Saturday, February 2, 2019

Failing Forward

I think I've failed.  It's the first day of the second month and I'm pretty sure I failed.  I expect to do that a lot this year.  Last year felt like such a success.  I learned, I prepared, I rested and I completed.  When I was praying about my resolutions for 2019 I was nervously excited for the direction God was leading.  As I was asking God what He wanted me to work on, and set as my intention, He brought those three awful words: 

Fail with Grace 

UGHHHHHH!  I do not fail gracefully.  I have a little tiny hiccup and then I give up in a huff and get depressed.  At least that's been my pattern for a very long time.  I tend to bury my head like an ostrich in the sand of my own negative self talk.  



The lessons God has planned for us are intentional, well timed and for our good.  I have been working on breaking the habit of capitulating at the first hint of difficulty for a long time.  So I know, this year is a test.  A chance for me to see my progress, practice the lessons God has taught me and develop healthier reactions.  It requires that I am keeping my head up and my thoughts aware of how I am dealing with the challenges of learning, making mistakes and stumbling over obstacles.  

Failing with grace is the act of failing forward.  It's the intention of failing without castigating myself.  The power to chose hope over despair.  

Failure has the special challenge of misdirection.  Failure is used by the enemy to shine a spotlight on our shortcomings and mistakes.  Our enemy loves to point out our failures in every aspect of our lives.  If it doesn't cause us to stop in our tracks immediately, then it certainly gets us focused on the wrong thing and walking in the wrong direction.  A failed connection with a potential friend can send you into a tailspin trying to figure out what's wrong with you and why no one likes you.  It may lead you to the conclusion that putting work into a friendship isn't worth it.  It may cause you to strike out in anger.  What those trains of thought forget is that God uses failure to shine a spotlight on what God is doing.

God is ALWAYS going to glorify His name and is working for our good, which is just a fancy way of saying God is always teaching us.  Always.

Failure often makes us feel inadequate but that feeling often leads to the false conclusion that we can't do it at all.  Whatever that "it" is for you, trying looking at your failure through God's spotlight.  Is it calling you to endure?  Teaching you how to do better?  Showing you a different way?  Calling you to a new task?  Convicting you of sin?  Reminding you to show grace, to yourself and others?  Giving you the opportunity to be a witness?

So, my goal this year is to see my failure from God's perspective and not the enemies.  Not to see my failures as the end of the road, but just another step in the learning process.  How about you?  How do you view failure?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, January 4, 2019

New Years Changes

We spent the last few weeks of December looking at resolutions.  Now, firmly resolved, we stare 2019 in the face and ask ourselves 'is this going to work?'  Lets set aside that fear laced question and instead look at what we are going to change.  If you didn't give yourself enough of a head start on your resolutions then you've probably been thinking about them or implementing them this week.  I've been thinking about mine a lot.

2018 was about rest.  God has been teaching and testing me in this area to remind me of the importance of obedience in rest.  The last quarter of the year was more intense in this area as God asked me to give up noise, technology and entertainment.  I spent a lot of the year wondering when it was going to be over...the rest, not the year.  Even in those moments of impatience God was teaching me how like a child I am.  The 'are we there yets' of my spiritual journey are so similar to the impatience I've seen in little ones.  God took great care to keep telling me to rest, to wait, to relax, to stop worrying, to stop being anxious and to not fret.

Near the end of December, God started to reveal what He was going to be working in 2019.  It's going to be a lot.  It's going to be a ton of learning, growing, and working.  Just thinking about it got me all worked up and ready to whip out to do lists, organizational aspiration sheets and a paper bag to breath into.  Okay, maybe not that last one.  I like being busy.  God taught me a lot in 2018 about where I find my value.  I know I was finding my worth and value in what I could do.  Without that (ugh, rest) I had to meet with Jesus about what that meant.  Being released from rest was like lifting the first gate at the races.  I near ran into the fence in my haste.  Because God gave me a year of rest, a year of coming back to a baseline of peace, I know that my resolutions are going to have to reflect what I learned last year.  In anticipation of what I think God will do with my year, I have made some resolutions and goals based on growing towards areas that I want to see if God has given me a passion for, to remind me of what God taught me was important in 2018 and to test doors and see where God is moving.

