Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Smelly Bean Parable

Here's the thing.
Beans spill everywhere. 

Allow me to explain. 

Each Tuesday (well let me be more honest, MOST Tuesdays) I attend a Bible study for the women teachers at our school. We have gone through books of the Bible before, but are currently following along with a  study from on Prayer. It has challenged me in a lot of ways and I am thankful for the time we have spent sifting through this together. 

The most recent post discussed the idea of gratitude. The writer asked a few questions and provided examples from her own life. One of them being, "Are you prone to discontentment?" She reminded us that we should be beginning prayers with thanks since that is the way the Bible tells us we enter into God's presence. She included a list of things we should never do in order to have a genuinely grateful heart. 

I have always considered myself to be a pretty grateful person. My parents taught me (spanked it into me really) that you say thank you to everyone for just about everything. I am an over-thanker probably. I may very well keep Target in business simply with the amount of thank you notes I purchase to have on hand each year...and the US Poastal Service is making a dime off of me as well (perhaps not currently but I digress.) 

For a couple of days, I couldn't get these questions and thoughts out of my mind and heart. Especially the question about discontentment. Finally, this morning while I indulged in my favorite breakfast (you can get in on that action at the end of this blog) and enjoyed the last few moments before the littles came charging into our classroom, I spent a few moments reflecting and finally asking myself directly why I haven't been able to escape these thoughts. 

In her post, the writer gave this example for discontentment....she talked about how she was always looking back fondly on places she had come from but somehow always finding something to complain about in the present. 


This has always been a struggle for me. I'm always reflecting on the past and anticipating the future but struggling to be present in the here and now. I know this about myself, I've just never taken a long, honest look at what it really means. I've never given it the label of discontentment. I've never called it how it is. 

I'm so guilty of it. #tbt posts reminiscing about my years in Seattle or the CBC dorms with my crew of girls. When I was in Seattle, I wanted to be back on Bowie 5, when I was in Ohio, I wanted to be back in Seattle, and now that I am here, I often wish I could just share a Sunday lunch with my family bak in OH or find myself wondering when I will actually move to Africa. I can call it what I want...planning for the future, holding memories dear, or I could even label myself a dreamer. But any way I spin it, it usually boils down to the fact that I am not content where I am. And discontentment is a form of ungratefulness. 


It hurts to see the truth about ourselves...especially when we don't see it coming. And let me tell you, this one smacked me in the face and pinched my little heartstrings.

To make things worse. She went on to ask if we are prone to complain or to think negatively. 

Again my initial, internal answer was no. Then, Holy Spirit quickly brought to my attention all of the sarcastic/witty comments and eye rolls that I fit into my days. I'm just being funny...just trying to laugh at life...if I'm being honest...those are just nice ways to say that I am trying to cover up complaints and grumbling. 


I will say this. God's kindness leads us to repentance. You can quote me on that. I say that to say, as He points out hard truths that we would rather not see in ourselves, He is also faithful to point out the strengths He has put within us to help us overcome those weak spots. He is not looking to beat us down and make us feel awful about ourselves, He is looking to make us better. The hard truth is, to make us better, He has to show us the ugly awful stuff so that we can get rid of it. But how very kind of Him to also provide the tools to help us clean the junk out. 

So, as I was pondering all of this and liking myself less and less, He gently reminded me that though we had some things to work on, one of my strengths is fighting and working to find the positive in things. Though I am a realist, I am am eternal optimist as well. The realist in me very much feels the affects of an extra Monday in February and wants to rebel against an awful gift from the universe, but the optimist in me fights back with elephant pancakes and dark chocolate and pajamas at 4pm. I may not be one of those people that only sees the good and the positive in every situation, but I am one of those people that does my very best to make the best of every less-than-desirable situation. So, we've at least got something to work with. 

Unfortunately, this is not Satan's way. 
He would rather we just find every glaringly awful thing in ourselves and indulge it. So, he does his best to get us stuck there. There is no kindness in him. He wants to see us fail and to fall with him and so he will do his very best to get us stuck on our weakness and our faults. 

Today I walked home from school with a friend. A very dear friend to me. I love that she allows me to be real and honest and thinks nothing less of me and still there is much laughter shared between us.  I also love that she enjoys extra walking just for the sake of being together. I was sharing with her this realization I've had this week and some of the steps I am planning to take to become an actually grateful person rather than just a self-proclaimed one. I should have known that Satan would be listening and ready to knock me right back down again.

Here's where the story gets a little strange and unbelievable...but if you know me at all, it will make perfect sense. 

We sat on my couch watching bad lip readings of the presidential debates and waiting for the man to come and fill my gas tank so that I could cook dinner. And make hummus. Making hummus from scratch is something that I have adopted since moving here. It's better and much more cost effective. I have done it so many times. I finally made the phone call to see if he was in fact coming is Mexico after all and you just never know... (not to mention I was trying to have a Spanish conversation over the phone with is usually a recipe for disaster.) I finally got in touch with him and he told me he had already filled the tank with gas and he would come back later for the money...weird. But I hung up and happily got on with making my hummus. I had been soaking chick peas in water since yesterday because this is what you do in preparation for making hummus. I turned the stove on to start boiling them.

