Friday, May 18, 2018

Expectation vs Anticipation

Welcome to part two!  If you haven't read Anticipation vs Expectation, I highly recommend you start with that.



I long for adventure.  It's a big part of how God created me and I'm just now discovering that in my life.  That it's okay to long for the things God made me to long for.  Ultimately, that longing for adventure is a longing for God who wants to take me on an adventure.  I was thinking of that while on vacation with my hubby and the fact that it's the company, not the setting, that makes the trip.  Going away from the "normal" of our every day lives somehow gives us eyes to see the beautiful, the amazing and the exciting, but it's usually the companionship that makes the whole experience valuable.  If you read last weeks blog you will know I had a list of expectations that I was trying to set aside for, the much preferred, anticipation.  Boy, oh boy, did God test me on that list.

If you haven't guessed already, I got to go to Hawaii for the first time in my life. As much as I talked about expectations last week I found some had settled into my mind without my notice which really polarized my experience.  More than that, God exposed those expectations to me before hand but I failed to anticipate He would challenge them.



Hawaii is a study in contrasts. Million-dollar skyscrapers next door to moldering buildings. Islands renowned for their beauty slowly being overrun by those coming to see it.  Awe and sorrow mixed up together.  I expected to see lush tropical landscapes from quaint bungalows beside the sea....yeah, nope.  I also half expected to get a lei when I got off the plane.  That didn't happen either.  Waikiki is packed full of skyscrapers competing for a view of the ocean.  I get it, its' a tourist destination, what did I expect?  I was very pleased with the hotel we chose, they gave me wine when we walked in the door and they were separate from the hustle of "the strip" which suited us just fine.

The first thing we did in Hawaii was to go to church.  God totally orchestrated this and I can't tell you how grateful I am to God for that.  We arrived too late or too early due to some old information but it wasn't "too" anything because we talked to people and ate with them and just generally felt loved and welcomed to a degree I haven't felt in a very long time at church.  I got to sing in worship with a congregation for the first time in years and I straight up wept for joy.  God started our time in Hawaii by reminding us how seldom we appreciate what is going well.  We take "well" for granted.  You walked up those stairs without tripping, isn't that amazing!  You have food in the house, isn't that spectacular?!  We notice when something is absent, not when it's present.  It was a theme that God gave me practical experience in that week. The church itself was also a school and they had been there for about 100 years.  In the middle of their playground was a huge mango tree that might have been as old.

There was a guest speaker who spoke on American Exceptionalism, an amazing speaker and historian, and I totally recommend you give it a listen, which was kind of a fire hose of information, but totally worth it. 

They gave us lei's!  We also had people talk to us for hours after the service and we didn't want to leave!  They also presented their intention as a church to pray for Muslims for 30 days, especially during Ramadan, and had booklets to help guild you through it.  I'm totally committing to this, more on that later, because we have friends who celebrate Ramadan and I love them and want them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.  All in all it was amazing and I can't express how much we loved this place.

I don't even remember what else we did that day because we knew nothing would top church.  Oh yeah, we did an escape room...it did not exceed the fun of church.  



I had three days on my own and I expected that I was going to sit on the beach, fully sun-blocked, and catch up on my Bible Studies and have a totally deep time with the Lord as I soaked in the beauty of His creation.  That kind of happened.  Mostly I got sand in my Bible Studies while I watched the ocean and the few people brave enough to join me on the partly cloudy, windy, cool beach.  I thought the weather was perfect.    We were watching the news carefully about the earthquake and increased activity in the volcano and the new vents.  We had made arrangements to visit the Big Island of Hawaii during our trip and wondered about safety while we prayed for the safety of the families directly affected.  Some of what God showed me during this time needs to be fleshed out in blog posts later on, so you all get to enjoy Hawaii with me for a while longer.