So what does that all mean.  I'm going to be writing more and blogging less.  Dotted lines, at least for now, is going to be moving to a once a month format.  Don't worry.  I have a year or mores worth of blogs for you to go back through if you need something to read ;)  In addition, Dotted Lines is going to be starting a YouTube channel!  Why?  Well, a few reasons.  One of them being the fact that humor and sarcasm tend to read better with facial expressions and I might translate better to you, the audience, face to face as it were.  I have some exciting publishing and contest news to announce already for 2019 but I have to hold my hat a little bit.  Since submitting more articles and contest pieces is one of my resolutions, I think that bodes well for the year ;)  My final resolution is to have my priorities straight.  In other words, time with God has to come first, without limits.  My time is His and without that source I won't be able to create, stay unafraid or hold on to peace.   That's my top priority this year.  To approach the potentially frantic with the sense of peace and calm that only comes from time spent with the Prince of Peace.  It is going to be a straight up test of what I have learned in 2018 so I am praying and working hard to establish some good habits to support this resolve.

Video seems to be the direction for the year.  I am going to be doing a lot of learning in this area through multiple outlets as I serve others and work it out for myself.  It's going to be tempting to fall back on negative self talk (I hate feeling dumb and I am going to feel dumb a lot as I learn) and frantically trying to complete an ever growing to-do list.  That's why my word for 2019 is Balance. 

So what is your word for 2019?  Have you started well this week or do you need to reset?  Either way, I hope you will join me.  The mission of Dotted Lines is still to embark on the amazing adventure of searching for God in my every day.  That won't change no matter where we move!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Resolution Revolution

It's time for a resolution revolution.  It's time to take this question seriously once again.  So here we are, standing on the raggedy edge of 2018...are you ready for change?


Now that we've learned from our successes and our failures, how do we resolve to make resolutions differently?  (If you haven't read the previous two blog posts, I highly recommend starting there) I was talking to my spouse about resolutions and asked if he had made any.  His skepticism brought a pseudo sneer to his face as he admitted he hadn't because he didn't see the point.  A lot of people have relegated resolutions to the 'pointless' category.  It seems I'm not the only one to be frustrated by failure in this area.  I have talked the previous two weeks about why resolutions are valuable, so let's proceed on the assumption that they are.  How do we do things differently in 2019?  How do we set ourselves up for success? 

Forethought

I think it bears repeating that the place to start is by thinking about it in advance and resolving to check in with yourself periodically to see if you need to alter course.  Don't be flippant with your resolution. Preparation not only helps develop habits it also starts the momentum in a forward direction toward your goal.  It's about settling your mind on a new course before you settle your body into new habits.  Part of thinking about your resolution in advance is giving yourself the opportunity to manage your expectations.  I'm not talking about settling for less than, I'm talking about identifying what your expectations are and working out for yourself if your expectations are reasonable or desirable.  Forethought also gives you the ability to prepare yourself for change.  Settle your mind on the fact that this is a learning experience, not a prize you are trying to attain. 
Resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not do something; or the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter

Endurance

Resolutions are about endurance.  A large part of why resolutions are valuable is because the by product of attempting a resolution is going to be endurance.  If you are training for a marathon you may only get a quarter of a mile today (or the end of the driveway) but tomorrow, next week, next month, you will get farther.  Even if you have never completed a year long resolution doesn't mean you shouldn't attempt one at all.  Practice doesn't make perfect but it does make endurance.  Couldn't we all use a little more sticktoitiveness?  Yes!  I can't tell you how often I missed out because I gave up too early.  I can bet you have too.  If your resolutions have been a bust in the past, consider looking back and evaluating if you learned anything from the experience.  Test and see if maybe you are just a little bit better at enduring this time around as a result.  A huge part of resolve is mental.  You can go further than you think, do more than you know, because God has created something amazing.  Your mind is a stubborn, strong willed thing.  Why not use that strength for something good?  Good gifts like this from our heavenly Father can be used and abused by our flesh and the enemy but that doesn't me we shouldn't use them for fear of their misuse. 

