Archive | December, 2010

The big picture

31 Dec

Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I figured I might as well do the quintessential blog post: reminiscing about 2010 and looking forward to 2011.

2010 was a hard year for me but because of that, it was also life-changing. From March until last week, I had a job that constantly pushed me beyond my comfort zone, challenged me in ways I have never before been challenged, and forced me to run to God every day to maintain my sanity and character. I can look back on this past year and see God’s faithfulness and steadfast love everywhere.

I learned that I rely on my own ability to get things done instead of trusting in God and His timing and plan. I found that I often “feel responsible” for things and that prevents me from letting God be responsible. God showed me that my claiming responsibility is what stresses me out. I need to be faithful in what I can control but the overarching theme and thought of my life needs to be trust in God for all of the mundane, practical details, as well as the big picture items.

Work-wise, I learned that I do not do well working from home. I like an office. I like interaction with people. I like unexpected interruptions (self, remember this when they happen!). I also learned that I like change but only in the context of routine. I am much more happier doing tedious administrative tasks than I am managing big picture things. I am a details person. The job I am doing in the church office right now is exactly what I enjoy doing. (As such, I am really hoping that they hire me full-time! But more on that another time.)

Through numerous coffee dates with my good friend Cathy, I have also learned a lot about what it means to be victorious in Christ. I have made huge progress in my long struggle with loathing myself and constantly seeing sin. Through talking with Cathy, reading books, and insight from the Holy Spirit, I have seen that resting in the cross doesn’t mean I ignore my sin – it means the cross is bigger than my sin. Enjoying who God has made me to be doesn’t mean I enjoy the sins I commit – it means that I am able to trust God to conform me to Christ and unveil to me and others who I really am.

In short, as I look back on 2010, I praise God for His work in my life. I struggled, I failed, I didn’t believe, I didn’t trust, I handled situations poorly. But God brought me through it all. I honestly can say that I wouldn’t have made it without Him. The thing I love the most about going through struggles like this is very simple: when I have a good day, when I feel joyful and peaceful, I know that is from God. He is the source of that feeling. And I feel so immensely blessed by Him. I wouldn’t feel that way had I not gone through a very rough year of a lot of bad days.

As I look forward to 2011, I have to admit that I hope it is easier than 2010 was. But I also hope that God does just as much work in my life. So I will, with His help, joyfully accept whatever means God employs to bring about that sanctification.

I am hoping to find a job (whether at the church or elsewhere) that fits me well. After having a job that I pretty much hated in every aspect, I no longer underestimate what a job can do to your entire well-being. Right now, though, I am very content with working part-time at the church. I got a lot of things crossed off my To-Do List this week!

I am also hoping to write a lot. Being a writer is my dream. I just read in John Eldredge’s book Walking With God, “More often that not this awakening of desire is an invitation from God to seek what we’ve given up as lost, an invitation to try again.” So I’m going to respond to God’s invitation and try again.

Spiritually, I want to pursue an even deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ, as described in Eldredge’s book that I just read. I want to be so close to Christ that I can hear him speak to me. That I seek His opinion on every decision, that I walk with Him all day, every day. It’s a lofty goal. But a very rewarding one. And even a little progress is better than none! I also want to be more intentional about reading – I have averaged about 15 books a year for the past 3 years. I want to increase that to 25 or so. But I also don’t want to burn through books so fast that I don’t remember anything. Kind of defeats the point of reading. So 25 is a loose goal.

Emotionally, I want to be more open and vulnerable in my marriage. I just recently realized that a lot my spiritual battles this year I fought alone. I didn’t let Travis know that I was struggling so much. And when I think about why, I see pride everywhere. With God, I can admit that I’m weak and pathetic. With Travis, I can’t. I think this emotional withholding from Travis has bigger implications and effects than I can even recognize right now. So I want to grow in being vulnerable and humble with Travis.

And finally, blog-wise, I think I am going to change my blog title again. When I changed it from Learning and Loving It to Joy in Being Broken, I was in the midst of my struggle with hating myself because I was so focused on my sins and failures. I thought that God was teaching me to find joy in Him even despite hating myself. As I’ve grown and understood more truth this year, I believe that we don’t find joy in being broken – we find joy in God healing us. We are broken as sinners – we are healed as God’s beloved children. We find joy as we see the cross conquer our sinful natures, as we find freedom from the things that bind us, as we anticipate heaven and perfection.

