Tag Archives: Life Lessons

Wisdom…

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Abigail…

Are you familiar with her?

Her first husband was Nabal.  He was extremely wealthy.  He was a mean, sloppy drunk.  His name literally means “fool.”

Abigail had to make amends to their neighbors on the regular because her husband was such an ornery cuss.  The choices he made make it obvious that his number one priority was money and stuff – stuff that had value, which meant more money.  He treated his wife much like angry drunks treat their wives in this day and age, with contempt and disrespect.  My first reaction to this information was that of an upper-middle class white woman of the 21st century.   I kept thinking, “Why in the world did she marry this guy in the first place?  He was abusive, embarrassing,  not attentive to his wife.  What did she see in him and why, oh why was she still married to him?!”

Well… Abigail didn’t marry Nabal a few years ago.  She married him in a time when men made the decisions about such things.  Parents chose mates for their children based on their stations – how much land they owned, how much wealth their families had, etc.  It wasn’t a really big deal if a husband took out his frustrations of the day on his wife, with his angry words and/or hands.  Wives were acquisitions, more like property than partners, especially when their husbands were insecure and broken, as in the case of Nabal.  The part that still confuses me is that Abigail loved and served the same God that I do, but her husband did not.  My Bible tells me that Nabal was a “son of Belial,” meaning he followed this false god  who was known as a devil, and not at all the same God his wife served.  Her actions and conversation in the Bible make it apparent that she was raised in a Jewish home with parents who loved God and trained her well in that belief, although, I can find no evidence of who her parents actually were.  It seems strange that who her future husband worshiped wasn’t a deal breaker in her father’s decision.  It makes me wonder if her parents had passed away or became destitute, and she had no other choice.  By all accounts, Abigail was a beautiful, very wise and kind woman, so it’s not difficult to imagine why Nabal would marry her.

Her story goes something like this:

She was married to Nabal, who was despised by his community.  He was selfish, greedy and a volatile alcoholic.  There is no mention of any children between them.  He offended their neighbors frequently, and Abigail was known for wisely making amends without dishonoring her husband in the process.

During the time that Saul was after David and both were claiming to be King, David and his men were protecting Nabal’s livestock in the fields.  During the time of festival, David sent word to Nabal, who was shearing the sheep David and his men protected, that he and his men needed food and he humbly requested that Nabal return the kindness and feed him and his hungry men.  The response David received was insulting, at the very least.  He indicated he didn’t even know who David was and suggested that he could be one of many escaped slaves.

Upon receiving this response, David, told his men to sword up because they were going to visit Nabal’s home, where they would kill his entire family and his servants and their families.  One of the servants reported to Abigail what had transpired.  She assured Abigail that David and his men had been wonderful protectors in every way, that Nabal had wronged them, and urged her to fix things or they would all perish.

Abigail quickly loaded up plenty of food for David and his men with her servants’ help and without a word to her destructive husband, rode out on a donkey to meet the hungry, angry men.  I just love the way she got things done without a bunch of hoopla or drama.  She saw the problem, and was SO connected to God and His will, she knew just what to do and how to do it.  She intercepted the men and instead of arguing with David or justifying anything, she told him how much they were owed because of their hard work and protection.  She bowed down before him, with her face to the ground.  She connected with David by telling him she had been treated disrespectfully by her husband for years and that Nabal was a fool who was followed by folly wherever he went.  She then prophesied over David the blessings that the Lord had for him in the days to come:  becoming the true King, and a man who pursued God with all of his heart who would leave a lasting legacy.  She reminded him that killing Nabal’s entire household would only mar his reputation and his future as a respectable king… Brilliant!!  David and his men accepted her generous gift and he sent her home with a blessing over her.

Upon arriving home, her husband was very intoxicated and had guests over, so she decided to wait to tell him what has happened the following day when he would be fully present and less reactive from his alcohol consumption.  Upon waking, Abigail told him everything.  My Bible tells me that his heart failed him, he then turned to stone and about ten days later Nabal died.

