All posts by Alison Cole

About Alison Cole

Alison Cole likes to describe herself as “a freelance useful person”. There are all kinds of people and jobs out there, but she likes the freedom to drop everything when someone is in need and go off on adventures to help out with new babies or anything, especially when it's supporting marriages and family! When Alison is not off nannying, she likes to occupy her time with drawing, painting and writing!

Little By Little

“Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until thou be fruitful, and inherit the land.” (Exodus 23:30)

Do you ever wish that the Lord would give you a sign? Maybe if you’ve read this passage you don’t think of asking for signs:

“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign. But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39)

But maybe, like me, you wish some things would be more obvious, or something big would happen to course correct your path. Or you seek a big change. “Something dramatic needs to happen and then I’ll______.” “I just need this to change and then I’ll start _____.” Whatever it is, I think we are all prone to waiting for something. Waiting until January first to start a resolution. Or the first of the month, or the first of the week. Can’t stop and make a change in the middle of the week. Nope. “I will go off caffeine this week!” and if I drink some Tuesday, the week is a goner. Gotta start fresh next Monday. Can’t go caffeine free the rest of this week. At least that’s the way my mind works.

Why is that? I get that we want a reset point, or some way of marking our progress and keeping track. And we do think in time and space. That’s how we measure things. By hours, days, weeks.  We want to know how long it has been. How many minutes has it been since I last checked my phone? How many days have I been off sugar? How many weeks have I kept up my running?

So we need markers that we’re on track. We want to be able to check off days. We want to see progress and results. We use time to keep track of how we’re doing. But what about getting started in the first place? How do we start a new routine or habit? How and why?

It can be hard to try a new thing, or even to find a reason for it. We want to stay where we are, because it is safe and comfortable. Well, actually, it might not be safe OR comfortable, but it is familiar. And familiarity can masquerade as safety.

So in order to get out of our familiar bubble we want a wakeup call. We want a lightning strike (near us, not on us!) We want an earthquake. Or at least a spiritual earthquake. We want something to wake us up and get us working on repentance and change. We are waiting for something big to jolt us out of ourselves.

But the Lord doesn’t work that way. We don’t have to wait until we’re ready to change all at once. He lets us change little by little. He does not demand that we be ready all at once. We can’t change all at once. We have to accept that one thing at a time is okay. A not so spiritual example is cleaning my room. I often want to wait until I can do a thorough job. “No point in picking that sweater up if I can’t also hang up that skirt right now.” “I can’t sort all my clothes so I’m not gonna bother setting aside this shirt to get rid of.” Um, why not? It would be so much easier if I just put away this one article of clothing today instead of waiting until I can do it all, and yet it is so very hard to convince myself of this.

It is the same for me with spiritual tidying up. I don’t often spend the time resisting this minor bad habit until I can sit down and really work through my evils. Which is just silly, because the Lord tells us that even though repentance is exceedingly difficult we can still remind ourselves to resist every time something comes up:

“Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult for many reasons that will be given in the last section of this chapter, therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is, that when anyone is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, “Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin.” (True Christian Religion 535)

We’re supposed to pick up the one shirt, even if there is a massive pile of laundry, start by putting the one shirt away. That’s what the Lord asks. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can’t be. I need the constant reminder that the Lord is not in the fire. He is not in the earthquake. He is calm and He does not demand everything at once, He just wants us to start.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;  and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

For the Sake of Others

“Man is born not for the sake of himself but for the sake of others; that is, he is born not to live for himself alone but for others.”

True Christian Religion 406

It can be hard to see how your actions affect other people. I do something selfish but consider it relatively harmless because no one else will know what I do or do not do. But the point isn’t even getting away with something because no one will notice. Sometimes I really fail to see the point of bettering myself. How does running help the neighbor? If I sleep-in instead of going for a run the only person I’m hurting is me. And is it really hurting me? I could make an argument for it not.

Who do you change for? Well, spoilers, you’re supposed to do it because the Lord says to. You’re not supposed to change because other people want you to. Also, they might not want you to change for the better.

Continue reading For the Sake of Others

Variety vs Diversity

Forgive me while I be pedantic about language. But language matters. I have heard many people say that language evolves and while that can be true, it can also cause problems. I know that words like “cleave” have opposite meanings but can usually be figured out from context, but some things cannot be deciphered from context. “She was literally jumping for joy” could mean that someone was excitedly jumping up and down. Or it might mean that the person was just really excited but not actually jumping. Because literally can now mean figuratively.

Language matters. “Different” doesn’t mean “inferior”. Discrimination is not a bad thing. At least not according to the definition. It essentially means to “perceive a difference” or even “to use good judgment”.

But what about words like diversity and variety? We associate variety with flavors of donuts or colors, and diversity with people and opinions, but what do they actually mean?

The dictionary definition of “variety” is “the quality or state of having different forms or types.” Continue reading Variety vs Diversity

Focus on the Lord

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matthew 6:34

I had negative ideas about what meditation is. It seemed too self-focused for me. I used to think of meditation as emptying the mind, or focusing more on oneself or something like that.  I don’t need to think about me more. I need to think about the Lord more. How is meditation going to help with that?

Well, one day I decided I needed to just breathe and not let my thoughts get the better of me. I sat and focused on my breath and would chant “Thy will be done” over and over, or “Trust the Lord. Trust the Lord.” again and again to try to drown out the thoughts that were pounding on my mind. But it didn’t help much. It didn’t help because I was still trying to control the situation. That’s not trust.

I tried several times with this method. I would start with reading the Word and then “meditate.” Or I would try to meditate for a bit and then read the Word. I didn’t notice a change in how I read the Word or a change in how I felt. I still couldn’t focus, and I still felt overwhelmed. I mentioned to a few friends that I wanted to try meditating and one friend recommended a particular app for meditation, so I decided to give it a try.

It worked. Continue reading Focus on the Lord