Tag Archives: accomplishment

Living in the moment, trusting, thanking.

21 Feb

As I started my “day off” yesterday with reading the Bible, I kept thinking of things that I wanted to accomplish. Clean the house, run 3 miles, have lunch with Travis, work on my book, write a blog post, get my bike set up, go through old books, spend time relaxing with a book, catch up on DVR-ed TV episodes, get files off old computer… With each new thought surged the threat of being overwhelmed. There are too many things to get done! But I wanted this day to be relaxing! 

My ability to turn a day off into a stressful situation really is a remarkable talent.

I was able to stifle those thoughts, though, because of something God has been teaching me over the past couple of months. You see, I used to live my whole life like that. I was paralyzed by all the things I wanted to accomplish, and overwhelmed by the things I hadn’t even started. Just like with running, negative thoughts were my companion then too.

I’m too tired to accomplish all of this.

If I do this, I won’t have time to do what I really want to do.

Why am I always the one who has to do this? 

I don’t have enough time to get everything done.

I can’t do what I really want because that’s wasting precious time.

But God has kindly called me back to the present, time and time again, saying, Don’t look at the whole week, the whole day or even the whole hour. Live in the moment and do what is right before you now.

So yesterday, I continued on with my Bible reading, then worked on my book for 45 minutes, went on my run, did strength training, had lunch with Travis, made 3 runs to my local bike shop, and then relaxed. I watched Desperate Housewives, blogged and caught up on quite a few posts in my Google Reader. Did I accomplish everything I had thought about at the beginning of the day? No. But I went through the day peaceful –  because I was trusting God, instead of my own agenda.

Doesn’t this sound very similar to the idea behind running long distances? Don’t focus on the whole distance at once, or how many miles you have left to go. Focus on the present moment. Put one foot in front of the other. Trust your training.

As I was driving to work this morning with a feeling of dread, I was telling God about why I wasn’t excited to go to work, and it dawned on me that my feeling of dread comes from a fear that I’m insufficient. That I’ll be given a task that I can’t handle. I’ve joked about most of my jobs, “A monkey could do it.” But this job? And the job that I had in 2010 that made me so stressed? Definitely not monkey jobs. My job is challenging. And that’s why I don’t like it.

Not that I don’t appreciate a good challenge (hey, I’m training for a full marathon, right?), but I’m terrified of failure. Again, negative thoughts abound.

I won’t have the energy to focus when I need to.

I don’t know how to make the project go better.

I won’t write what they’re looking for.

I don’t have the know-how to be a marketing professional.

When I realized that, and started connecting the dots between the negative thoughts I have while running, relaxing, working, and just being, I was in awe. How did I not know that negative, self-defeating thoughts were so much a part of my life? They’re everywhere!

This is something that still stuns me: I’m a pessimist. All my life, I had been confused by the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” (What kind of question is that anyway?) I just assumed I was an optimist because that was the good thing to be. Everyone likes an optimist. Pessimists are annoying. But that’s me.

{see the irony?}

But God has been doing a work in my heart for the past couple of months, ever since I started reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. On Christmas morning, I stood in our church sanctuary, my soul drowning in ingratitude, only focused on how much I wished my life were different. I started reading Ann’s book after that service. In the second chapter, she laid my heart bare: “Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall — humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives.”

After reading that, I saw ingratitude everywhere in my life. In fact, every single one of my struggles could be traced back to being ungrateful. When my schedule was busy, I focused on the one thing I didn’t have: rest. When I was reading blogs, I focused on my lack of readers and popularity. When I was running, I focused on my lack of speed. When I was hiking, I focused on my lack of breath. When I got Christmas gifts, I only focused on what I didn’t get. Instead of being thankful for a free schedule, I focused on not having a baby. I focused on not being busy when I was and on being busy when I wasn’t. I was never satisfied.

And I see all the threads of these struggles intertwining – my perfectionist tendencies, how easily I get overwhelmed, my negative thought patterns, my constant dissatisfaction, my judgment of myself and others, my fear of the future, my confusion about life. All these struggles are just different facets of one struggle: trusting God.

When I worry that I won’t be enough or that I’ll fail, I’m not trusting God to provide grace to me in my moment of need.

When I analyze my life and worry that I’m not living up to God’s expectations for me, I’m not trusting that He’s the One ordaining my circumstances. My days are in His book.

When I whine about my slow running pace or curvy body shape, I’m not trusting God’s loving providence of making me slow and curvy.

When I get overwhelmed by my to-do list and all the things I think I *should* be doing, I’m not trusting that God is intimately involved in my life, and working everything together for my good.

