Tag Archives: reality

Worth Repeating {8/19/14}

19 Aug

worth_repeating

One of the most influential books in my life has been Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. It was while reading her book that my eyes were opened to the immense ingratitude in my own life, and I started to learn that true joy comes through accepting.

It is a daily lesson, as my first reaction to situations or circumstances that I don’t like is to reject them. And as I sit with those emotions of anger and frustration — knowing that if I just accepted what God was allowing, I would find joy — I am reminded of these apt words from One Thousand Gifts:

“In this wilderness, I keep circling back to this: I’m blind to joy’s well every time I really don’t want it. The well is always there. And I choose not to see it. Don’t I really want joy? Don’t I really want the fullest life? For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy–is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark? Prefer drama? Why do I lunge for control instead of joy? Is it somehow more perversely satisfying to flex control’s muscle? Ah–power–like Satan. Do I think Jesus-grace too impotent to give me the full life? Isn’t that the only reason I don’t always swill the joy? If the startling truth is that I don’t really want joy, there’s a far worse truth. If I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment–am I not ultimately rejecting God? Whenever I am blind to joy’s well, isn’t it because I don’t believe in God’s care? That God cares enough about me to always offer joy’s water, wherever I am, regardless of circumstance…

The well is always here. God is always here–precisely because He does care.

Worth Repeating {8/12/14}

11 Aug

This is a weekly series where I share quotes, sayings and verses that I enjoyed and found to be worth repeating.worth_repeating

Travis was looking for a book to read on his work trip yesterday and I came across a book I never finished but had enjoyed immensely called “He Leadeth Me” by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. Walter was captured by the Russians during World War II and held prisoner as a “Vatican spy” for 23 years. Here is one thing he learned:

“The simple soul who each day makes a morning offering of ‘all the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day’–and who then acts upon it by accepting unquestioningly and responding lovingly to all the situations of the day as truly sent by God–has perceived with an almost childlike faith the profound truth about the will of God. To predict what God’s will is going to be, to rationalize about what his will must be, is at once a work of human folly and yet the subtlest of all temptations. The plain and simple truth is that his will is what he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people, and problems. The trick is to learn to see that–not just in theory, or not just occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God’s grace, but every day.  …

The temptation is to overlook these things, precisely because they are so constant, so petty, so humdrum and routine, and to seek to discover instead some other and nobler ‘will of God’ in the abstract that better fits our notion of what his will should be.  …

…To labor day in and day out to make [this] the sole principle by which our every action is guided and toward which we aim, is to come to know at last true joy and peace of heart, secure in the knowledge we are attempting always and in everything to do God’s will…” (39-40).

{Repost} Breathe in freedom.

28 Sep

So our Minnesota trip was a little rough. It was great seeing my parents but Emma had a hard time napping and sleeping at night – I think it must’ve been that she was in a new place, and she has a little bit of a stuffy nose. I’ll admit that I was VERY angry that Emma needed to be bounced and rocked, and sometimes held, or she refused to sleep. I was there to help my parents and she was making that next to impossible.

That situation, combined with the rest of everything going on and my general feeling of ‘meh’ and stress, has sent me back to blog posts from last year, to remind myself of the Truth I was learning then, and am still learning – or needing to relearn – now. That’s where this post comes in. It’s just as true now as it was when I wrote on June 1, 2012. Enjoy.

………………………………………………

When your body is challenged in yoga and weight lifting, the natural response is to hold your breath. We need to be reminded to breathe with the movements. Inhale, lift. Exhale, lower. Inhale vitality. Exhale tension. It may not seem like it at the time but breathing actually makes the postures and exercises easier because it gives you something else to concentrate on than just the muscle fatigue and supplies your muscles with oxygen.

I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days because I realized that this applies to life too. This week, I have felt tired and lazy. And I found myself emotionally gritting my teeth to “just get through” the week – essentially, holding my breath to survive.

But is that really what God wants for me? Are I really reduced to just gritting my teeth to get through life?

The trouble is that I associate the fullest life with being on top of things, things going my way, falling into place, being easy.

The fullest life is still available even when life isn’t that way (which is often). Even on the days, weeks, or months when things are hard, I’m tired and feel overwhelmed, and everything feels like a burden. Instead of holding my breath to survive, I can breathe through life’s challenges with God. 

