Friday, January 12, 2018

Beginnings and endings

It has been a very long time since I could say I've had a good start to the year.  I really can't remember a time I had a great end to the year.  I am fully aware that I am a pessimist (or as any pessimist would say, a realist).  I don't know about you, but by the time I get to the end of the year all the little stresses, drama and things that go wrong set me in a mental place that says "this has been a crappy year".  Does that happen to you?  A few things going wrong at the end of the year color how I see the rest of the year and really set my mentality for the coming year.  I've allowed this pattern to continue unnoticed for years.  Looking back now I can see that this was a result of exhaustion from over working myself all year and the stress of expectation at the holidays.  Can anyone relate?  I can look back at it because this year was different.  Beautifully, wonderfully different!

Here's what changed.

I have some amazing women of God in my life.  I have been blessed, even though they are now in different states, to continue to study the word of God with them.  Last year we read a book on advent which was really good.  This year, to continue the practice of anticipation of the coming Savior, we decided to practice gratitude.  Every day in the month of December we would text each other something we were thankful for. 


Not only did I search my days for something to be thankful for, even the bad days, I got to share in the joy of my friends.  As I searched my days for gratitude, I found it.  That gratitude allowed me to look back on the rest of my year with the same.  It's even spilled over into how I am starting my new year.  I have never had such a close, vibrant walk with the Lord.  (There are a couple reasons for this but for the purposes of this blog it all started with an attitude of gratitude)  

I've been told over the years that thankfulness and gratitude were necessary to a vibrant life.  My grumpy Gus self grimaced at this.  I was not required by the Lord to be happy, I only had to have Joy.  Joy is a choice, not an emotion I would smugly say.  Yeah, I know...sad.  I was.  I still struggle with sorrow.  But today, and for the last month and a half, I have had joy.  I've had abundant life!  I've even been....giddy.  While the happy, giddy excitement may be gone tomorrow, the practice of joy and gratitude will stay with me.  I feel light as I have exchange my burdens of worry, stress and annoyance for the much better gift of gratitude.  

For those of you who are not predisposed to's okay, you can get there.  For those of you who have happy in the bag, good on ya.  This will still help you.  Whether you've set your resolutions for the year or not you can still set goals and intentions that will help you throughout the year.  So here's my challenge to you.

Find someone you can email, text or talk to every day for 30 days.  Every day, share with each other something you're thankful or grateful for.  If you don't need a full 30 days (to be honest I think everyone could use a gratitude refresher)  or if you have done a 30 day and need a gratitude booster, then try a 7 day.  Don't worry if some of your hard days leave it hard to find something to be thankful for, search anyway and come up with something.  I kid you not, one of my days I shared that I was grateful I was sick on Christmas.  I meant it.  I was grateful.  It took me a month of practice to get there but the previous hard days had taught me to search every new situation for something to be thankful for so I had something to share.  You can too!

Keep at it and by all means, tell me how it goes!

Friday, January 5, 2018

One of the hardest things I've ever done

A grave and terrible thing has happened to me.  God asked me to take a sabbatical.
I'll wait while you all recover your breath.

I know the primary purpose of this blog is to discuss the unique challenges and joys of being a servant minded individual and it is.  Part of that purpose includes knowing when to take a break.  I've written a few blogs on taking care of yourself so you don't pour out until you can't give any more.  The Lord had been putting the idea of sabbatical on my mind for a while, I just wasn't getting that He was talking to me. Last September, God made it clear He was asking me to give up my volunteer activities.  Over the month of October and November I was busy wrapping things up and writing for NaNoWriMo (which I completed this year, yay me!).  It was by December, when I was looking at my full calendar and overwhelming to do list, that I realized I hadn't done what God had asked me to do.  He wanted me to stop everything.  To take a real and true break.  A sabbatical.  I have to tell you, this has been beyond challenging.  It's been incredibly difficult to explain to people.  It's been hard to justify to myself.  My identity has been wrapped up in being useful.  Of having purpose.    I thought taking a pause from volunteering for the month of September would be it, but as the year proceeded to a close, I wasn't getting any new instructions from the Lord.  As I paused my busy schedule to ask Him, it hit me.  I wasn't standing still long enough to hear from the Lord.  I have been such a Martha. It's my normal bent to be sure.  I don't ever want to be accused of being lazy but more than anything I don't want to be thought of as useless.  It's shaped how I even view "rest".  So I started my year with a mental reset.  I've pared down my to do lists, I've given up my idea of useful and replaced it with what is needful.  It's meant a lot of Bible study, a few naps and filling my life with few things more complicated than keeping my house neat and clean.  