I have to admit that up to this point Hawaii felt very...normal.  The city feel of Waikiki could have been anywhere.  The sharp contrast in the poverty level between streets could have been any inner city.  Other than a beach, which I could walk too, I wasn't seeing the lush tropical forest I expected.  Even though I thought I had set my expectations aside, I had kept some unawares.  I'm from a very dry state.  Water is a novelty to me.  Green is a miraculous color.  While the ocean was lovely, and the green beautiful, it didn't feel amazing.  I expected...I anticipated, amazing.


Had I trained myself to see amazing in my every day to the point where I was unable to recognize the miraculously lovely?  Had I desensitized myself to adventure by seeking it in every circumstance?



Nope.

I was failing to see that the very list of expectations I had exposed last week were being challenged.  Looking back over that list I can see that God made sure every one of those expectations were broken in one way or another so I had a chance to see what I would do.  I had been practicing seeing disappointment and hardship as an exciting adventure at home but it's a totally different animal when you are not at home.  Why is that?  Why do we expect things to be different when we're away?  We are the same and we go wherever we are.  How often are our disappointments based on the belief that things should be different?

There were plenty of disappointments on the trip.  I expected to see a volcano.  I expected to be awed by unfamiliar beauty.  I expected to stay healthy.  As in most things in life, all of those expectations are a little more complicated than the few words I boiled them down too.  I was disappointed, not in the trip, but in myself for struggling to have a good attitude.  I was living as if I expected vacation meant it would be effortless.  That it would come without struggle.  That I would rest from all the "good work" I had done in enlightening myself with God's wisdom.  Yeah, God disillusioned me of that pretty quickly on vacation.  You don't own the lessons God has taught you until the test.  How insufferable would I have been if I had walked serenely through my amazingly perfect vacation, I shudder to think.


The day before we left, as I was walking to the third location on the airport complex looking for my glasses case that had my boarding pass for the airplane of what could not even be charitably called a "comedy" of errors, God reminded me to thank Him.  To thank Him for the errors, the mistakes, the fumbles and the hardships.  He reminded me to thank Him for all the things that were going right in that moment of frustration.  Praise the Lord, He took a "failure" of a day and helped me put on joy.  He redeemed my day not with what I expected  but with what He anticipated.  I almost missed out on wonder.  I almost lost the adventure.  I forgot for a moment that adventure almost always comes from the unexpected.

 

Because sometimes adventure is no toilet paper, swollen ankles, sunburns, lost important items, travel hiccups, lost cars, lost CC scares and wasted money but it's also my hubby tracking down ice, seeing lava, exploring sights we wouldn't have seen, finding the CC at a restaurant after a whole day, someone at church on mother's day asking me if it was okay to wish me a happy mothers day even though he didn't know me or my situation and delighting in what's going well even when not everything is.



Because no matter where you are, God is there with you and He delights in us delighting in Him!



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Friday, May 11, 2018

Anticipation vs Expectation

I try and stay a few weeks ahead on my blog which means that sometimes I'm writing in advance of stuff that's happening to me.  I was thinking about that this morning and thought it might be fun to use this few week gap to perform a little experiment about expectations.  

My husband is taking me some place I've never been before.  It was a fabulous surprise that he will be able to take me along on a business trip.  I talked on the blog a few weeks ago about thanking God for abundantly giving what I asked and this is definitely one of the big, huge things God has done to delight me with adventure.  I've been getting a little caught up in the planning and excitement of it all and that hasn't been sitting well with me today.  

I've been super busy the last month because of my volunteer work with a local convention.  I've been trying to embrace the adventure of it without getting bound up by the stress of my expectations of what should be done.  One of the best parts of embracing the adventure of what God is doing in your life is learning when to let go of your expectations of what you think is supposed to happen.  It's a weird juxtaposition, the embracing and letting go, but it is a truth that many people have discovered over the years.  The truth that letting go of what you expect leaves you free to receive what God is actually bringing.

So here I am, in the moments of anticipation before a grand adventure, and I feel the need to assess my expectations.