I haven’t yet decided what my new blog title will be. I’ve thought about something like “More Than Ordinary” to reflect my desire to live a life that rises above the status quo to glorify God. I’ve also thought about something incorporating the idea of being healed through the cross or discovering truth. I’m totally open to suggestions!

All that to say, I’m excited for a new year! Happy New Year to all of you!

reminiscing

Our Colorado Christmas

27 Dec

I love Christmas and I’m kind of sad it’s over. To me, it means family, friends, cozy feelings, sparkling lights, and delicious food. I especially enjoy decorating our house for Christmas. Here are the decorations I put out this year:

In the kitchen

Closeup of the ornaments - can you tell that I love green and blue?

Closeup of the snowflake tree - I bought these at Target. Love them!

I don’t care about the presents (though I did get awesome presents this year!). And even though this Christmas was different than all the others of my life, in that I did not celebrate Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with any family except for my wonderful husband, it was still a great time.

On Christmas Eve, we slept in and then went to see True Grit at the 10:55 am showing (it’s a goode movie, btw). Then we made chicken wild rice soup and watergate salad for our special dinner that night. We opened our stockings, attempted to do a really difficult crossword, went on a walk, and watched a cheesy Lifetime Christmas movie. Around 5:00 pm, we had our Christmas Eve dinner, just the 2 of us. We had chicken wild rice soup, crescent rolls, green beans, watergate salad, and pumpkin pie. Then we went to the Christmas Eve service at our church and we’ll probably come home and watch another cheesy Lifetime Christmas movie.

On Christmas Day, we also slept in (gotta love that!). And by slept in, I mean we got up around 9:30. We made monkey bread for breakfast (it’s like sticky cinnamon bread) and then opened presents. I got a gorgeous, sparkly scarf and Target gift card from Travis’ sister, a new wallet and necklace (that I love!) from Travis’ parents, and then we received Starbuck’s coffee and Scattergories game as joint gifts. Travis got new work gloves, a fly-fishing vest, a gift certificate to Gander Mountain, and a fish knot booklet. After gifts, we watched yet another cheesy Lifetime Christmas movie, made sugar cookies, went on a walk, and then went to our friends Ahren and Lauren’s house for Christmas dinner. It was Ahren’s family, Lauren and us. It was very nice for them to let us be a part of their family Christmas. We even played 12 rounds of Scattergories!

Then yesterday, I made myself be a bum. I am learning that my constant activity comes from a lack of trust in the Lord. I feel like I constantly have to be productive because bad things will happen if I’m not on top of things. So I fought the urge to be productive and I was completely unproductive. Ok, I did do the laundry, take Katy on a walk and work out. But I mostly read and watched movies all day. And I reminded myself – I am not lazy. I am choosing to rest today. And it was great.

Hope you all enjoyed your Christmases! On to the New Year! 😉

Last Day!

23 Dec

Today is my last day at Your Cause Sports. While I am really looking forward to being done with this trying season of life (hopefully God doesn’t have another one immediately in store!), I am not as excited about leaving as I would have been a month ago.

Don’t get me wrong – I still whole-heartedly believe that this job is wrong for me in every way. This isn’t just me being a big baby; the nature of the job is counter to my personality and manner of working. So I am very grateful that God has closed the door, signaling me to move on. But I’m not as frustrated and angry as I had been. There’s less of a “Haha, I’m leaving. Take that!” attitude and more of a “I’m still ready to move on but I really hope things work out next year with YCS.” attitude.

I am glad that God led Travis and I to make the decision for me to be done today – I just found out from the church on Tuesday that they still haven’t made a decision about the position but they have hired me as contract labor to get the timely stuff done in the office before Sunday, January 2nd. If I were still working for YCS next week, I wouldn’t be able to work part-time in the church office so I can see God’s amazing coordination of all these working parts. I’m still not sure what things will look like after I get back from Mexico but I’m willing to play that by ear.

I praise the Lord that He is allowing me to see His grace through these situations. A month ago, if I had planned on taking next week off to “get stuff done” and then was asked to work part-time, I would have taken the job but been frustrated because my plans had been thwarted. But all I really want to happen next week is that I get some time to relax and recharge. This year has been nutso and while I feel mostly recovered, I haven’t had much downtime. So I’m really looking forward to that – and trusting God that even if that doesn’t happen how I imagine it, His grace will be sufficient.

While there are a lot of other things on my to-do list that I would like to get done, I won’t be upset if they don’t happen. Most, if not all, of them are projects that I can do on a weekend and since I won’t be traveling every weekend this spring/summer/fall, I’ll actually have that luxury!

