So yes, last week I told you that while New Years resolutions are so good and so helpful, we don’t need a new year in order to make them. What if we sat down in the middle of September and asked ourselves, what needs some tweaking? But here we are, at the “beginning” of our year and so we do, out of habit mostly, ask ourselves what we could change or quit or improve.
I had a conversation with a friend before the holidays that sparked some inspiration for me in this area. We talked about framing our lives and needs and goals in the context of “more or less.” My students had a speaker this fall talk to them similarly about the idea of “adding and subtracting.” I’m practicing asking myself each morning, What do I need more/less of today?
This is good for several reasons. One, when we start goal setting we typically are just saying “more!!” We want to do more, see more, talk more, invest more, on and on and on. The only way we usually say “less” is if we want to quit something entirely, which, let’s be real, is rarely successful. Less cigarettes! Less alcohol! Less Netflix! And then we inevitably binge on any of these things.
Just as there is a no for every yes, there is a less for every more. You don’t want one without the other. It is similar to how we as Christians often approach Lent. We remove something, but we are supposed to fill that “gap” with a more dedicated seeking of relationship with Christ. If all we are concerned with is “less chocolate,” we are wasting our time.
I am in a season of transition. Fall, if you will. Leaves are detaching from the branches and I am feeling a little bare. So many things have changed in my life, some are really beautiful changes, and some are incredibly hard. We think fall is beautiful because the change is slow and dramatic, but then all of a sudden the first snowfall comes and all the leaves are on the ground and the trees are left exposed. Winter comes far too quickly. There is so much change. I don’t like it. Every year I write about how hard fall is, yet I never learn to be ready for it. In these seasons I am hungry for truth and guidance; I am almost desperate for it.
Through this I am learning that Scripture is exactly what we need and rarely what we want. Really. One morning I woke up with a craving for Scripture. I thought, “I’ll read this and it will tell me what I want to hear. It will confirm what I already know (that I am right and everyone else is wrong).” Guess what? It did not do that. It taught me that it should be my glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11) and that those who love purity of heart and gracious speech will have the King as their friend (Proverbs 22:11). Scripture told me that I don’t get to sulk in my anger, that I don’t get to gossip and try and make myself feel better. Scripture called me to a higher standard.
I woke up to what I thought was the sound of the boys who live above me; I started to wonder if maybe they had taken up skateboarding in their bedroom because of this whooshing sound that shook my walls. Turns out it was the wind, whistling and rattling the trees at a surprisingly disruptive volume level. I got out of bed, came and sat on my couch and as I spent some time journaling I also watched the wind pummeling the tree outside my window. I watched as the wind threatened to steal the leaves right off of the branches.
Meanwhile I was processing life as of late and making discoveries with Jesus. I have been reading Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (book recommendation of the week) and she talks about how different she and her husband are. And she says that they have learned to laugh about their differences. I started to think about my own relationships, and how often insecurity and comparison keeps us from just owning our strengths and weaknesses and laughing about our differences. I wrote about how if only we could be confident in who we are and aren’t, then we could deal with our differences and laugh at them and love each other without fear or comparison.
I have been a little overwhelmed with all the scattered, random thoughts in my head. I feel like I have been learning a lot, but can’t really organize it well. I’ve been trying to write something cohesive and it has not been happening. Maybe it is because I’m reading Bird by Bird and Anne Lamott is teaching me about writing SFD’s (“crappy” first drafts – you can infer the actual name). Combined with how my life circumstances have been recently, it just feels like nothing is totally coming together. I am learning how not okay I am with this. I am not okay with messy. I prefer neat and tidy and pretty-packaged everything. I am okay (most of the time) with other people being a mess, but my life? That’s not allowed. Ideally I would never embarrass myself, have it all together, and never be wrong. My home and heart would both be clean, constantly.
But then the Lord whispered to me one night as I tried to fall asleep: What if you started telling people the truth?