Balance

Resolutions are never meant to consume you.  Resolutions are supposed to encourage you to reach outside of your normal sphere.  To stretch, to put forth effort.  It is not meant to encourage you to jump off a cliff.  Let's be smart about this.  If you want to make a resolution for the new year then keep balance in mind as you set your goal.  How much time do you have to commit on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  Is your resolution about achieving a prize or about developing a habit?  Is your resolution about bragging rights or intentionality?  Is your resolution going to improve you or your situation?  Is it valuable, reasonable or beneficial?  Is it inward or outward focused?  Finally, ask yourself how you are going to monitor yourself.  Are you going to ask someone to be your mentor and accountability partner so you can meet and discuss where you're at once a month?  Are you going to keep a journal?  What questions are you going to ask when considering your resolution? 


Resolve to think about your resolution differently

Lets do something different.  Let's use our resolution, our endurance, to see life differently, to push us out of our comfort zones and be an encouragement and not a condemnation.  This is not a pass or fail test, this is a journey.  You are committing to walking towards a goal.  There is no first place and loser position.  This is about opening ourselves to a different perspective.  It's about agreeing with God that we need to grow and change.  It's about acknowledge that we aren't done learning even if we're done with school.  Stop thinking of resolutions like a test and start thinking about them as a lesson.   
🕜🕝🕞🕟🕠🕢🕣🕤🕥🕦🕧💥

It's about time we did things differently, don't you think?  How is it that resolutions have become a joke we only think about once a year?  I hope this series has made you think about next years resolution but I'm also secretly hoping that it has inspired you to a little rebellion.  To rebel against the prevailing apathy towards resolve.  To fight against the powers that would take our endurance and make it a laughing matter.  It's time to storm these heights again and take back our dignity!  Will you join me?  Viva la resolution!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Resolution Rebound

So maybe things didn't go as well as you hoped this year.  Your resolutions were left in the dust months ago and you've been beating yourself up ever since.  Whether your goals for this year were forgotten, failures or weights that have felt like a burden, there is still value in them.


So...how'd ya do?  I don't mean "did you complete your resolution".  That's what we usually ask ourselves, right?  If we think to ask ourselves at all.  While there is definitely something to be celebrated in the question 'how far did you get' (no matter how far that was) that's not really the best question.  As a recovering perfectionist, I failed attempts at resolutions, when I made them, and eventually I gave up.  Why bother to attempt something you keep failing at?  What's the point?  I failed them because I wouldn't (couldn't) do them perfectly, whatever that elusive ideal was.  Resolutions are valuable because we all know at our core that being stagnant is not good.  Being the same makes us feel stuck, trapped, and to some that is an allusion to death.  No one likes feeling mired.  God is calling us toward him.  It is an act of movement.  Resolutions are meant to bump us out of our ruts and back on track.  Following the well worn path won't bring fulfillment, it will only bring drudgery.

Too often we get bound up in our performance and forget that resolutions aren't meant to fix what is broken in us, only God can do that.  Resolutions are meant to prompt us to assess habits that may not be serving us any more.  If your resolution was to lose weight, don't only ask yourself if you lost weight.  Ask the better questions, like: did you try new things, did you try and form new habits, did you bring self awareness to an issue in your life and did you learn something from the experience.  Looking at how you did through that lens will bring less fruitless self condemnation and more helpful analysis. God has taken great care to teach me to look at failures as the teaching opportunities they are.  So no matter how far your got towards your resolution I want to encourage you to take a healthy look at how you did.

Let's begin by identifying what result you were actually trying to achieve.  For me, I wanted to practice my craft, invest my talents to God's glory and develop good writing habits.  If I'm being completely honest I will have to include that a little part of me wanted to become famous, succeed and cultivate a following in a meaningfully visible way and that I would have it all figured out.  If you hadn't guessed, I am not famous.  (Praise the Lord for his great and wondrous blessings!)  I don't have a following and I do not have it figured out.  If I looked at this years resolution through the negative lens of my flesh, I have failed.  I don't have anything to "show" for what I have done this year, at least not by the standards of the flesh.  That's not true of course, I have done what I set out to do.  It just doesn't look like what I thought it would look like.  Examine yourself honestly.  Are you disappointed in your resolutions because you were secretly hoping for something else?  Are you hoping for something to show?  A gold star that you can wear with pride?  Most of us are just hoping for change but the insidious unspoken expectation is, what are we going to change in to?  It's dangerous to think of our resolutions like a chrysalis from which a butterfly will emerge.  They are instead classrooms and training grounds.  Our learning will not be done.  Let's move away from the desire to check our resolutions off like a to-do list and instead, move towards the adventure they are meant to be.