When David heard the news, he rejoiced at God’s justice and then he sent word to Abigail that he desired to marry her.  She went willingly, even happily.  They had a son together and I’ve no doubt Abigail lived a much happier life than she did married to Nabal.

It’s funny.  When I first starting studying her, I was shocked to realize that the Abigail who was married to Nabal was the same Abigail who was married to David.  I just didn’t put it together.  She was such a leader, wise, kind, strong, brilliant, and beautiful.  I wish the Bible told us more about her life.  That she stayed with her abusive husband until he passed away is quite a feat.  That she worked so hard to keep their people safe and respectable is impressive.

I love that she didn’t play the victim in a situation that could’ve warranted such behavior, especially in the time she lived in.  She didn’t become bitter or turn inward.  She chose to think of others and see the big picture while putting out her very difficult husband’s fires pretty regularly.

Abigail challenges me not simply because she was kindhearted, wise, and possessed so many other virtuous characteristics, but more so because she was so connected to Our Father.  This is where we find our wisdom because we seek His will and not our own human and often self-serving desires.  This is where we see others through the correct lens and extend love and kindness without judgement and with humility.  I know that I often try to feel overwhelmed by doing all of the right things at the right time in the right fashion.  When I slow down and stop trying so hard to DO and I, instead, spend time BEing with My Father, the other things usually fall into place, and even when things get crazy (because things WILL get crazy for everyone here and there if you’re a human being), I’ve found that if I look to examples such as Abigail’s, I need only to be in regular, intimate relationship with Him to make wise and thoughtful choices.  Choices that He leads me to are always best for me and for the situations I find myself in.  I know this may seem like an oversimplification, but I believe that when I’ve struggled the most, I’ve been the farthest from Him.  I get busy with the wrong things, I don’t make Him a priority, I sabotage my relationship with Him for various reasons, laziness, brokenness, busyness, etc. and then when the big junk comes, I’m trying to figure it out on my own or by asking everyone’s opinion, except My Father’s.  Have you been there?  I think we all have.  Sometimes I beat myself up because I believe I shouldn’t still be wrestling with this at my age.  That’s just where satan wants me, so it’s imperative that I pick myself up and spend some time with my Father who loves and forgives me without condition.  I’m not Abigail, yet, but I’m thankful for her example.  I’m His beloved daughter.  I’m not a quitter and I’m no fool.

Simplicity

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This has been a year of faith growing for me.  If I’m painfully honest, I am the poster child for, “Ye of little faith.”  My security has been cash for as long as I can remember.  When my husband and I were first starting out, I wanted nothing more than to be “comfortable” in the finance department.  I also wanted “the latest, greatest,” as many 20-somethings do.  When our kiddos came along, we had the 4 bedroom with a huge yard and an in-ground pool in the back.  They were dressed to the nines for school (as some of their report cards will attest), and took every lesson and played most organized sports available to children of their age.  We had a membership to a very posh gym and drank chain coffee drinks on the regular.  I spent much of my time keeping up with the proverbial Joneses and secretly envying our friends and family members who had more than we did.

At some point, I realized how absolutely ugly all of that was and how little I cared to continue running on the hamster wheel I had created for myself.  It also became very important for me to teach this to my children before they flew out of my nest.  This was not any easy goal, as I had spent their entire lives modeling the polar opposite of my new conviction-turned-passion.

Simplicity is my destination.  I don’t mean I just want less stuff, I mean I want simplicity in my relationships, in my closet, in my schedule and in my home.  Initially, I thought it would take about a year to clean out the garage, our house, etc.  I believed it was an easy “weed through” kinda thing, and then I began the process.  It was not simple nor easy.  I’m embarrassed to admit how attached I am to too many things.  The most humiliating facet of this process is how long I am willing to hang on to things I haven’t used or needed in decades, just in case I may need them one day.  Secretly, I envision myself saving money just when we need it most because of an item I’ve been hoarding in an overstuffed closet for 16 years.  You know, that perfect, authentic piece for my child’s Halloween costume (our youngest are 22 years old!), or that kitchen tool that I received 20 years ago in a bundle from an elderly relative, that I’ve NEVER used, but washed many times – in case I needed it suddenly one day…  (Truth be told, I didn’t even know what some of those things were!)  Of course, I had outfits that I would never look good in again or purchased on a whim and never even wore.  Not a few, but 4 LARGE trash bags full.  I also had 7 huge crates of books that my family had to pretty much force me to part with.  I was saving those for the grandchildren I don’t yet have.  Broken appliances, hideous, worn-out furniture, bags, jars, vases, rags, lotions, expired medicines, partial sheet sets…