As I learned while reading Ann’s book, being thankful in all circumstances requires us to trust God – to open our hands to “all that God freely gives.” We don’t get to judge what we get, and determine whether or not it’s what we wanted or would have chosen. Instead, we get down on humble knees and receive everything that our loving, wise, faithful, good Lord ordains to give us. And then we trust that He will sustain us and give us strength to be faithful in everything He has allowed.

I have seen over the past 2 months that this actually works. Being thankful in all circumstances – actually being intentionally, mindfully thankful for specific things – produces joy, gratitude and contentment. I’m serious. Try it.

So today, I’m grateful that I have a job writing, and that God has promised to bless me in all that I do.

I rejoice that I have two legs that can run, and without pain! Who cares about speed?

I praise God for guiding me through each day, and for guiding my life as a whole, and for giving me these verses to savor:

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

“My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.” (Psalm 59:10)
 What are you thankful for today?

Disillusioned by productivity

21 Jun

I have loved these past 2 weeks. I have had some relaxation time but I’ve also been very productive. And strangely, it is the productive part that makes me feel the best. I have gotten back into the habit of cooking actual dinners, which has been good. I even made banana bread one day! I cleaned the whole house, including the refrigerator and microwave. Travis and I (finally!) cleaned out the drain to my bathroom sink (it has been clogged since we moved in!!!) so my sink stays clean now – before, it had soap buildup again the first time you used it after cleaning it. I went grocery shopping, fixed a couple of necklaces that had been broken for about 6 months, gave Katy a bath, watered the lawn, got my hair cut, read a whole book and started another, went on a 9 and a 1o mile run, redid my nails, bought new bras and running clothes, and did laundry 3 times.

I love being productive!

I wish I could add “spent time with the Lord every morning” to that list – I’m getting there. I need to remind myself that productivity, in the end, amounts to nothing. I mean, let’s be honest. In just a few days, there will be dirty dishes and a pile of laundry to be washed. In a week, the house will need cleaning again and the refrigerator will be pathetically empty. In a month, my nails will be chipped and in 2 months, my hair will start getting split ends. All of these things are temporary. The feeling of accomplishment they bring is short and fleeting.

Productivity isn’t a bad thing – but for me, it can be dangerous. The feeling of being productive, of going to bed with the great feeling I get from crossing off most things on my to-do list, allows me to forget – just for a little bit – how helpless, incapable, and needy I really am. I feel good about myself when I’m productive. I don’t feel sinful, weak, and pitiful.

I don’t think that is God’s goal for me – to feel good about myself (for then why would I think I have a need for a Savior?). But I also don’t think His goal is for me to feel weak and pitiful. Rather, I like what Oswald Chambers said in today’s devotional:

“The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our ‘hanging on by the skin of our teeth,’ although we say, ‘What a wonderful victory I have!’ Yet there is nothing in all of that which indicates the miracle of redemption… You are perfect only in Christ, not on the basis of this argument: ‘Oh Lord, I have done my best…’

“How long is it going to take God to free us from this unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus.”

Like Tim Keller said in his sermon Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. I am so guilty of being self-centered. SO guilty. Guilty to the nth degree. As Chambers puts it, I cannot reach and understand the depths of my own meagerness. I cannot comprehend how little I bring to the table. I can’t get my mind around how insufficient I am even on the days when it feels like I accomplished the world. But there are still those days when I constantly dwell on my meagerness, as if that were the way to make me less meager.

Productivity has the power to distract me from the fact that Christ is sufficient so I don’t have to be. And I can be content in knowing I am not. Paul was content with his weaknesses – “…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Nevertheless, I cling to productivity like a safety blanket. My sinful flesh will use anything it can to escape the reminder of my own insufficiency. I don’t want to be dependent – I want to have it all together. The issue with being insufficient is not that I am not living up to God’s expectations of me – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). It is that I don’t live up to my own expectations of me. I’m not all that I would imagine myself to be. Productivity gives me the illusion of being that person – but who am I after the dust settles (quite literally), the clothes are stained and the dog is dirty? Who am I then? I am lost.

A good friend sent me this quote when I was feeling quite down on myself and I return to it often, as a reminder of God’s love for me: “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worse about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

It is a tough thing – to be okay with not being everything you’d like to be. To accept being disappointed by yourself often. To be disillusioned, as the quote put it, about your own behavior and character and still think there might be hope for you.

Yes, everyday is a new day, full of new opportunities to make right what you made wrong the previous day. But I’m sure that I am not done disillusioning myself, not done with failing to live up to my own expectations. Which is why I’m glad God will continue to disillusion me with my illusions, reminding me that it’s a good thing to be a sinner, poor and needy, saved by grace alone.

It means I can rest.