Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's the Little Things

by Susanne Dietze

Have you ever noticed it's the little things in life that can make -- or break -- your day?

This year we spent our summer vacation visiting family in the Pacific Northwest, and the best parts of it were the little things – watching our kids play with their cousins, stopping at a roadside stand for Umpqua ice cream, and marveling in the exquisite hydrangeas growing throughout Victoria, Canada. Sure, there were big things we enjoyed too, but it seems like the memories my family still talks about are the little things that blessed us on our trip.

It was a little thing that plunged us into trouble, too.

Along a quiet two-lane road between yellow grasses and thick pines, I heard a banshee-like screech, a nails-on-the-chalkboard sort of sound that made the kids cover their ears with their hands and set my heart racing. The groaning noise came from the vicinity of the right rear tire, and hearing it, I knew what it meant.

We were doomed.

Ok, not doomed. But I am writer, after all. I have a pretty good imagination and my mind jumps to dramatic, worst-case scenarios just about every day. Before my husband could pull the car to the side of the road, I envisioned us living out of a hotel for three days while a zillion-dollar part was ordered for our car.

Of course I overreacted, but at that moment, we lacked a few resources necessary to deal with a broken-down car, like, say, a single bar of cell phone reception. We were on the Quileute Reservation a few miles outside of Forks, WA (yes, that Quileute Reservation and that Forks – the setting of the bestselling young adult series, Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer) with no clue how we were going to get out of our mess.

I may be an over-imaginative writer, but I’m also a Christian, and the best resource available to me is the Lord. Remembering His promise to never leave or forsake us, my family prayed for His help. And then we got out of the car.

To our amazement, we couldn’t see any damage, but boy, could we hear it as we made our screechy way back to Forks. We weren’t surprised that a local mechanic heard us coming, too, and he met us in front of his shop. When he heard we’d been to First Beach on the Quileute Reservation, he nodded, removed the tire, and fished out a small rock that had lodged itself between the dust shield and the back of the rotor. And with that, we were good to go.

A rock? Seriously? Yep. This measly little pebble – smaller than the penny in my daughter’s hand here – was responsible for all of that racket, all of that panic, all of that craziness.

I held that rock all the way down the Washington coast to Oregon, where we spent the night. It was such a small thing to hold onto. A trifle, really. But the speckled pebble reminded me that tiny things can have great power.

We have no control over some of the small things that affect us, whether they’re stones in our dust shields or cancer cells. They have the potential to grow into huge problems.

Other times, we create the little things that cause trouble and sometimes, we we even nurture them into full-fledged disasters. A word harshly spoken, a wee bit of gossip, a kernel of resentment we allow to take root in our hearts. Easily dismissed, because they’re small things. Right?

Yet Jesus says that small things matter, whether they’re our attitudes, words, or even our faith. Just as he sees the smallest of things that trouble us, He also values the tiniest of good things -- widow's mites, zygotes, and kisses. I love it when He tells us that He knows every sparrow and has counted each of the hairs on our heads (Mt. 10:29-31).

Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed is another small but mighty reminder that, well, things that start small can be mighty: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Mt. 13:31-32). Just as little problems have the potential to impact us in big ways, even the smallest bit of faith in our great and powerful God is more than enough to change everything.

That realization challenged how I handle the little things – the good and the bad – and I wonder what my reactions may say about my faith and trust in God. My faith was miniscule when I freaked out over the car trouble, but thankfully, it's not the "size" of my faith that matters . . . what matters is how big God is. Even when my faith, my gifts, my might, are teeny.

When Jesus told the parable of the talents, the master says, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Mt. 25:21)

And if there's anything I want in life, it's to share in my Master's happiness.

I’m attempting to increase my faithfulness, tending to the small things that God has entrusted to me. Sometimes, all I have to offer is something small, but sometimes small is enough. A smile, a kind phrase, or a nod can welcome the lonely, ease a suffering, help heal the wounded. But I can put all I have into those smiles, nods, or words.

And I’ll be more grateful for the smallest of blessings, too, like one of the best moments of my vacation -- really, of my entire year. Before the pebble stuck in our tire, I perched on a bleached-out piece of driftwood, marveling at my surroundings on First Beach at La Push. This photo I took doesn't do it justice in the least.

I grew up on the ocean, boogie-boarding my way through childhood, but First Beach was no bodysurfing beach. It was cold and raw and swirling in shades of gray, from the coarse sand under my sneakers to the low-hanging clouds. I could have stayed all day, watching my kids hop over driftwood and shriek at the crabs. Sitting there, I saw the majesty of God’s creation all around me: in the jagged outcroppings off shore, in the tiny blue shells washed on the sand, and in the white-capped waves. I felt so blessed and peaceful that it was hard to leave.

And when we did drive away, our dust shield trapped a rock. In an instant, I forgot the joy I’d just received, I forgot about God's grace, and I panicked.