Before

Let me just start off by saying my husband is amazing and he is the 2nd best gift God has ever given me and I love him more every day.  He tried so hard to keep this trip a secret but two things happened.  He didn't think he was selected for the trip and so he told me where it was going to be.  Plus, I'm the planner of our relationship and he needed me to take care of the details.  After a month of trying to avoid stress, so I can avoid the physical consequences of stress, this was a huge.  Something to look forward too.  An adventure!  A REAL one!!!  

Yup...did you see that.  A real one.  As if all of the everyday adventure was somehow less.  

That's why I wanted to assess my expectations.  To refocus on my God.  Not to give up the delightful anticipation but to give proper credit.  Not to give up the excitement but to give up unreasonable expectations.  

So what do I expect...
  • I expect to see beauty
  • I expect to relax
  • I expect to have new experiences
  • I expect to spend less time in a room than outside
Now one of those I'm putting on myself on purpose.  The others I'm trying to keep pretty mild and sure.  I don't want to put unreasonable expectations on this adventure because the disappointment will rob my moments of the joy that lives there.  The joy placed there by God like gems for me to find on a treasure hunt.  

The danger is always in trying to mold our anticipation into something more than it's supposed to be.  Before my reevaluation today I would honestly have to say my expectations looked more like this.
  • See as much as possible
  • To look like I belonged with all the other beautiful people
  • To have everything perfectly planned
  • For nothing to "go wrong"
  • For picture perfect moments, Instagram worthy days
Very unreasonable.  Unattainable even.  Which do you think
is going to be a better mindset for an adventure?  Well, lets see shall we?  

My moments may not be picture perfect but I can choose to picture them through the lens of a God who, amazingly, loves to delight me.

Are there areas of your life where expectation has taken over where anticipation should be?  Are you missing out on the joy God has especially planted just for you?  

Join me next week for the, hopefully, exciting conclusion to the exciting before and after!



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Friday, May 4, 2018

I'm an odd duck

If you've perused through my old blogs you may have noticed some incongruous entries.  Common wisdom dictates that I should eliminate those blogs as being "off brand" if I want to "succeed" as a blogger.  I totally get that.  It is off brand.  If I'm not speaking to a singular audience it can get confusing or disappointing, especially if you come here for one thing and get something else.  So I thought I better talk about that today.


As the title of the post indicates, I am an odd duck.  I am a mess of contradictions in a dress as Fiona sings in Shrek:
the Musical.  Everyone thinks that, you know. Everyone is a little bit right.  While the love of my Lord and Savior is the main focus of my life, and the core of my being, it isn't all.  How God has created us to be is individual but the unique place God has just for us only fits right when we're in the center of His will.  It is so easy to feel that longing for uniqueness, for specialness, and to go the way of the world.  God has hard wired some very specific things into our souls.  The longing for Him and the longing for who He has made us to be.  Whether we have accepted the gift God gave to the whole world or not, those two things are still true.  For the world, that means those two hard wired longings still pull at their core.  They just fill those longings with things other than what was intended.

As Believers, we are not immune.  I find myself swinging in a wide pendulum when I fail to be in the center of God's hard wired longings.  I try and fill the longing with the wrong things or I eliminate everything for the sake of not falling into the first trap.  Neither extreme is good.  

All of the weird, zany, contradictory bits that make up the me that God intended aren't things to be peeled away and discarded.  They are all part, in the proper place, of what God designed. 


I'm a role player, a lover of musicals, a voracious reader, an avid costume wearer, an escape room aficionado, a chronic health sufferer, childless, a volunteer, a yuppy wannabe, blunt, stubborn, a lover of comedic music and show tunes and nothing else (common catch phrase "It's not Weird Al"), proud owner of a chinneck, cat lover, lover of playing board games and a wife.  Sometimes I
put on every color of makeup I own so I can talk about serious things.  Sometimes I stay up all night to finish a volunteer project.  Each of these pieces are part of the landscape and tapestry of my life.  The landscape changes on occasion. Interests wax and wane.  But each of these things are a part of how God is using me.  