I also see God’s grace in my patience/trust about the unknown job situation. I can honestly say that I’m not fretting, anxious, worried, impatient, scared, etc. about not knowing what will happen. In fact, I am kind of excited. I think that God has something great in store for me. And starting a new stage of life is always new (by definition) and exciting. What I’m really looking forward to is the possibility of having some time to write.

Well, I better get off to my last day of work! Woohoo!

 

Unfettered Joy

21 Dec

I just took my dog Katy for a walk and as I felt the sun on my face and the cool breeze on my face, I also felt something I haven’t felt in a quite a while: unfettered joy.

As I walked along the familiar streets, watching Katy’s ears cutely bounce up and down as they do, I had complete joy. As I type these words, I still have complete joy. It’s amazing!

And I know it’s from God. I’ve been reading Walking With God by John Eldredge and it has really changed the way I think about my relationship with God. There are a lot of things I could mention but I’ll just focus on one: spending time listening to God in my quiet times. When I first became a Christian, I soaked up everything I could about the Bible. I spent hours reading and studying it. I prayed little. Over the past year, I have started praying a lot more. I pray out loud most of the time – a lot of times, I do it in the car instead of listening to the radio. I still do both of those but now I’m learning to listen. To not just tell God my side of the story but to hear Him speak directly to me. (If you want to know more, read the book.)

But this morning, as I was writing about the things the book had brought to my attention about myself, I felt myself getting anxious about spending so much time with God because I had planned on starting work at 8:00 and it was now past that time. One of the thoughts Eldredge writes in his book is looking at the fruit of a thought or action in your life – you can determine where it came from (God or Satan) by looking at what the outcome is in your life. Well, the outcome of whatever I was worrying about was anxiety – definitely from Satan. So I asked God, “Why am I always anxious when I’m spending time with you in the morning?”

This what I discovered:

“Even though I have been praying more often and being mindful of God throughout the day, I have been asking God’s blessing and strength on all the things that I have undertaken. I view my life as my responsibility – I need to make it count. I view each day that way and am stressed out as a result. I need to trust God that He will get done in my life (and every day) what He wants to get done. He is the One sanctifying me. I just need to follow His lead, cooperate with what He is doing. I had made an agreement that God wouldn’t help me so I had to do it myself. I wanted so much to be holy but felt like I continued to fail, so instead of waiting on God to help me, I forged ahead and tried to make myself holy. But here’s the great part: It’s not up to me!”

This was the little dark cloud hanging over my head that wouldn’t let me have complete joy. I still thought everything was up to me. I felt responsible for everything in my life. For making it all work. For making it count. For becoming Christ-like. But now I see that I can relax and just follow Christ’s lead. He knows what I need, better than I do. He will guide me into the areas of my life that I need to work on. I just need to rest in His finished work and in His promise that He will sanctify me.

As I am experiencing this joy, I am very thankful – thankful that God has shown me He cares about my joy, cares about my understanding of what Jesus has done for me. In this process of sanctification, He isn’t helping me – I am helping Him. He is the One doing all the work – I’m just cooperating. God is awesome.

Understanding joy

20 Dec

Yesterday in church, it dawned on me that I have been viewing my sins, failures, weaknesses and such as bigger than the Cross. I have been prevented from being joyful because while the gospel indeed is incredible, my sins and failures are still there. And in an effort to maintain mindfulness of my sinfulness, I have been living in light of my pathetic-ness, rather than in the light of the gospel of Christ’s sufficiency.

I had an idea of an illustration for this. I actually drew it and if our printer/scanner was working, I would totally scan it and insert it into this post but alas, I’ll just have to describe it. The first picture is entitled “My perception of my sin” and it’s a giant boulder and peeking around the top and sides, you can vaguely see a cross in the background. The second picture is entitled “Reality of my sin in the gospel” and it’s a giant cross, with a tiny little pebble in front of it. The gospel – Christ’s atoning death and resurrection motivated by love for me – is so much bigger than my sin, shortcomings, and failed attempts at being who God says I am.

When I stop looking at myself, I can see the lie of “You have nothing to be joyful about” for what it is. No, in my sinfulness and failures, I don’t have much to be joyful about. But when I turn and look at Jesus, I see that I have everything in the world to be joyful about. Christ is so much bigger than me! Christ’s sufficiency is enough for all of my lack. I don’t have to go through life bemoaning how much I suck. I can focus on my victorious life in Christ. The hard, tough, icky stuff doesn’t go away overnight but I can view myself as a conqueror of my old nature in Christ.