So what worked?  What didn't?  As you think about this years resolution, and think about what goals you want to make for next year, it's important to assess how you make your resolutions as much as to assess what those resolutions are.  Are you goals too vague?  Too unreasonable?  To small?  To undefined?  Too dependent on chance?  Were you too focused on the wrong thing?  Did you check in with yourself to refocus?  It took me ten months to figure out I was focused on what I could do for God instead of on God.  I thought I was giving Him a gift that He would use.  What I was reminded of is that God doesn't need me to do anything.  He does it, He brings the increase.   I planned to find Him, I looked for Him and He keeps showing up in wonderful ways.  That is what worked for my resolution.  I committed to a course of action to find my God and He found me instead.  No matter what your resolution was or will be you have got to check in with yourself to find what is and is not working and then change.  That's the point, isn't it?  Change?  Change course slightly, change your attitude about what that means, change your expectation of becoming.  I could insert a cliched line here but I won't.  If you take the time to think about your goals and ask yourself what is and isn't working, what you are really trying to achieve and are you stepping out of your rut, you'll find yourself in a much different space when you think about your resolutions.

You've got one more week to think about what's next.  For me, I have some changes on the horizon.  Not only am I launching my website http://www.jd-iana.com, I've got some changes coming to my blog.  Join me next week for the conclusion to our resolution smevolution.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Resolutions Redux

We are on the final downhill slope towards the end of the year.  I know it's a little early to be thinking about new years resolutions but it is just about the right time to think about this years resolutions.  We often joke about failing in our resolutions within the first month of making them.  Come January there will be many posts poking fun at the phenomena and giving helpful advice on how to make resolutions.  It seems silly to start thinking about resolutions after the fact doesn't it.  It's almost like we have gotten in the habit of thinking of them as a failure before we even begin.  I'm going to start talking about it now because I want to set myself, and hopefully you, up for success.  In the last three Friday's of 2018 I am going to do some self assessment with the hope that you will join me.  This isn't meant to shine a spotlight on failures.  It's meant to shine a light of truth.  So let's take a look back at what worked, what didn't and how to do better.

Maintaining a resolution has two major factors, in my opinion, that lead to successful ending your year with endurance.  And that's what resolutions take, endurance.

1. Setting reasonable goals
2. checking in and assessing how your doing periodically throughout the year

Setting reasonable goals starts with giving yourself enough prep time.  Thinking about what to resolve yourself too on Dec 31 isn't going to help you in the long term.  It takes time to think about what your life and what changes need, should or can be made.  Some resolutions take preparation and advanced warning.  Sometimes resolutions require accountability, medical intervention, meal planning or research.  Give yourself some time over the next few weeks to think about what you are going to resolve and all that that will entail.  Setting reasonable goals also means searching yourself for what you really want to change.  Being invested in the change, and therefor able to endure to the end, requires that it's real, not just a thing that sounds good because everyone's doing it. 

The second major factor in a successful resolution is the practice of assessment.  Not for the purpose of reminding yourself that you've failed, but so that you can see where you're at.  Assessments are designed for resetting, evaluation and restart.  Needing to readjust doesn't mean you've failed, it means you're responsibly managing your course.  Checking in periodically is holding yourself accountable, keeping your resolution in the forefront of your mind and part of the learning experience.

Since my goal this year was to write a blog every week, I'd say I'm doing pretty well.  I've only got a few weeks left to complete this resolution and I am well on track.  They haven't all been the best thing I've ever written, but they have been written.  I'd be on a much different path if I did everything perfectly.  I'm not saying I didn't want to strive for excellence but my priority was balance. I set a reasonable goal, managed expectations and didn't swing to any extremes to accomplish it.  I know that's a lot of productivity buzz words.  The result was a year of growth and learning.