So if it seems weird that I occasionally share comic con news or my next favorite RPG game just remember you're still in the right place.  Take those moments to think about how God has made you uniquely you.  Strengths and weakness, weirdness and wonder.  It's all the you God is molding into the person He wants you to be.  And when you remember that about yourself, remember it about everyone else too.

Because sometimes adventure is settling into your own weird without it becoming a badge you hit people with.  


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Friday, April 27, 2018

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

A while ago, I asked God for adventure, you can read about that here.  It's been a central focus, a hub if you will, upon which God has me spinning right now.  He's teaching me great and wondrous things but ultimately He is answering my prayer.  Typing that brings me to tears, and if you clicked over to the link you'll know why.  God is not only answering my prayer, He is giving above and beyond what I could have imagined.  This morning as I was praising Him for the abundance, a thought popped into my head.


"Don't get to excited about the adventure or God will take it away."



It's a thought I recognized immediately from my childhood.  I was a depressed child.  I didn't interact well with my peers and and I was an overly dramatic person (I still am).  I felt sure I was the only one trying to follow the rules and was constantly being punished for it.  In reality I was insufferable and God had to do some serious humbling of my prideful spirit but, as we often do, I missed the point of the lessons.  It made me feel like God was out to get me along with everyone else.  It put me in a mental state where I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  




 I have told you before I used to raise sheep for 4-H.  Man I loved that time.  I still miss having sheep.  I enjoyed being a shepherd and I loved what I learned about life and God during and after that experience.

But like most extracurricular activities during childhood, 4-H was meant to teach responsibility and the benefits of effort.  It teaches how to deal with loss, disappointment and the unexpected.  My first year I was so upset when I didn't win my parents threatened to put a kibosh on the whole endeavor.  I learned and I got better but I have to tell you something about myself that may shock some of you....  I'm a pessimist.  During my teenage years it was so much worse...I was a fatalist.  


There wasn't a specific moment, a singular tragedy, that brought on this struggle.  There were many.


I didn't like losing and I lost a lot. I didn't interact well with people my age and so I was friendless most of the time.  During my time in 4-H I lost a ewe to a pit bull attack, had 2 of my puppies die, and lost 5 sheep in the matter of a month due to a single accident.  


I loved my sheep a lot.  I considered them my only friends.  I thought they were the only ones who understood me and listened.  I finally felt like I was doing something good and that I had purpose.  When I lost Lindsey to a neighbors pit bull I was just starting to build my flock. I had two ewes I was proud of that would be bred for the first time and I was stoked.  I had a plan.  The loss of my ewe built a framework in my mind that boxed me into some very uncomfortable assumptions. 


  • God punishes 
and
  • God sometimes takes away anything that I love more than Him  
But wait, you say, those are both true.  Yes, but my assumptions weren't.  I assumed that meant I couldn't love or enjoy anything.  It painted a lightening bolt wielding God in my young mind and so I tried very hard not to love things.  Any good thing that came my way couldn't be enjoyed because eventually God would take it away.  I assumed "fear of the Lord" meant I needed to be a drudging slave who shouldn't think or question too much because God would know and punish me.  It gave me an excuse for fatalism and staying in my depressed state.  


Have you created a mental picture of God based on assumptions?  


I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop until I learned, over time, the depth of love God has for me.  Getting an unbalanced view of God is always dangerous.  God isn't all love or all justice.  He is all love AND all justice.  He is holy AND good.  I have no idea why the thought from my past popped into my head while I was praising Him this morning.  I thought I had learned better than that, and I have.  Our enemy isn't shy about using an oldy but goody.  For the first time in my life I am all in on this amazing adventure God has orchestrated for my life.  Good and bad, I get to make the choice to face it with joy and confidence.  That, that is right where God wants me and the exact opposite of what the enemy wants.  God's intention for me to live the abundant life He wants for me requires open hands for Him to give and take.  The balance of my understanding of God as a holy and righteous judge and a loving and good father is in the belief that God intends all of it for my good.   

