Of course, I wanted to take the scenic route!

Beautiful nature surrounded us and we took our course. The fallen leaves on the ground were moist from an earlier rain but the skies were clear. It was a great day for walking. The path soon became a steady incline. A few places I had to regain my balance after slipping on the leaves. My cheery conversation wavered. I slowed down for safety and for more oxygen!

Just when I thought I had things under control, massive roots began to appear in my path. Huge, cumbersome roots. Okay, so they weren’t that huge, but at the time it felt like it to me. Great, I thought, I was enjoying this walk until I started slipping…then panting…and now I have to maneuver over these huge roots. Why didn’t I choose the smooth road?

While I was contemplating my circumstances, I began to notice the roots required me to pick my feet up higher but they actually were helping me in my climb. They were staggered just so resembling stair steps. The roots were anchoring my shoes from slipping on the wet leaves.

My apologies, Lord. Thank you for the roots. We made it to the top to another breathtaking view. The path ended at a large rock formation protruding from the ground. I guess Carl Sandburg could have complained about the massive rock outcropping in his backyard. No pretty, green grass could grow there. However, Mr. Sandburg was a wise man. He placed a large wicker chair on that rock. He made a quiet place for him to go think and write. Many times his family would join him there. The rock became a stage for their music and sharing stories.

Did you slip up in 2012? Are you still standing on a hard rock obstacle, wondering what to do with it? Perhaps there was an easier path but what’s done is done. No matter what cropped up in 2012, we can learn a lot if we have the right perspective. Look back at those problems that took root in your path. What can you learn from them? How can they make you stronger and wiser? No matter what the obstacles, you have to keep going in order to reach your destination. Pray for perseverance and push through. Remember, if we don’t encounter any problems, we tend to forget our need for God. We would not fully appreciate reaching our goals. The victory would not be as sweet. Use last year’s obstacles as stepping stones for this year’s goals.

Share your victory with us! What was an obstacle you overcame last year or are using as a stepping-stone for this year?