I’m a Nut Job

It all started while we were on vacation in the Florida Keys a few months back. The house we stayed at had a multitude of coconut trees. Resting in my pool chair, it seemed as if the coconuts were taunting me saying “you can’t climb up this tree and pick me.”

Well I climbed the tree and got the coconuts, much to the astonishment of my husband and children. Now I needed a reason for my obsession with coconut picking so I didn’t seem like a nut job (no pun intended). Thus I got the idea of the Coconut – Fruits of the Spirit – Family – Project. It would be a fun learning and bonding project for me and the kids this summer.

School starts in a week and there lay those darn coconuts in the box harassing me yet again “You are never going to get this done before school starts.” So finally today I pulled the girls outside in the grueling summer heat to paint the coconuts. I asked the girls to sing me the song so I could remember what all the fruits are. I should be ashamed that I don’t have them memorized. So begrudgingly they started …

I got the love, joy, peace, patience way down in my soul, kindness, goodness, faithful, gentle, self-control …

Kennedy (10) started her painting with JOY. I tried not to be bitter, since I wanted to do joy. I had already planned out the cute little music notes to put on it. I instead started with PATIENCE, thinking I could probably use a heavy dose to get through this project.

Presley (7) decided she didn’t want to do our project and that she would paint an apple on one for her new teacher instead. I was kind of relieved because, I knew hers would be less than perfect, not that I am aiming for perfection or anything, that would make me less than KIND, which is also a quality we will be painting on the stinking coconuts.

JOY was fair, I had Kennedy make just a couple of changes, but it wasn’t terrible. Next Kennedy chose LOVE. I really wanted to do LOVE, so I might have been a little less than GENTLE with her when I made her start over because I didn’t like the finished product.

Kennedy wasn’t FAITHFUL to the project and she left. Presley was already long gone by this point. There I was sitting in the floor of the garage, painting coconuts by myself. What a nut job!

The whole point of this was to spend time with my children, having fun and talking about the virtues God gives us through His Spirit and wants us to display to the world. But instead I made it about the idol of perfection. I could have been teaching my girls principles that really matter; instead I was focused on the cuteness of the project.

Are you like me and constantly battling this tug of war with what really matters? Putting focus on things that will eventually rot and be destroyed? Placing so much importance on the cuteness of coconuts is like chasing the wind … completely and utterly useless and exhausting.

These coconuts will now be a great reminder to me that fruitful virtues are what I should be striving to achieve. As the coconuts fade and rot, which they inevitably will, I will be reminded of the treasures that will never be destroyed.

Karen Culbertson is a founding partner of SaltTee, Premium Christian t-shirts with a story to tell. 100% of all profits from the sale of our soft and comfy premium t-shirts is given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

Open Your Hymnal to Page 337

I grew up singing hymns in church. Hymns are almost a thing of the past and while I enjoy the more contemporary music we sing at church today, there is something about hymns I love. They are like comfort food for my soul.

Today we wrapped up our last day at the North American Christian convention. I met so many inspiring people serving the “least of these” throughout the world. I met people who serve the less fortunate in Jamaica, people who provide counseling to those who can’t afford it, people who serve the deaf community, people who write books walking new believers in Christ through the before and after steps of baptism.

Christ followers are a motley crew (not the band) of people and although our commonalities vary, we share the same passion. We all love Jesus and are passionate about our purpose during this journey on earth. I was finding myself sad this week because most of these people, I will never see again.

Last night at the main session we sang an old hymn together … “When we all get to heaven.” I looked out at a sea of believers and thought; this is just a glimpse of what heaven is. Thousands of people from a variety of nations, sharing the passion of praising our awesome God! Words can’t even begin to describe my emotions.

My sadness about never seeing my new friends again turned into joy. I won’t see most of the people I met this week on this side of eternity. However, these wonderful people, shining the light of Jesus to all the nations of God’s beautiful creation will sing with me again one day. Only this time it will be face to face with Jesus … the One who has strung this ragamuffin crew all together.

Karen Culbertson is a founding partner of SaltTee, Premium Christian t-shirts with a story to tell. 100% of all profits from the sale of our soft and comfy premium t-shirts is given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

Do You Only See the Rain?