Just like holding my breath doing a Half Moon, it seems easier and less painful to not think too much and just go through the motions. To not care. To resign myself to life being crap for the next few days.

In reality, I’m making the situation worse. And when I actually think about what I’m doing, it seems ludicrous. Why do I think that hard situations are easier to handle without God?

It’s because I think He’ll make me (wo)man up and deal with the situation. And the last thing I want to do is deal with the situation. I want to escape, withdraw, ignore.

What I forget, though, is that living in dependence on God is where I find joy always. Not just when I feel up to it, or when life is going well, or when I’m naturally happy. Always.

I also forget that living in dependence on God doesn’t require me to feel me up to it, or life to be going well, or me to be naturally happy. In fact, living in dependence on God comes most easily when I am starkly aware of my weaknesses and insufficiency. When I feel too small for something too big. When I’m struggling with the same thing yet again. When I’m having trouble even mustering up the energy to not give up.

I find freedom in acknowledging reality. Instead of shutting down and going through life on autopilot, I can admit that the situations I’m facing are affecting me and that it’s not all coming up roses. Jesus promised us peace in the midst of difficulty – not peaceful circumstances.

I stop trying to change reality. Once I acknowledge the tough circumstance, I stay there. I don’t try to change, fix, or manipulate it. That’s God’s job. My job is trust. This is the challenge I come back to time and time again. Asking me to live with God in the midst of my weaknesses and insufficiency is like asking a dog to walk on its hind legs. It’s not impossible but it takes a lot of work to actually stay there because it’s not my natural inclination.

I focus on the moment and give thanks. In yoga, you breathe with the movements to get your mind focused on the here and now. Stop thinking about all the things you’re going to do later in the day, all the bills and laundry and dishes piling up at home. Live in the now. Jesus told us this too: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I especially like The Message’s paraphrase:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

And the best way to live in the moment (I’m discovering) is to give thanks, for everything. Specifically. Audibly. Remember God’s blessings. Remember His faithfulness. Remember His grace.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a quote or two from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts:

“Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow.”

“Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.”

Goal for 2013: Thanksgiving

17 Jan

gratitudeI’ve been thinking about the year ahead and what I want to focus on, and I keep coming back to Thanksgiving. Since reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp a year ago, I have seen what an amazing difference being thankful for God’s blessings makes in my experience of joy.

It keeps me focused on What Is, instead of What Should Be.

It reminds me that because of God’s intimate involvement in my life, my cup can always be full.

It satisfies me with God’s goodness (Jeremiah 31:14).

It enables me to love and serve others from a place of abundance and contentment, giving new meaning to ‘natural overflow.’

It highlights the grace that God provides even in hard situations and challenges.

It turns to me the ultimate thing to be thankful for, the reason why I have God’s favor and not His wrath – Christ’s death in my place and resurrection to eternal life.

Despite of all these benefits, it’s hard to remember to give thanks. Left to my own devices, I always run back to being consumed with The Way Things Should Be, which is really just me saying that The Ways Things Are isn’t good enough. Whether those ideas of ‘should’ are born from discontent with all that God freely gives, or an attempt to make my life conform more to the Christian ideal, they all lead to the same place: Guilt. Condemnation. Bondage.

Giving thanks for the reality of life is the freedom from that.

In giving thanks, I recognize God’s sovereignty in my life. I rest in the knowledge that He has created me to be who I am, given me the life that I have and provides sufficient grace for all that He calls me to. Who am I to say that things should be different?

Really, thanksgiving paves the path to contentment in God, and enables the full living of life in the moment, no matter what that reality entails.

So to practice thanksgiving regularly in 2013, I’m taking Ann Voskamp’s idea of writing down 1,000 gifts and tweaking it a bit.

My one goal is to write down one thing each day that I thank God for.

I plan to write it down at the end of the day or first thing the next morning, when I can reflect back on the day and be reminded of the ways God blessed me.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Surrender + Reality

7 Nov

I’ve been reading “When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box” by John Ortberg and I really liked this:

Surrender is not passivity or abdication. It is saying yes to God and life each day. It is accepting the gifts he has given me — my body, my mind, my biorhythms, my energy. It is letting go of my envy or desire for what he has given someone else. It is letting go of outcomes that in reality I cannot accept anyway. I surrender my ambitions, my dreams, my money, my relationships, my marital status, my time, and my desires to God.