Our 2-car garage was filled to the brim and there was very little room in our home.  Last year we gave away, sold and threw out more than 1/2 of the “stuff” we had accumulated, and still our new tiny 1-car garage is filled, not to the brim, but the floor is about 80% covered.

I work in a very wealthy part of Austin.  My employers live a life I used to covet and yearn for.  Almost inevitably when I am driving to work, passing mansion after mansion, I look up at God and thank Him for the life I have and for not giving me the one I used to think would bring me joy.  He has freed me from that.  I don’t just accept that I don’t have a life like that, I celebrate that I don’t and more importantly, I rejoice that I have the life He has blessed me with.  

Last summer I quit my job as a teacher.  I was quite terrified, a little heartbroken, and a smidge thrilled.  Every year the powers that be (tptb) in my district made things more and more complicated and less about teaching my precious students, and I found that I just couldn’t do it in good conscience anymore.  I’ve been nannying/doula-ing for families with newborns and toddlers since then and my work life is SO much more relaxed and rewarding.  I’m still not sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, but my stress level is much lower and when I leave my job, I am actually done until I return and I’m on the clock again.  When I’m home, I am present.  There are no papers to correct, endless lesson plans to complete or ridiculous t-tess forms to fill out to convince admin that I can actually still teach after doing a bang-up job for 20 years already!  I have fun on my 3-day weekends without working late all week or shutting myself in all day Saturday or Sunday.  I am also not exhausted when I get home.

I’ve pursued healthy christian relationships with other women who want to grow and truly love Jesus.  I’ve spent some time looking at and praying about the relationships I’ve had in the past and I’ve chosen to walk away from some unhealthy ones.  My new home is peaceful in a way that I have desired for a very long time.  There is a place and a time when drama is a part of life, it is inevitable, but I just refuse to entertain it unnecessarily.  While this has been the most difficult part of my life to simplify, and often the most painful, it has also been the most rewarding.  

I still have a closet to thin out a bit and “stuff” in the garage that needs to go, but I’m recognizing what we have accomplished, not beating myself up for what still needs to be done.  It is all a journey, to be walked with our heads up, noticing the beauty all around us and living in the moment.  As I lighten my load, I find I am enjoying everything a little more, looking up, sitting back, jumping in.  I’m finding that the best provider is not my husband, certainly not me or our bank account, but He will provide my needs and often my wants.  As I let go of more and have less, I find I am trusting Him more and realizing I need and want less.  It doesn’t make sense in this culture, but it works better than anything I’ve ever done and that’s enough for me to continue on this journey He’s leading me on.

 