Not long after, I was overwhelmed with an awful smell. Like rotting old cheese. I have a very high tolerance for these sorts of things, but this particular scent was making me nauseous. I went to the stove and figured it had to be the beans...although it was strange since I had never experienced anything like this before. But the smell was getting worse and worse and so I desperately and frantically intervened. My very wise friend recommended that we put a fan on to try and blow the smell out, leave the beans outside to cool and deal with later, and get the heck out. I could not have agreed more. I doused the place in Febreeze and put on a pot of coffee in an attempt to drown out the awful smell while we were walking the neighborhood. As I started my way down the stairs with my freshly bathed fluffy little white pup, the afternoon went from gross to grosser. Somehow I managed to spill the pot of beans (still boiling hot) on my foot. I screamed from the heat and the shock of having boiling, stinky beans all over my foot and managed to drop the pot over the staircase to the stone patio below and somehow at the same time kick my bean drenched sandal to the bottom of the stairs. As I was trying to take in what had just happened, my dog of course was having a field day walking in, sniffing, and tasting the nasty, awful beans scattered all over the stairs. 

I laughed. I mean what else could I possibly do. 

Beka took Lincoln and I stood frozen on the stairs, my one bare foot in the air, surrounded by loads of stinky, hot beans. 

Then there was sweeping and buckets of soapy water and sandal scrubbing and more Febreeze and some Glade and talk of hammering out the dent in my pot...

(For your entertainment, I will now insert photos of the smelly bean incident...because of course I took photos. If you're gonna have an afternoon like this one, you should at least get a good blog post out of it...I should note. I am usually a lot more "artistic" in my photo documentation....but honestly, I have not yet mastered how to "artistically" capture spilled, smelly beans. I am, however, open to suggestions.)



And I realized right then, standing in that mess of hot, smelly beans, exactly what was going on. 

Today I made a conscious decision to be grateful. To be intentional about starting my prayers with thanksgiving...out loud, not just thinking thankful be present and to embrace and enjoy here

And Satan didn't like it. Satan didn't like that I was putting a positive spin on a not so positive thing I discovered in myself and thus he decided to fight back with smelly beans and a messy afternoon. 

In that moment, it would have been so easy to let the tears come and the complaints slide from my tongue. To hate Mexico for her gas systems and her timing and her extra smelly beans. To wish that I were back in Seattle or up ahead in Africa...

Here's the thing. 
The truth is...
Beans spill everywhere. 

My hot, stinky bean fiasco could have happened in Missouri, in Seattle, in Ohio, or in Africa. 
In fact, in other ways, it did happen in all of those places. 
Here is always hardest. And by that I mean, wherever we are currently. Because here is what we are feeling and experiencing right now and our present pain and struggle feels the most real and the most intense. Of course we experienced spilled beans in all of those other places, and we will have them in the places up ahead, we are just not directly connected with those bean incidents and thus these ones feel worse. The beans we spilled today are the beans that threaten to make us give into discontentment and to go to sleep wishing we were anywhere but here. 

But the beans spill everywhere and we have got to learn to love here and see the beauty here even in the midst of the spilled, smelly beans. 

Here are some practical steps that I am taking in my life currently to overcome discontentment and complaining and negative thought patterns...

#1 "See the Beauty Here" log
I am planning to make a pretty paper to keep on my coffee table and get my friends in on the project as well. This is going to a  be a place to note all of the things I am thankful for here. I do this to some extent already, but after a few days of journaling, the thankful thoughts get lost in the pages. I want to keep them in front of me. I'm also planning to institute a rule that anytime I catch myself complain (or anyone else catches me for that matter) I have to add a thankful thought to the log. 

#2 Consciously and intentionally begin my prayers with thanks. 
I think that often times I think about how I am thankful, but I don't say out loud to God that I am. The Bible is clear that I enter into His presence with thanksgiving. In other words, I am not going to get very close to Him unless I start out by thanking Him. I don't want to be distant and disconnected. I want to be in His presence when I am praying. I am also going to take a little jaunt through my current journal and take note of how many times I actually began my prayers with thanks. 

#3 Be present even in social media posting
I am going to be very careful about only using photos from here in #tbt posts and on Facebook and Instagram and such. I want to intentionally be here and nowhere else. Not continuously reminiscing about places behind or looking forward to things ahead, just embracing and enjoying here and now. Since I am really big into social media and posting, I think this is a great way for me to see the results of being present and kicking discontentment in the booty. 

Of course I will keep you posted with how this plays out practically and the results that come from allowing God to teach me gratitude and contentment. 

Remember today that beans spill everywhere. 
Take a moment to stand in your spilled, smelly bean moments and laugh. 
Because you are here. And here is hard, but here is good and lovely and wonderful. And even though it's hard to see now, someday you will look back and miss here, the smelly beans and all. 

{As promised....My all time favorite breakfast:}
Super simple and super healthy. My favorite sort of eating :) 

-A couple handfuls of whatever nuts you have on hand 
(usually I prefer a mix of cashews, almonds, and pecans. Here in Mexico, nuts are Ca-RAZY expensive and so most of the time I opt for a no sugar granola with some high fiber seeds. The reason I usually love this though, is because it gives you the feeling of eating a bowl of cereal without all the carbs and sugar and with a ton of go with nuts if you've got them!)

-Fresh, mixed berries 
(Usually I buy whatever is on sale but my favorite is having a good mix of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Again, in Mexico it's a special treat to find berries I can actually afford and so I have been indulging this week after a trip to the street market last weekend! Berries are great though because they are sweet but on the lower end of the sugary fruits and great with lots of other nutrients.)

-1/2 banana 
(This is optional and I don't like to go crazy with bananas because they are a high sugar fruit, but a bit adds a nice texture and flavor)

-1/2 cup (not like I ever measure) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
(I really just drizzle it over for the flavor and feel of cereal)

-Sprinkle of unsweetened coconut on top

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