Monday, October 15, 2018

When Life is Tangled

I've kind of hit a wall in life lately. I'm smiling in this picture, but if you look closely, you'll notice a few things:

-I'm wearing two watches because that's how much I have to keep track of time.
-I'm carrying my lunch box with only a few fingers because I'm also trying to hold my keys.
-All the pockets of my backpack are partly or fully open, and stuff is about to fall out.
-The spiral binding of my notebook has come off and is stuck on a flap of said backpack.

Basically, I'm a mess. And that's my life. When I get to this stage, I need to take a step back. I need to get back to the basics and focus on the essentials:

  • Having a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Eating regularly.
  • Keeping things clean and organized.
  • Staying physically active.
  • Remaining plugged in to truth (e.g. The Bible, God's Word)
When life gets messy, things get tangled. My priorities get out of whack. I get tired and exhausted and confused and emotional and overwhelmed. But when I get back to the basics, things tend to settle and relax and I can regain some focus. May God give me strength to major on the majors and let the rest of the stuff of life sort itself out.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Do's and Dont's

"What am I made to do?" This is a question I ask myself frequently. And I'll probably be asking it my entire life. "What am I made to do?" is not a bad question to ask, because it can define my purpose, vision, and values. But it can also be an overwhelming question, a scary question, and a question that can be discouraging when I don't know how to answer it.

I think the question, "What am I made to do?" is as much about what I'm not doing as it is about what I'm doing, though. There are things I'm called to do and things I'm not called to do, or things I am not called to do right now. For example, right now I am not called to be a wife, or a mom, or a home owner. I am a friend, and a daughter, and a coworker, however. And some things I do and don't aren't really about calling. They're about preferences and choices. Because I can't do everything, much as in my perfectionism, I would like to.

So right now, what are my do's and don'ts? Here's a non-exclusive list.

I do...
Stay active.
Run 5Ks.
Spend time with people I love.
(Try to) Go to bed on time.
Linger at nighttime snack.
Be faithful to my daily devotional time.
Paint my toes.

I don't...
Stay out late.
People please.
Do heavy workouts.
Run marathons.
Follow restrictive diets.
Make all my food from scratch.
Focus on externals.
Wear a lot of makeup.
Serve in Children's Church.
Volunteer for extra hours at work.
Do my own car maintenance.
Study or argue philosophy and theology.

You'll notice that the items on my lists are a mixture of value neutral and value laden activities. I feel conviction about some things on the list and others are just choices. But they're choices I often have to consciously make.

What am I made to do? What are my values? My purpose and values become evident in my choices. So I want to be purposeful about them. May my choices always point to Jesus as I continue to accurately discern all that He has called me to do.

*This post was inspired by the chapter "Things I Don't Do" in Shauna Niequist's book, Bittersweet.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It's My Birthday!

It's my birthday! No, not the anniversary of the date I came into the world, but an arguably more important date: the date I was reborn and received the gift of eternal life. I don't remember that day 27 years ago, but my Mom does. She says that we were playing in the front room one day when I started up a discussion with her. Apparently, I had a tendency to ask the question “Why?” about anything and everything. We got on the subject of Jesus, and Mom asked me if I wanted to have a relationship with Him. I said yes, and she prayed with me to ask Jesus to be my Savior, forgive my sins, and secure eternal life in heaven. Mom says that my life changed after that. I would come and ask forgiveness for being bad. I would pray. I lived differently. Mom viewed October 9, 1991 as a red letter date, and it was.

Because I don't remember the day of my salvation, I have at times doubted my salvation. I have wondered if my prayer was "enough," and if I needed to pray it again. I did pray the "salvation prayer" again at least once, and I also rededicated my life to Christ in my pre-teen years. Through it all, God was and has been constant. He has been my rock in the storm, my light in the dark, and my hope amidst the hard.

Though I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember, I didn't really worry about dying until I got what I refer to as the "death plague" while in graduate school. It was a stomach flu that lasted a week, taking me to the ER and leaving me so weak I could barely walk. I literally prayed for God to take me home that week, and for the first time, I really felt confident in my salvation. Thank goodness God didn't take me home, and I am still here, but I was ready.

Believing in Jesus doesn't necessarily make my life easier. In fact, sometimes it makes things harder, because I know how good God created life to be, and how bad it often feels. But I believe in Jesus anyway, not as a crutch, but as The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Because without Jesus I have NO life.

So here's to 27 years of the gift of life eternal, and to many more should the Lord see fit. Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Filling My Heart

I told someone recently that it's been a rough several years. It is not that my life is bad. In fact, I am very blessed. I have a job and a home and family and friends. But emotionally, life been tough. There have been a lot of highs and lows and everything in between. Sometimes I just feel emotionally beat up and bruised and don't know how to recover.