Which is one reason why I still have the rock here on my desk with me. Yes, that little pebble was almost enough to "doom" my day and challenge my faith, but that rock also reminds me that while little things can cause big problems, God's great grace is in everything, no matter how big or little. And He's faithful through it all.

I want to be, too.

What small thing are you grateful for today? How can thanking God for the small things increase our faith?
If you're a Twilight fan, you can see a few more (thoroughly unprofessional) pics and read about the rest of my visit to Forks here.

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  1. Great post, Susanne. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Somehow this reminded me of something from my teen years. We attended a church during that time that was very into faith and healing. I noticed that while pretty much everyone recovered from big things like cancer, often at miraculous speeds, they still struggled with little things like colds and sports injuries. Just thoughts to ponder, I have no great answers or revelations.

  3. Good morning, everyone! I hope it's a lovely autumn morning where you are. I'm down with a bug, so I'm a bit bleary-eyed.

    Laurie Alice! It's wonderful to see you here today. Thanks for popping in.

  4. Hi Dina. Praise God for those miraculous healings.

    Sometimes I wonder whether I'm not healed from the little things in my life because I never ask. I concentrate on the big things. I'm sure others don't make this mistake, but I certainly do.

    At my house, we've been discussing a theological article from First Things called "Fearful Symmetries" that my husband read, which says (in a nutshell) that things get more complicated the smaller they are. Quarks may be miniscule, but they're not simple. God's majesty and the complexity of His design are evident even in the tiniest of His creations. Most of the article is over my head but it's a cool thing to ponder. God created vast universes as well as the complicated elements involved.

  5. Wow that is so amazing and Yes I think I struggle with the little things and then the big things not so much

  6. Susie, this was SO good! I would have been a total and complete basket case if my car tried to break down in that neck of the woods!

    As to the question about why we struggle with little stuff more than big things: I think the symptoms associated with the little things, whether it's a sore throat or an empty checkbook, get our eyes off of what we can't see (God's promises fulfilled by Christ Jesus at Calvary) and onto the things we can see and feel and touch and taste and hear. Certainly that's not always the case for everyone, but I know that has frequently been my problem... falling off the faith walk and into the sight zone because I can't get past the physical symptoms.
    For example, I have 20/450 vision. Blind as the proverbial bat. But my eye dr. says if the shape of my cornea changed by less than a millimeter, my vision would be perfect. LESS THAN A MILLIMETER! Yet I've not mustered up the faith for something that small because I literally can't SEE around the symptoms! Wow, I'm blabby today. Maybe I should do some writing! : )

    Ok, headed to your blog to look at the pictures now! Thanks for sharing your vacation with us!

  7. Hi Louise! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles with little things. I have a few little things troubling me right now -- definitely minor things on the richter scale of life -- but boy, are they consuming me. It's ridiculous. I've got to get my eyes back on the Prize of Jesus!

  8. Niki, that's astonishing about your cornea. WOW. But it made me think of the little things that totally distract and overwhelm me, like I just wrote to Louise. Sort of like when I have a hangnail. It's not life-threatening, but I think about it all the time when I have one. I feel my pulse pound in it, I wince when I snag it on my sweater. It reminds me of its presence with constant, ridiculous intensity. I need to pray for healing for the big and little things, or at least change my perspective of these little things so I view them more as thorns which keep me closer to Jesus.

  9. What a fitting post! Great job, Susanne.

    So last night hubby and I were talking about the church people-related chaos in our life right now. I said, "I remember one time when (Person X) said that God allows us to go through crap [my word not hers] because He's preparing us for something great after it's over. Well, sometimes that's true. Sometimes, though, God allows us to go through crap because of what He wants to do in or through us as we're going through it."

    Hope for a better tomorrow is great to have, but we can't forget about the now and who God wants us to be today.

    In other words, we can't neglect today for tomorrow.

    I'm grateful today for friends like Susanne who remind me to be thankful for the small things, as well as the big things. :-)

  10. What a wonderful reminder! I'm grateful for your words, for the sunrise over the mountains that I can see in the unusually clean air, and for the little people-rocks that give me an opportunity to joyfully and faithfully serve someone today.

  11. Hi Gina! Awww, I'm thankful for you, too. You've been a *huge* blessing to me.

    I agree with you, that sometimes we have no clue why we're in the Refiner's Fire. Sometimes, we can look back and see what God was prepping us for, or who He wanted us to help along the way, or *something* that gives us a sense of purpose or hope. But sometimes...not. Through it all, though, God has been faithful and each difficulty has been a reminder to respond in His will today.

  12. Hi Karl! Thank you for coming by today. I laughed at your reminder that sometimes people are the pebbles. I know I've been a pesky pebble to plenty of people. (Say that five times fast.)

    Some little things I'm grateful for today: I'm starting to feel better (I've had a bug). My kid drew a hilarious picture for a report on "Island of the Blue Dolphins." We found an important piece of paper we thought we'd lost. And hot apple cider.

  13. Thanks Susie. Beautiful thoughts today!

  14. Hi Debra. I'm so happy to see you. You've been in my thoughts.


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