I know this is a time of preparation.  For what, I can only guess.  I'm trying not to guess in earnest because thinking too far in the future defeats the purpose of listening to what God is saying in my present.  Thinking too far in the future often invites fear into my life.  I assume if God has to give my life pause to prepare me it must be for something huge, difficult, exhausting or hurtful.  It also gives me time to doubt.  To doubt God is asking something of me, to doubt my ability to accomplish it. All of these mental gymnastics are ultimately all part of the prep.  To shake off the doubt, to get in step with where the Lord is moving, to put on the full armor of faith and to be fully rested and able to endure whatever is coming.  This season could be as simple as getting my body healthy again or it could involve a whole new season or state in life.  *shrug* Doesn't really matter.  This time of rest means that I can practice being on board with trusting God completely with my future.  Granted, I'm still working on the being still part.  

As you think about your new year and what your intentions and hopes and resolutions are, consider resolving to rest and be still.    

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Happy Rock

Life is certainly interesting.  I had a first time preventative health screen yesterday.  I was a little nervous about it. Since I haven't been getting good sleep, and I've been stressed out, I haven't been managing my life well.  I got up yesterday morning to work out and noticed someone had put this little painted rock in our yard.  I've been hearing about this trend from my geocaching friends but it just started out my day reminding me that God saw me.  He knows what I need and randomly, like a lover, surprises me with gifts.  Sure enough, when I got home from my appointment this little rock was gone.  I was really glad I got a picture of it.  There was no rock to remind me today when my body totally rebelled at yoga or when my tasks began to become overwhelming or when I lost my Bible Study book I needed to have completed for tonight.  I still looked for it today.  In that spot I knew it wouldn't be. It's not really about the rock.  It's about choosing to see the little and big gifts that God has given me today, right now, even in the midst of attack and stress and disappointment.  

Has God given you a happy rock today?  Would you notice if He had?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

health is a dirty word

I've had a contentious relationship with my health most of my life.  I get that I am way better off than a lot of people.  I'm not trying to complain.  I was thinking about it because I went to the doctor today.  I'm feeling  sore and exhausted and in general I don't like it when I'm not doing stuff I should be doing.  Today is a not doing stuff kind of day and I'm physically and mentally uncomfortable with that.  I generally feel my worst when I'm trying to improve myself.  Now that I'm working out to lose weight, My hips and joints are hurting all the time.  This is what stopped me before.  Some days you feel like trying to do the right thing carries worse consequences than doing what's easiest.

The most insidious part of spiritual attacks are the doubts that sound like your own voice.  The things you whisper to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. The difference between the truth and whats true is so subtle.  I'm an uneducated, overweight woman with health problems.  All those things are true.  It's not the whole truth.

I know the whole true vs truth and my health issues are a common theme.  I may even be repeating myself.  Sorry about that.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

So I was thinking

Last week was rough.  I was under spiritual attack.  Spiritual attacks are the worst because they don't come from one direction.  Whatever is going on in your life...that's the direction.  Knowing that it's happening does a few things for you though.  It helps you gain perspective and choose to have a better attitude about it.  It also reminds you that maybe you weren't spending as much time with the Lord as you needed too.  Having long term health issues leaves my body drained.  I wake up exhausted on most days and I've got a long to do list that I sometimes have to set aside to lay down for a bit.  I should be sitting at my Father's feet, clinging to his shins, for the strength I need on a daily basis but I have a couple of problems.  Pride and depression.  In the struggle for every day, I forget to put on the armor of God.  I forget that God is my source and I continue to pour out without being filled.
The next month is going to have some unique challenges but that's only because I have projects that are coming due and I've now left myself in the unenviable position of force marching myself to complete the tasks.  It's nothing unusual.  It's life.

So because I like sharing my to do lists with you on occasion...feel free to stop reading now. ;)

Deadline: November

I've started the planning for this years murder mystery.  Idea and concept.  Now all I have to do is write it all.

Deadline: Feels more imminent than it probably is

Read and review a book for family

Start on project I think God is asking me to do or at least preparing me to do or wants me to say yes to.  This one's been on my mind.  I think God wants me to write a book.  So I've been pondering the first question.  Fiction or Non-Fiction.  My knee jerk reaction was to write a Non-Fiction (shocking I know) but the main doubts that have assailed me are these.  Non-Fiction, in my opinion falls into two categories, research and opinion and mostly the first one falls into the second one.  So that requires that either I am an expert or people want to hear my opinion.  You see my dilemma.  Ultimately I am going to step out in faith that God asked this of me and so I'm going to do it.  But it's put a kink in settling on what exactly I'm going to attempt to write.  I'm not stressing yet.  I'm pretty sure God's clearing my schedule starting in September.  I just know that starting the prep work is a vital part of being prepared when God asks you to move.  If He's given me warning in advance, it's for this very purpose, to prepare.