I've been telling myself lately that I need to find a life. It's not that I don't have a life, but that I need to be more diligent in trying to things to do other than sleep, eat, work, and repeat. And the things I choose to do need to be sustainable and attainable. They need to help fill my heart so that I have energy and life to live and give. These past few weekends, God has given me the following activities to fill my heart:

1) Hiking: This requires some planning and exertion, but the sun and the effort and the stillness of nature calm my spirits and promote rest in my body.

2) Quality conversation: I don't have a lot of friends here, but when I actually make time for the few I have, it's worth it. Sometimes quality conversation looks getting creative with time differences to schedule a phone date over the distance, too. I don't really need a lot of friends, just quality ones who will be iron sharpening iron and speak truth into my life.

3) Cooking: It's a simple thing, but therapeutic in its own right. It's so fulfilling to chop or knead or stir or bake something into existence. And the eating of the food is enjoyable, too.

Self-care isn't all about activities. Sometimes it's about rest and alone time and quite frankly, plain old isolation or hibernation. But for me, I'm realizing that I need to balance effortless activities with some efforted activities. May God continue to show me the way....

Friday, October 5, 2018

Letting Go

Fall is somewhat of a somber season for me. The length of time the sun shines shortens. The brightness of life fades. I feel tired. But instead of fighting the changes of this season, I am seeking to embrace them. And running head first into Fall means not only embracing change, but also letting things go so change can happen.

I feel like God is asking me to let go of a lot of things in this season of life: my timelines, my expectations, my hopes and dreams, my definition of what it means to live a good life. My life is not bad by any means, but it is hard. I thought I'd be married with a family of my own by this point, or at least living in my own house. I thought I'd have figured out some of the hard stuff. I thought I'd be settled into my job, have friends, by plugged in fully at church, etc. etc. I thought...but God had other plans.

I saw this quote on Instagram the other day and it really resonated with me. God has taken some things away, and allowed other things to fade, but He is still present. And if He is still present, there is beauty. 

My dad likes to say, "It is what it is." My life is what it is. My relationships are what they are. My current possessions are current, and that is all. Sure, I've let a lot go, and I'll probably have to let more go. But this is my life, and I don't want to miss it. 

So if this season both externally and internally means letting go, I'm going to look for beauty. I'm going to embrace the present and try to just be. By God's grace, I can practice stillness, wait on the Lord, and choose joy

Perhaps letting go will make space for God to plant new hopes and dreams and desires in my heart. Or perhaps the Lord needs to make room in my life for more of Himself. Both probably need to happen. May the beauty of the Lord shine through this season in either case.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reflections on Fog (God Knows the Way)

The sun shone in one direction. Clouds shrouded the mountains in the other. As I jogged, I caught glimpses every now and then of blue sky. The clouds would move to cover it, and then move back. And I thought,

Lord, you know the way, even when I don't.
Lord, you know what's before me, even when I can't see it.
Lord, you have a plan, even if it's veiled to my eyes.

Lord, I trust You.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Who Is My Neighbor?

We had a compelling sermon this past week at church. I came away with the question, "Who is my neighbor?" It's a question that's been rattling around in my head for quite some time. I read Bob Goff's book, Everybody Always this summer. And I recently finished Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Neither book was entirely about neighbors, but they both referenced love and loving the people around us.

My job is to serve people, and I love it and am thankful for it. It is a privilege to walk with and encourage people in their journeys of life, particularly in the hard times. But I've been realizing that my service during the day can come at a cost to my family and friends during the rest of my life. The work I do always comes at a cost to those around me, because it is emotionally taxing and draining. But sometimes work comes at too much of a cost, where I'm putting work before family and friends.

The question, "Who is my neighbor?" for me, therefore, has become less about the general "who" and more about the specific "who." Shauna Niequist writes about the "home team," and encourages readers to really hone in on who that is. Bob Goff writes times and times again about not trying to be Jesus. Jesus is the Savior and Healer and Redeemer, and I'm not it! I'm realizing that part of my issue with work is that I'm trying to do too much, playing medic for the away team while my home team suffers. I need to do the work I'm called to do, but I also need to make time and space for the direct people in my life, the people who are behind and before me in the work I do. Because if I lose my home team, I've got nothing.

So who is my neighbor? Every human being that God has created is my neighbor! But there are some specific neighbors, my family and my close friends, that God calls me to serve in specific ways, and I need to find time and space to do it. By God's grace, may I never step over the bleeding neighbor at my doorstep to be a "savior" to the neighbor far away.