That’s something else I realized – I have been thinking that sanctification is something I need to do. I need to sanctify myself. That’s part of being a Christian, right – crucifying the old self and its fleshly desires? But 1 Thessalonians 5 says that God is the One who sanctifies us – “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I have been taking the responsibility of my holiness upon myself. What a task!! No wonder I have felt overwhelmed and completely incapable!! How can one who is unholy make oneself holy? Answer: They can’t. Only Another Who is holy can make me holy.

I still feel slightly confused but I am thrilled that God has shown me that I can be completely, utterly, 110% joyful in Christ, not because I’ve achieved anything or reached my goal, but because of what Christ has done for me. The gospel is the reason for our joy. And even our sin and failures should not take that away from us.

Who am I?

16 Dec

For the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about who I am. The job I’ve had with this race company has revealed to me that things I thought I knew about myself weren’t correct.

For instance, I thought I liked constant change because the jobs I have enjoyed most have been different every day. But this job made me realize that I only like constant change within structure – like different tasks within a 9 to 5 job. I also thought that I liked independence in my work. And I do to a certain extent but I mostly enjoy being assigned specific tasks to complete on a daily basis. I like administrative tasks. I like things that require being detail-oriented. I even enjoy tedious tasks. I did not know this.

These realizations are interesting to me because I thought I knew myself. These discoveries surprised me, which surprises me even more. It’s a weird thing, not knowing yourself. Definitely a result of the fall. While I find reassurance in the knowledge that at least God knows me, I also want to know myself.

As a Christian, I feel like this task is 1,000 times harder than it would be as an unbeliever. I am constantly wondering “Is this thing that I’m doing who I am or is it sinful?” I am at times a morbidly introspective person. I analyze everything. I can’t turn my brain off. So I feel like I have all these ideas and thoughts swirling around in my head and I can’t figure out what is truth and what is a lie, what is me and what is culture or what I think I should be.

I thought that maybe a personality test would help me figure out who I am, since my own mind is of no help. After reading my friend B’s post about personality tests, I took the Basic Personality Test. But during the test, I found myself stumped on several questions – I didn’t know the answer. They say that your first gut reaction is the right one but I didn’t have a gut reaction to either answer. “You tell me,” I wanted to say. I don’t even know myself well enough to take a personality test!

I’ve heard it said that it’s not about who you are, it’s about Whose you are. I’m not sure I entirely agree. Yes, it is a good thing to remind ourselves that God loves us, it’s His opinion that matters, and that we don’t need to be famous or important in the world’s eyes to be precious to God. But if we are supposed to become who we truly are in Christ, if we are supposed to become what we already are, it would help to know what that “what” and “who” are, specifically for us as individuals. I mean, isn’t that the point of personality tests? They’re to help you to discover what your strengths are, for the purpose of cultivating and exercising them.

I’ve always been an analytical person (or I least I think I have…), trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of things. But it feels like my brain has been on overdrive for the past 6 months. I can’t stop thinking. I can’t accept anything without understanding it first, and since there are so many thoughts in my head, I can’t think about one thing long enough to thoroughly understand it, so I can only understand things partially and therefore only accept things partially. I am left with questions and theories half-answered and half-proven, the other half a question mark hanging in the air. Just this week, after volunteering at the church, I drove home joyful from doing something I enjoyed. But I was only 99% joyful. I was fettered by something I couldn’t put my finger on. Even now, I can’t put my finger on it. There’s something unresolved. Something keeping me from being completely enjoying my reality in any certain moment or place. Something hindering the completeness of my joy.

Even my interpretation of this situation conjures up various thoughts in my head. Maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be, since we won’t have full knowledge until heaven. But the way this is makes it hard for me to have joy. Plus, I’m exhausted from thinking, analyzing, trying to figure things out. I just want to accept something and move on, for once! Maybe I’m the perpetrator of this condition – I’m the one reading books, searching for answers. I’m the one entertaining and pursuing all of these different ideas at once. I’m the one continuing the attempt to quell the voice inside of me crying out for answers. I’m the one still listening, still hoping, still yearning for truth.

I have no answers. And if your gut reaction is to say that all the answers are in the Bible, I’ll say to you that it’s not that easy. Believe me, if it were that easy, all my questions would be satisfied. Yes, the answers are in the Bible. But they’re not obvious. And the mystery of the Christian life, added to all of the lies I’ve believed, our culture’s influence, and my own habit of spiraled thinking, makes it near impossible to sort out all of the thoughts in my head.