It’s a Great Place to Visit, Just Don’t Move in

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This is an entry from a blog I authored several years ago.  Sometimes it’s good to take a trip back and revisit difficult times so as to see the work of His hands since then.  I am grateful for my journey.  All of it.  The horrific chapter that almost became the final scene and the stories of real and deep love, joy and laughter, and every chapter in between, before and after.
I believe in visiting the past for a short time to work through and grow, because if we don’t, the past will show up in our present and cause it to be less than it was meant to be.
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2009:
Big question of the day: Can I really trust God if I don’t fully believe He loves me?
Nope, and therein lies the problem. My big, bad wolf is that I don’t believe anyone can love me unconditionally – even the Big Guy. Deep down I have always believed that I’m not worth loving that way. The thing is, is that to trust someone kind of requires that you need some proof, and proof only comes when you go through junk together. And sometimes when you go through the junk, the way you go through it or come out of it, isn’t the way it happens in the movies.
His ways are not mine.
I know that sounds cliche’, but it’s still true.
I understand that sometimes terrible accidents happen, cancer or other terrible illnesses strike, financial junk, etc., but what about when all of the people you’ve come to trust and depend upon choose to pull away just when you need them most? What about being the “strong” one that everyone leaned on and when, for the first time in your life, you need to do the leaning, your inner circle disintegrates? What do you do when the person closest to you steals your reality when you are at your lowest point? What about when you cry out to God and beg Him to be real to you and help you through this awful extended darkness and you hear nothing… for years? What about when you start to “feel” Him again and things are getting so great and then you find out you were right… No one can really love you sacrificially? Do you fold? Do you try to trust Him after He just let all this horrible stuff happen to you? Can you believe He loves you?
His ways are not my ways.
Sometimes the most painful experiences are the only things that create trust and force us to accept His love.
I used to be really irritated by this woman who lived in my old neighborhood, went to our old church and had a son who was friends with my twins. She never did anything with abandon. She was kind of a Stepford wife, you know? She got a new car every other year and she alternated between white and tan. Her house was all painted beige. She never risked anything. She always seemed a little afraid of everything. She would ask our mutual (seeking) friends what their doctrine was and junk like that when they didn’t even know if they wanted to visit a church or not and probably didn’t know or care what doctrine was. She drove me crazy! I remember wondering why everywhere I lived or spent time, God always placed one of “those” people in my path.
We are all one of “those” people to some extent. Some of us just hide it better than others, some don’t hide it at all, some don’t even realize there is a problem, nor do they want to. Some of us have looked the things we fear the most, right in the eye, and survived because of His love and we just trust Him a little more than we used to.
I had gotten so good at believing my life was so good, especially compared to what it was before I was a believer, that I was afraid to not be grateful enough or to appear to be less than a “good christian” wife, mother, daughter, woman, etc. I was especially careful to make it all look good to my “unbelieving family members” and anyone in any of the christian groups I led. Besides if I let down my guard, they would probably reject me and I’d have to face that they didn’t love me if I wasn’t “on”. I told myself that it was all okay and God would probably even bless it because I was trying to make Him look good – because, you know, I’m that important to His reputation.  If my life wasn’t full of love and patience, then what would people think of Jesus, since I was always giving Him all the glory? I didn’t trust Him to love me just as I was. I didn’t trust anyone to love me just as I was and after almost 20 years of that I was SO effin’ tired that I couldn’t just fall back into His arms. I didn’t know how to fall back. I was too busy trying to hold up the wall I had constructed. Why did I do that? How do I make sense of the past 20 years of my life? So much of it was a lie. So much of it was beige…
I feel like I’m waking from a dream. I’m ready to be who He wants me to be, and not because I’m so strong or wise now, but because I’m too tired to go back to the old way and I refuse to stand in bitterness and stagnation. He has something really awesome in store for my life and I am terrified and excited all at once. I am ready to take a baby step or two because I really want His way to be my way…

Attachments…

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This happens every year.  I’m not quite sure how it sneaks up on me every time.  I think it’s the busyness of paperwork, the excitement of summer break fast approaching, the craziness of state testing and waiting for the results, the avoidance of heartbreak.

In August, when I return, I always wonder a little bit how I will love these children like I love the kiddos from my previous class…which is ridiculous, because absolutely EVERY year I fall madly in-love with my students – and I never fall out of love with any of them.  Which is why the end of May and the beginning of June is so painful for me.

The irony is that there’s so much “stuff” – otherwise known as objectives – we have to cram into our kiddos heads all year.  Deadlines to meet, assessments (so flippin’ many assessments) to administer, lessons to make exciting and interesting, and I’m all over that.  I take my responsibilities very seriously.  I need to know that I’m doing all I can to prepare my precious kiddos for life and more importantly, I need to know that I’m instilling a deep love for learning in every precious baby.  So, much to my amazement and exhaustion, we get it all done.  The last few weeks arrive after we’ve worked really hard to learn all we need to learn for the better part of ten months.  We have a little wiggle room now.  We can do the fun stuff that went with the lessons earlier this year, but that we just didn’t have time to do because of the ever present deadlines.