You were a rollercoaster! So much has happened and I am incredibly grateful for you. At the beginning I was not so sure; I told people it felt really old, maybe because it was more syllables than any age I’d been before (or will be, for another nine years). Or maybe it is that when you start inching closer to 30 something happens inside you. Like all of a sudden some of those life goals or hopes that you have kept stuffed in the back of your mind start pushing their way to the forefront, and things start to matter a little more than they used to. Each passing year makes me hold my days a little more tenderly, knowing there are (I know it is morbid) less and less left.
But the days were beautiful and full of surprises. When I rolled up to my 27th birthday party in that sassy romper and lipstick I had no idea that a year later I would be living in a different home, have a different job, and have traveled practically around the world.
You are capable of so much more than you know: Another life lesson learned in Uganda.
Throughout my entire life I have struggled with fear. I have always known fear, a close companion that turns out was actually a really crappy friend. But only in the past few years have I really become close friends with Courage. As we know, we cannot focus on the things we don’t want to become (i.e. if you spend your life saying “I don’t want to be like my mom,” you most likely will be just like your mom. It is all you have thought about or pictured.), so we choose courage instead.
Courage has become a constant for me; a discipline, a habit, an everyday teacher. While I was in Uganda, I started keeping a “courage list” because I was conquering so many things, both little and large, that scared me. This list included (but was not limited to):
Traveling to Africa (I’m kind of a nervous flyer…)
Riding a boda (a Ugandan motorcycle taxi type thing)
White water rafting the Nile
Preaching in a Ugandan prison
And each time, I survived. And was stronger and braver for it.
As I sat in the school office, I did a double take. Did that sign really say those words?
Rewinding back to around three months before we were supposed to leave for our trip to Uganda: we found out that the organization we had planned to work with was cancelling all their summer trips. It was scary and overwhelming and heartbreaking. Not just for our team, but for everyone involved with this organization. They put loads of time and energy into that decision, and we knew they had not made it lightly. We had no choice but to trust that God still had a plan for us.
We felt confident that the Lord had invited us to go to Uganda, and we knew that this change of plans was not a surprise to Him. I sat down one day to pray about the situation, and the only words that I could utter were these: You know exactly what You are doing.
It has been one of those weeks where I am learning a whole lot of little things. My best friend is always asking the question, “What are you learning?” so, here you go:
Celebration actually is a discipline. Last weekend some friends and I threw a party. It turned out incredibly fun, but the honest truth is that beforehand we were all pretty cranky. It was snowing, we had procrastinated preparation, and just all around were not feeling it. But then it was so fun! And I said to one of them, “This is why celebration is considered a discipline. It is actually work – but it is worth it.” We have to celebrate. Even when life is hard and it doesn’t feel like there is anything to celebrate – there is. There is always something to celebrate. You might just need to look harder. I also learned that you never get too old to be fun. But I can tell you that story some other time.
He’s gone. Was any of it real? Was He who He said He was? Was it all a grand trick – and I fell for it?
I was part of planning the Good Friday experience at my church this year, so as you can imagine, I have been thinking about it a lot. I have been actively placing myself in the place of those who knew Jesus, who loved Him, who followed Him, who gave up their lives and joined His mission. And who watched Him be arrested, tortured, and killed. They saw Him die. I cannot imagine the deep sorrow they experienced.
Over and over again, I am amazed at my capacity to be a crazy person. Do you ever feel that way? The most recent run-in with my psycho side happened this past weekend. My two best friends texted and asked to get brunch. I was meeting with my mentor, so I said no and encouraged them to do it without me. Their response was, “what about tonight? Sunday?” Why are they trying so hard to see me? Their persistence had only one probable cause in my crazy mind: they must be planning an intervention. Clearly I had been a bad friend recently and they really needed to confront me about it. That is the only logical reason they would go to such lengths to spend time with me.
I’m serious. I am actually crazy! This is how you know your mind is not in a good space – when instead of believing that an invitation is because people like you, you think it must be because they need to confront you about all your flaws.
It helped me realize that I was feeling as though everyone else around me must be disappointed with or mad at me too; it wasn’t just these two friends I was worried about. I get into these busy seasons where I try to fit everything in, with the goal of pleasing everyone and meeting everyone’s needs – and instead I end up feeling like I most certainly am disappointing everyone.