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.
Thursday I woke up feeling tired and low energy, and it only got worse as the day went on. Late afternoon came and I found myself shivering under a heated blanket and knew that I was in for the worst. The stomach flu is unlike any other sickness; it is life consuming and utterly terrible. I honestly can only think of like one or two people in the world that I would wish it on.
I knew that the following days would be absolutely miserable and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing requires mental toughness like the flu. And there is nothing to make it more obvious that you are single and live alone than being stuck in bed without the things you need because there is no one there to do that for you (thank you, sweet Jesus, for my precious neighbor ladies who brought me the necessities, those darling angel college students).
But these are not the lessons that I want to share. It may seem silly, and hopefully it doesn’t leave you feeling nauseous yourself, but I felt like I found some valuable takeaways from my time in darkness…
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.
Everybody loves a good fixer upper story. The cultural obsession with Chip and Joanna shows us how much we love a successful renovation. We love to see the before and after, the way old can be renewed. Homes, rooms, hearts, all need a renovation every once in a while.
I entered into this new season of a different job expecting a lot of changes, but unaware of the complete renovation my life would face. And we know, a renovation most of the time is not a bad thing – in fact, it is probably necessary. We see in interior design the way we can get stuck with old decorations, wall colors, furniture set-ups. We get comfortable with the way things are. But sometimes we need a shake-up! Which, of course, is very fun to watch when it is some random person’s home on HGTV. When it is our own lives and hearts, it is often more painful and uncomfortable than we would like.
Renovation in our lives isn’t just a benefit or unintended consequence of following Christ, it is an absolute guarantee. It is a necessity. If we are seeking Christlikeness in our lives, we really should not even be surprised by it. Of course we would need a complete overhaul.
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.
We don’t get to do things for the first time all the time. As we age, there are less and less chances to do something for the very first time.
I’ve now gone indoor skydiving (see Instagram), I’ve been baptized, I’ve tried sushi. I have gone on a friend-cation to Mexico, I’ve had a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit, I’ve seen a concert at Red Rocks. I have kissed a boy, ridden a horse, lived on the east and west coast, and seen a sunset in Nicaragua, Hawaii, and Canada. I’ve been a bridesmaid, graduated from grad school, skied down a mountain. I’ll never do any of those things for the first time ever again.
But I am about to experience a whole lot of firsts. First 12 (or 14) hour flight, first time to Dubai and Africa, first time taking 14 college students out of the country. First time being out of the country for three weeks. And who knows all the other firsts we are about to experience?
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.
I want to provide a place of encouragement, a place where we can bring our hurting and sadness and heartache and feel held. Where we can bear each other’s burdens, and hold each other’s lies up to the light of Truth. This is a space for speaking well of one another.
So, dear friend, this is the blessing, the “speaking well,” that I have for you today:
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.
Hey. Let’s all take a deep breathe together, shall we? Don’t speak. Don’t complain. Can we all, just for a second, sit together in silence? Can we take a moment to just be together? Yes, because when we do that – we take a moment in the quiet and see each other for what we really are – brothers and sisters. When we look each other in the eyes, and see each other’s hearts, we can’t hide anymore. We can’t call each other names or judge each other – we just see each other. For the love of Pete, stop posting mean things on Facebook. OVER IT.
It’s been a hard little while, hasn’t it? Let’s just be real about it – life is hard. There won’t be a time in the history of a broken world where we aren’t just that: broken. So let’s realize that hard will always be here, but what do we know about that? There is always good and hard. They are never separate.