Get that frown off your face put a smile in its place, let the love of Jesus Christ show through. This is the song I sing to my kids when they are being grumpy about getting their hair brushed, their faces washed, or being grumpy about life in general.

Today it was a song I sang in my heart to remind me to quit grumbling. I am in a small community in the Dominican Republic this week on a mission trip and I’ve been a bit of a complainer. The floors aren’t clean in the dorm room, the waste baskets by the toilet are overflowing with our USED toilet paper (can’t flush the TP in the DR), I have felt unsafe a couple of times, I feel dirty and stinky, etc.

What a diva I am being, I’m in a third world country, not the Ritz. Yesterday an urge to read James overcame me. One thing I love about the Word of God is it is living. Reading something today, that I read five years ago, could impact me completely differently today.

Typically I love James because it is a book of wisdom, it’s the Proverbs of the New Testament, and most famously known for the “grace without works is dead” line (James 2:7). It’s why I come to the Dominican, to live out my faith.

This time James spoke to me about being humble and controlling my tongue. I needed that refresher. Why should I complain and expect the trash cans to be emptied or the floors to be swept by someone else. I should rejoice in having the opportunity in doing lowly jobs. Jesus washed his disciples’ dirty feet. Who do I think I am?

I am here in the Dominican this week to serve but I wanted to serve on my terms and to serve only the people of the Dominican. I missed an opportunity to serve our team by grumbling about the situation instead of doing something about it. It’s one of the 5099 things about myself I need to work on … looking for the opportunities in circumstances instead of the reasons to complain.

Do you grumble and complain? Do you only see the rain? Then thank God my friend that you can see. Dry your eyes, clear your sight. Look to the left, look to the right. You’re really in good company.

Karen Culbertson is a founding partner of SaltTee, Christian t-shirts with a story to tell. 100% of all profits from the sale of our soft and comfy premium t-shirts is given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

It Takes a Village

It takes a village. I’m almost scared to put that in writing after the backlash Hillary Clinton received after saying those words. I have learned in the past few weeks though, how true it is. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to live on this planet.

Brian is having surgery today. I am sitting in the hospital beside him as I write this because I am trying to concentrate on something else since I almost passed out when they took his blood. Fortunately, we have also had several other things this morning to keep us occupied, since the doctor is running several hours late. This is where the village comes in.

It is not even 8am and Brian has already had 5 visitors to the hospital. Our pastor was here before we even got here at 5:30am. Brian’s parents were also here first thing this morning. My phone, email and Facebook page has kept me busy in the meantime. All of our village people reaching out to us to check on us, pray for us and offer to help us.

My niece arrived yesterday to spend the night and take care of our three girls. Our good friends and work family are coming tonight to fix the kids steak and spend the night with them so I can be with Brian at the hospital. Our church family and Sunday school class have been overwhelming us with physical and spiritual support through their presence, prayer and offers to help. Our friends and school family have volunteered to set up meals and child care.

I am honestly speechless because the biggest lie Satan usually whispers in my ear is, you don’t matter to anyone. Guess God wanted to show me in a big way how wrong he was … BOOYAH!

It wasn’t that long ago that if something like this happened, we would have went through this ordeal alone. My husband and I are both introverts at heart. We require a lot of quiet time to think and process and open up. We sat in the back row at church, strategically arriving after the “hug your neighbor” portion of service and bolted at the last song to beat the crowds at child care pick up. We worked with each other from our home office. Our kids were not really old enough to be in any activities that required us to interact with anyone. All of that was perfectly OK with us. We were completely isolated and unaware of what we were missing.

I am so glad God intervened and pushed us out of our comfort zones.

A few years ago, at the exact same time, God put on my heart and Brian’s heart to get more involved. We started volunteering more at church and in our kid’s activities, we started attending Sunday school and bible studies and we actually got out of the car when we picked the kids up at school instead of just going thought the car pool line.

If anyone reading this doesn’t have a village, I highly recommend them. It is amazing how small life changes, have filled our life with an abundance of people and more importantly people I love.

So to our Sunday School class, Thursday morning ladies bible study, pastors and elders, work family, small group, lifelong friends, school family, and people who are my family through birth and marriage, you rock and I love you. You are the best village people ever!!!!!!