Surrender means I accept reality…

Surrender means giving up ultimate mastery of my life…

“Only if one experiences that God is good is it possible to surrender to him unconditionally one’s whole heart, soul, and being.”

I’ve been thinking lately how the gospel enables us to fully acknowledge reality. Instead of trying to convince myself that I’m a good person by turning a blind eye to all the bad things I’ve done, I can face them head-on and accept that I’m not a good person on my own. I can acknowledge that I’m not everything I want to be — and rest there. I can be content in who I am and not strive to be someone I’m not. I can trust that God has ordained this moment, this day, this life for me — that I didn’t somehow miss the memo that He had planned for me to be a missionary in Zimbabwe instead of a marketing copywriter in Denver. When we truly believe that everything we have and are is from God, we can stop questioning, worrying and comparing.

Tim Keller has an amazing (free!) sermon (and now, a short book based on it) called Blessed Self-Forgetfulness. I found a CD of old sermons that I’ve been listening to in the car during my commute and that sermon was on it. Keller talks about how everyday, as humans with fragile egos, we’re in the courtroom. All of our actions are either stamping evidence for the prosecutor or the defense. The case being decided is: Am I a good person? Am I valuable? Am I important? Am I loved?

Because Christ went to trial for me, and was unjustly accused and put to death in my place, I can leave the courtroom. Court is adjourned. The verdict is in. And that verdict is:

Righteous.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

What does that mean? It means God finds no fault with me. That I am perfect, holy and eternally valuable in His eyes. It means the Father loves me with the same love He has for Jesus Himself.

Keller uses the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4 to make the point, it doesn’t matter what other people think about me. It doesn’t even matter what I think about me. Only God’s opinion matters. And He says I’m righteous in Christ.

That is why I can accept the full reality of my life. Because in Christ, the reality is I am holy and I am loved.

The things left undone

2 Nov

Ever since finding out I was pregnant back at the beginning of August, I’ve been learning one main lesson: how to find joy when life’s a mess. I had been learning this lesson before then too but there’s nothing like pregnancy exhaustion to take the wind out of your sails and fast (ok, well, maybe new mother exhaustion).

After years of being a morning person, I am back to setting and resetting my alarm clock to the latest possible time I can get up and still make it to work on time. And that’s even after getting 9 hours of sleep.

I feel accomplished on a weeknight if I do anything except walk in the door and plop on the couch. Making dinner, walking the dogs or doing laundry are big wins.

Though I would still describe myself as a person who loves to be active, you’d never guess it by what my weeks look like.

Many of the ambitious goals I set up for myself at the beginning of the year have been left in the wake of another goal’s fulfillment – getting pregnant. That would include working on my nonfiction book. (Another side effect of not being a morning person anymore.)

I don’t like the feeling of being behind. Of having so many things I would like to do but am not doing. Of spending so many days not being productive. God knows that I have used productivity like a safety blanket in the past. A way of reassuring myself that I am valuable, I’m doing something worthwhile, I’m in control.

So I’ve accepted this season as a very practical challenge from God to learn to let things go. (I know this lesson will come in handy when our baby is born as well.) No, I’m not accomplishing everything I’d like to. No, I’d rather not spend an entire weeknight on the couch doing nothing. But when I come home from work and have ZERO energy, or life is keeping me busy with just staying afloat, that’s the reality. And I can still find contentment and joy amid all the things left undone.

I recognize that there is a balance between legitimate rest and laziness, and it’s tough to maintain. Most mornings I reset my alarm out of laziness, and then regret it later. But instead of letting that shortcoming inspire a feeling of failure in me for the whole day or week (like I used to), I pray. I tell God that I didn’t do what I wanted to do and ask for His help to change. I want to get up early to read the Bible and work on my book. I want to exercise after work instead of watching TV. But I also want to give myself grace, like God gives grace. He doesn’t berate me when I fail. He just offers another chance.

I wrote this about a year ago and it is still 100% the reminder I need:

God is more realistic about my abilities than I am. Like QuatroMama writes in this post, I tend to set up my own (perfectionist) standards and then beat myself up when I fall short.