What does the balance of your understanding of God hinge on?  What does the enemy use to try and unbalance you?  

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Blind and Wandering

I have been feeling like I'm stumbling around blind in a dark room lately.  I'm grasping at information and concepts I'm unfamiliar with as I pursue this amazing adventure with God and I feel like the blind men who stumble on an elephant and come to conclusions based on which part of the elephant they're feeling.   Practicing any skill requires intention and effort, so as I follow His will and step out in faith, I have been exploring a very important question. 

Are you pursuing success/return or are you seeking to be a good steward of what God has given you?  


Anything we put effort and attention into has the potential of becoming an idol.  It's an important question to ask yourself periodically.  Pursuit of something new comes with a lot of blind wandering as you research, learn, explore, fumble and network.  Putting that kind of effort in will require time and attention as well as patience and endurance.  So in this state of trying to balance


Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)
27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 

with 

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 
In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.


I came across a writing prompt a couple of weeks ago titled "I feel a deluge when".  Yeah, I've been feeling a deluge.  A deluge of doubt, questions, lists, worry and fear. 

Questions like:
Am I doing "this" right?  
Am I doing too much?  
Am I not doing enough? 

This is what I wrote:

I feel a deluge when... I consider all that is wrong and hard in this world. When I consider how little my light is, how tiny in the sea of stars, I am overwhelmed by the completeness of the darkness that seems to surround me. I know intellectually that God's light pierces the darkness and will one day make it flee, but I also know my purpose on this earth is to shine so that others may see. God shines through us so the world won't be blinded by the brilliance of His glory. While I stumble around in a dark world hoping someone sees this little light of mine, I have no way of knowing if I'm in the right place. God does. He's guided me right to this moment. He holds my
moments, and this little light of mine, right where and when He wants me. I feel overwhelmed at times because I want to strive to be my best, to be of the best use to my God. In the cascade of drowning thoughts and fears, when the monsoon of doubt hits, I have to remind myself that God doesn't reveal everything to us. I have to heighten my senses to Him. To trust, like the blind, in my guide.

Can you see the influence of last weeks post?  Me too.  I can also see that big question that has been on my mind this week.  Am I striving for myself or God?  I wanted to share this raw prompt with you because while I see those doubts and questions in this paragraph, I see something else too.  

Inspiration

There is a reason God uses the analogy of light and dark to describe our walk through this world.  God showed up in the form of light in the darkness from the first covenant with Abram.  

Genesis 15:17 English Standard Version (ESV)

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

This world feels very dark, but there's a reason for that.  

1 Thessalonians 5:5 English Standard Version (ESV)


For you are all children[a] of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.


Have you ever turned off your light at night and then tried to get through the room?  Of course you have.  Even though you know that space, how often do you bump and stumble into things....yeah, me too.  The same thing applies to our spiritual life.  If we are from a kingdom of light and find ourselves in a dark space, our eyes aren't adjusted to this darkness.  

John 1:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There are quite a few warnings not to let your light become darkness in
scripture.  I'm starting to get a better picture of why that is.  Just like our eyes adjust to the dark, so do our spiritual eyes.  While that may seem like a normal thing which allows us to navigate in our surroundings that is also precisely why it is very, very bad.  That is exactly why we are supposed to be looking at the source of our light.  To keep our eyes firmly adjusted towards the holy and not the darkness.  While that means we are setting ourselves up to stumble around blindly in the dark it also means we are reminding ourselves to be guided by a God who is sure footed.  My goal this week, and I hope yours will be too, is to settle into blindness.  To let go of trying to see where I'm going in this world.  To let my other senses be heightened and searching for God's presence.  To be more attuned to His voice, His whisper, His breath.  To be more sensitive to His guiding touch on my arm.  To be focused on tasting and seeing that God is good.  

I bet you're wondering how I'm going to pull smell in but I'll leave that one up to your imagination 👃 😄  
What are some ways that you focus your mind on sensing God's presence in your day?  



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