My only hope in all of this is that God has the answers. He knows what I’m struggling through, will give me insight and clarity when I need it, and is the One who is causing me to wrestle through all of these thoughts, issues, doubts, fears, and ideas – and that for a reason. He is doing something in me. Even when it feels like I’ll never sort it all out, that I’ll never truly understand, I can rest in knowing that God knows me, God is for me, and God will lead me into truth, whenever He wills. What would I do without God?!?!?

Imperfect is good enough.

9 Dec

Like many women, I struggle with an all-or-nothing mentality. Especially around this time of year when I feel like there is so much to do and so little time! Add to that a job I hate and a beach vacation the first week of January (who’s in bikini shape right after Christmas!?!?) and you’ve got a recipe for stress and many woe-is-me days.

I’ve been slightly on an emotional edge the past few days… ok, the past week… ok, the past month… ok, really since I knew I wanted to quit my job but couldn’t (which has been since the end of October). And I disliked my job long before that. Maybe I’m being a big baby, maybe I’m concentrating too much on the negatives, maybe I just need to buck up and stop complaining. I’m pretty sure all of those things are true. But the reality of the situation has not gone away – I have a really hard time being happy when I have a job I hate. And when I say hate, I mean that the very thought of doing any kind of work even remotely related to my job makes me cringe inside. I mean that I clock 3-4 hours a day by sheer grit and willpower, not because there’s even an inkling of enjoyment in it for me. I mean that I can be happy about something, smiling and skipping down the street, then I remember my job and dark rain clouds roll over my joy.

Anyway, take that whole situation and add in trying to care about my job just even a little, trusting God with getting a new job, making dinner for friends, wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards, mailing presents, decorating the house, being a hostess for a Christmas tea at church, getting in biking shape and all the other things I think I “should” be doing (like reading more, baking Christmas cookies, chitchatting with our neighbors, posting stuff to sell on ebay, and the other 25 things on my to-do list). Just a tad bit overwhelming.

I’m not writing all this to show how much more I do than anyone else. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most women out there are busier than I am. But I think we all have this tendency to think that we have to do it all perfectly, or we might as well do none of it. At least that’s my temptation. If I allow myself to get so overwhelmed that I can see there’s even the possibility of failure, I want to collapse in a heap on the floor and weep. “Why is life so hard?” I ask myself.

Well, because I’m making it that way. Instead of making these unrealistic standards, like I have to have Christmas decorations that look like they’re straight from Martha Stewart, or I need to healthy all day long and I’m never going to eat chocolate again, or I need to read a book a week, or I can never watch TV because that is wasting time that could be spent doing some productive, I need to remind myself that imperfection is good enough.

Instead of looking at the entire mountain of things to do and feeling completely paralyzed or depressed, I need to just take one thing, one manageable thing that I can do right then and do it. It may be as small as putting away a book. It could be doing the dishes, or accomplishing one step of Christmas cards, or reading just a couple verses from the Bible. And I’ve found that once I’ve gotten over the initial panic of “I can’t do all this!”, I get into the groove and accomplish more than I expected.

I also need to let go of this idea that everything has to be perfect. My Christmas decorations can have a quirky doesn’t-quite-go-together kind of feel. I can do the exercises at the gym that I know how to do instead of following the newest “Bikini Body in 28 Days!” routine that involves twisting, pulling, jumping, and screaming (that might just be my version). I can read a few pages of a book before falling asleep at night. I can let the dishes pile up in the sink and do them tomorrow.

At the core of all of this is a belief that God is the one who has everything under control. He is the one who makes it all happen, not me. It is also believing that these things I have decided that I “have to do” don’t add or subtract anything to His love for me. He loves me the most He ever will right now, because He loves me with the same love with which He loves His Son, Jesus. Did you know that it actually says that in the Bible? John 17:23 says …”that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” That’s amazing.

It is Christ’s perfection that frees us to be imperfect, to be human, to not have it all together. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to do our best. It means we don’t get discouraged by failure or depressed by overwhelming odds. We should walk through this victorious, knowing that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” How I need so desperately to believe that truth in this season of my life! It is so easy to let these slight and momentary afflictions take my eyes off God and His sovereign goodness. But I mustn’t. I must keep looking to Him, trusting in Him, resting in Him. “I lift my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, of the things you feel weighing you down with their urgency and importance, look to Christ and his perfection. Be content with your own unique human imperfection, remembering that “our sufficiency is from God.”