But God is realistic. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”He doesn’t ask me to be Mega Woman. He understands that I only have so many minutes in a day and if I spend time doing this thing, I don’t have time for that thing. If I’m exhausted and want to veg instead of clean, He doesn’t accuse me of laziness and not being productive, like I do to myself. Unlike me, He is full of grace, understanding, and patience.

This is where the Gospel makes all the difference. The Gospel allows us to admit that we fall short of what we wish we were, but reassures us that we’re loved anyway. And God’s love for us isn’t despite how we’ve disappointed Him, or failed to live up to His standard. Because when He sees us in Christ, He sees perfect beings. We are completely and utterly righteous in His eyes.“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”

He doesn’t mutter “I love you” through gritted teeth while trying to not be mad over all the things we’ve done wrong. God’s love abounds for us. He lavishly pours out grace upon grace into our lives with delight.

In the words of John Piper, remind yourself, “I am holy and I am loved.” Even when life is messy.

I may not be accomplishing everything I want to accomplish today, but that’s ok. I truly believe that God would rather I learn to live in the freedom of grace and knowing I’m loved by Him no matter what, than cross things off my to-do list. This world is temporary; only the eternal things truly matter.

How do you find joy amid the things left undone?

Breathe in freedom.

1 Jun

When your body is challenged in yoga and weight lifting, the natural response is to hold your breath. We need to be reminded to breathe with the movements. Inhale, lift. Exhale, lower. Inhale vitality. Exhale tension. It may not seem like it at the time but breathing actually makes the postures and exercises easier because it gives you something else to concentrate on than just the muscle fatigue and supplies your muscles with oxygen.

I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days because I realized that this applies to life too. This week, I have felt tired and lazy. And I found myself emotionally gritting my teeth to “just get through” the week – essentially, holding my breath to survive.

But is that really what God wants for me? Are I really reduced to just gritting my teeth to get through life?

The trouble is that I associate the fullest life with being on top of things, things going my way, falling into place, being easy.

The fullest life is still available even when life isn’t that way (which is often). Even on the days, weeks, or months when things are hard, I’m tired and feel overwhelmed, and everything feels like a burden. Instead of holding my breath to survive, I can breathe through life’s challenges with God. 

Just like holding my breath doing a Half Moon, it seems easier and less painful to not think too much and just go through the motions. To not care. To resign myself to life being crap for the next few days.

In reality, I’m making the situation worse. And when I actually think about what I’m doing, it seems ludicrous. Why do I think that hard situations are easier to handle without God?

It’s because I think He’ll make me (wo)man up and deal with the situation. And the last thing I want to do is deal with the situation. I want to escape, withdraw, ignore.

What I forget, though, is that living in dependence on God is where I find joy always. Not just when I feel up to it, or when life is going well, or when I’m naturally happy. Always.

I also forget that living in dependence on God doesn’t require me to feel me up to it, or life to be going well, or me to be naturally happy. In fact, living in dependence on God comes most easily when I am starkly aware of my weaknesses and insufficiency. When I feel too small for something too big. When I’m struggling with the same thing yet again. When I’m having trouble even mustering up the energy to not give up.

I find freedom in acknowledging reality. Instead of shutting down and going through life on autopilot, I can admit that the situations I’m facing are affecting me and that it’s not all coming up roses. Jesus promised us peace in the midst of difficulty – not peaceful circumstances.

I stop trying to change reality. Once I acknowledge the tough circumstance, I stay there. I don’t try to change, fix, or manipulate it. That’s God’s job. My job is trust. This is the challenge I come back to time and time again. Asking me to live with God in the midst of my weaknesses and insufficiency is like asking a dog to walk on its hind legs. It’s not impossible but it takes a lot of work to actually stay there because it’s not my natural inclination.

I focus on the moment and give thanks. In yoga, you breathe with the movements to get your mind focused on the here and now. Stop thinking about all the things you’re going to do later in the day, all the bills and laundry and dishes piling up at home. Live in the now. Jesus told us this too: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I especially like The Message’s paraphrase:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

And the best way to live in the moment (I’m discovering) is to give thanks, for everything. Specifically. Audibly. Remember God’s blessings. Remember His faithfulness. Remember His grace.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a quote or two from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts:

“Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow.”

“Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.”

…………………..

When I really think about it, the life Jesus bought for us on the cross is STUNNING.