Deadline: September

Comic Con Costumes.  I've told you all what we're doing this year but other than sewing a practice skirt and making a half-hearted attempt at lekku, I've done nothing.  I keep thinking it's because we might lose more weight but I really should be completing these.  I can take them in if I have to but it's got to get done and really I should be doing this instead of the less firm deadline ones.

In addition to these, I still have the marketing for Crossfire and Petrie's and two Bible Studies and the jail and the rest of normal life.  Feels like more than it is.  This week is going to be full of appointments, obligations, growing pains and the firm understanding that I have no choice but to sit at my Father's feet and listen, praise, worship, and be filled.

Monday, July 10, 2017

To my audience of One

Life is a constant state of learning.  I don't mean education per se.  I mean learning.  To varying degrees, depending on the individuals interest and motivation, we all educate ourselves formally or informally.  The modern age has given us educational videos that can teach us anything from how to shave a cat to how an engine works.

I've always seen myself as something of a Jill of all trades and master of none.  Being a perfectionist is a very awkward combination for that particular trait.  If I'm not instantly good at something, I will most likely put it off until I can't possibly do a good job or give up in a melodramatic pity dive into the bed.  You think I'm kidding...ha ha...yeeeeah.  This is not a mature thing to do.  I know this.  I've never had the discipline or stamina to practice enough to get really good at something.  I try stuff, I fail, I half succeed and mostly I fill in until the people who are actually good at this stuff get there.  That's my place.  The in betweener.

This hasn't really inspired a purpose.

As I look forward to the next part of my journey, I know I'm going to be super critical of anything I create.  I don't want my critical nature to stop me from taking the journey and I know part of that is going to be educating myself on how to do a good job and practicing.  So here's to making the effort.  Here's to learning how.  Here's to trying anyway.  Here's to casting aside doubt and negativity and fear.  Here's to life.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mile markers

Thursday, June 8th, I did something terrifying.  I asked God to give me adventure.

Let me back up for a second.  My friend Pam and I have been doing a Bible Study together on Wednesdays for a while now.  God has really been using them to speak to both of us.  That week, one of the questions asked what our soul was hungry and thirsty for.  The study is about modern day idols and the question was meant to remind us that God meets our needs.  I had a few things I put on that list but the very first one is adventure.  If you had asked me that question when I was a teenager my answer would have been the same.  Belle was my role model in a lot of ways.  Strangely enough, when I thought about it, I had never come before the Lord with that hunger.  Even now I get a thrill of terror presenting it to Him.  It's not because I'm afraid He'll tell me it's a wrong desire.  It's because I'm afraid He might actually give it to me.

I've avoided asking God for a lot of big things.  There have been a couple of memories that have stuck with me and shaped what I was and was not willing to ask God for.  When I was in college we had mandatory chapel.  One of the guest speakers told a story that I will paraphrase for you.  Someone asked God to give them humility and so they split their pants on the way up to speak in front of a large crowd and were thoroughly humiliated.    I think it was meant to be a joke to loosen up the audience but that is all  I remember of what that speaker said.  Despite the fact I struggle with pride, I have been loath to ask God for humility because of that story.

I know that my idea of adventure is an idealized, romanticized version.  I know for sure that God's idea of adventure is different than mine.  His thoughts are higher than my thoughts after all.  But God has been working on softening up my heart and helping me to build trust and asking Him for something that is a long term hunger of my soul is only good and right because pursuing other things to fill that need are idols plain and simple.

So I thought it was important to put a date on this important occasion so that everything that happens next will be viewed in light of the fact that I asked for it.
Don't worry, I'm not injured.  It was a crime scene reenactment for teaching purposes. (Thanks Mark for the pic and the amazing makeup.  I totally freaked people out!  It was awesome)

I'm writing this today because two big things have happened since that prayer and it just occurred to me that I need to view them in light of a prayer for something big.  I was asked to help on a project that I ...well, I can't talk about it but the timing and nature of the request is terrifying and miraculous.  I remember being told that if we feel like life has us a little bit out of control it might be the perfect position to be in because that might mean God is in control and we need to stop trying to take the wheel back.  That's what this feels like.  My insecurities and fears keep trying to jump up and get my attention and they're just not sticking because I am going to live this next step in my life as if I'm following God's will and have nothing to fear, because I am!  

The second thing that has happened are some profound questions about my purpose.  God is literally clearing the way for something in my life.  Without kids or career, am I serving the Lord with everything I have?  Those questions have prompted some dreams I had back-burnered as ridiculous.  I'm going to give it a shot and, succeed or fail, I'm going to try and glorify the Lord to the best of my ability and that will never be a waste.