Ultimately, you must ask yourself what the goal of a resolution is.  Resolutions are about enacting change.  For some, it's a response to lack.  Lack of happiness, direction or fulfillment.  For some, it's a response to excess.  For me, it's a call to growth.  To step outside of my comfort zone and embark on an adventure.  To break out of the ruts, routines and mundanities of life.  To seek the wonder and awe that God has surrounded us with.  A call to see life anew. 
 
While I was thinking about the near completion of my resolution, and how I sometimes get mired down in the familiar and mundane, it reminded me of Uncle Traveling Matt.  Do you remember him?  He was my favorite part of Fraggle Rock (yes, I'm old).  Traveling Matt was exploring "outer space" which was really him being baffled by the human world.  It is a delightful observation on how odd life can look from a different perspective.  


So as you think about what your new years resolution might be, I would encourage you to be sure it stretches you to look at your mundane and be amazed, to put the "awe" back into awesome and to redefine your normal.  It's not merely about changing your life.  It's about renewal and balance. 

I'm still thinking about what next years resolution will be.  Join me over the remaining weeks of 2018 as I explore that question.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject and if you would like to share your resolution, I'll be praying with you as we head into 2019.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Fast is Over

For those of you that have been following along (Hi mom) I cut out technology six days a week and added in a noise fast for just over 40 days.  Why I decided to do this over NaNoWriMo I don't know.  I blame the fact that I didn't start it in November, it just lasted through November, so I forgot about national novel writing month until about a week before.  I've talked about why I entered into this fast but I thought I would share some of what I learned.


Fasting has been on the Christian radar for a while but the diet community has latched on to the idea as well, siting the benefits of intermittent fasting to give the body a break and reset your metabolism and supposedly give you more energy.

The principle has been a part of God's plan from the beginning.  During creation, God established a sabbath, when we would submit ourselves under God's sovereignty and rest.  Our minds and our bodies need these periods of rest. 

In a year where God has called me to rest, I was not terribly please to find God was asking me to give up more.  Resting is the worst, right!  I am so grateful my Patient Teacher hasn't given up.  We live in a world of indulgence.  Our culture is cluttered, over stimulated and impatient.  We don't even recognize how starved for silence we are.  Now that the fast is over I find myself longing for the simplicity of quiet time spent with my Savior.  Having the ability to distract myself doesn't mean that I should.  Having a long to do list doesn't mean I have to get them all done today.  Fasting reminds us that the priorities we have established aren't necessarily the right ones.  Taking a step back is a great way to reset. 

Reset your body, reset your mind.  What do you need a fast from?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Desire of my heart

At the beginning of this year I started on a journey of rest.  I'm not sure what I expected but I don't think that I could have expected that in the silence God would show me the true desires of my heart.  Nor could I have expected that the first one would be adventure.  In the midst of rest, to discover that my longing for adventure was given by God, has been a delight.  God wasn't done, as he never is in teaching us. and He recently revealed to me that the second big desire of my heart is to have purpose.  Why am I telling you this?  For most of my youth I was confused about what God meant by Psalm 34:7.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Okay, when I say youth...I mean my middle age too.  I longed for adventure and purpose and might have pegged those as desires but I would have classified them as selfish or worldly.  It wouldn't have occurred to me that they were given to me by God and that He was how they would be met and fulfilled.  I focused on the first part of the verse and figured if I delighted myself in the Lord I would never lack.  While that has been true, I'm seeing it in a different light today.  I feel like God has given me new desires to fill my heart.  Not new in the sense that I've never felt their pull before but new like a clean pair of clothes.  I have been trying to fill those big two desires in my life  without God.  It has soiled and worn down those desires as I sought to fill those longings in ways other than God.  I feel like God has unwrapped my favorite childhood toy that I had ruined and now it's all shiny and new.  I know it's a little early to be opening Christmas presents but ... 

He has given me desires and they are indeed fulfilled as I delight in Him.