And then Memorial Day weekend comes and goes, and I try to figure out how I’m going to get it all done – The Fun Stuff: the memory books, the room clean-up, the paperwork, the party, the awards, the report cards, the entire check-out list and more are all looming, but all I really want to do is sit on the carpet with my kiddos and read books and listen to them share their thoughts, share their hearts.

Last Friday one of my especially precocious boys walked up to me and said, “Mrs. Ojeda, I love you!  I’m really gonna miss you this summer.  When I’m in 2nd grade, can I come and see you here, in our classroom?  I don’t really want to be in someone else’s class.”

I told him he better come and see me.  I told him he would ALWAYS be welcome here, and then I assured him he would come to love his teacher just like he loves me and that she would love him just as much as I do.  I did this all while not allowing myself to tell all of my babies how much I will miss them and worry about them and wonder if I’ll ever be able to love my kiddos next year like I love them.

Yesterday, I asked them to try to remember all of the things we did that they LOVED this year – all the way back to the first day of school.  They called out, “Jitter Juice!” and “Solar S’mores!”  “Rainbow windsocks!”  “Silly dancing with sillier hats!” “Homework parties – Rootbeer floats, movies, popcorn, pajamas…”   “Sushi and Bubbles!”  “Daily 5 Reading!” – Yes, several of them yelled this out with pure joy!  “The Austin Zoo!”  “The Hands-on Museum!”  “All 27 Junie B. Jones books!!  We Did It!!”  … and so much more.  We had so much fun reminiscing together.  I told them how proud I am of all they learned this year and then I told them how thankful I am for all they’ve taught me.  Naturally, they were shocked to find out they have taught me things, as well, so they asked what they’d taught me!  I told Jasmine that she’s taught me how to be a truly kind and caring friend, and Knowledge & Kamya reminded me what amazing things can happen when you work hard and never give up.  Isaac taught me that sometimes I need to remember my students are only 6 and 7 years old and what I say and how I say it is important.  Ashlyn proved to me that it isn’t always how smart you are, but how motivated you are – and that is a HUGE part of my calling.  Christopher showed me what a blessing someone can be when they offer to help others on the regular.  Andrew reminded me what true childlike joy is and how sometimes, it makes you completely unable to control yourself or your actions for just a little bit and that it’s okay for me to just enjoy that and not try to subdue it or control it.  Dylan taught me that actions speak much louder than words and meeting emotional needs comes first.  Jackie taught me that a born leader can still cry like a baby and be fearful of the future.  I could go on and on.  My precious kiddos taught me more than I could list here.  They humbled me, frustrated me, made me mad, brought me joy, challenged me, brought out my ugly pride and insecurities, made me spit out my drink, laughing and grew my heart, big…

Every group of kids I’ve ever taught has made me better – more humble, more aware that all the good stuff comes from Him.  I can always see bits of my own children in them, my siblings, former students, or even myself, at times.  Sometimes I feel like He’s giving me another chance because I’ve messed up so many times before and He wants me to get it right this time. I feel lucky that He’s letting me try again with the knowledge of my past screw-ups.  That’s one of the good things about getting older, experience brings wisdom.  Wisdom brings deeper love and humility.  Deeper love brings heartbreak…  and so, here I am, again.

The good stuff is that I loved them all well.  I taught them a bunch, mostly to LOVE reading and writing and to be curious about EVERYTHING!  – and it’s summer (!) and I’ll see them and hug them next year.  The not so good stuff is I miss them and my heart is a little bit broken.

The good stuff list is WAY longer than the not so good list!

I find it ironic that I always share with them that I believe writing and reading are SO important for a bunch of reasons, but personally, I love to read when I need to move away from really sad or angry feelings and I love to write when I need to work through those same kind of feelings.  I spent an hour reading Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerine’s, which is full of uplifting, real and sometimes hilarious stories (just what I needed), and now, I’m wrapping up this post.

Good stuff…

Happy Summer!

let go