Elul, Rosh Hashanah, and Life

I went through a couple of years where I observed the Biblical holidays with a crew I was hanging out with online.  It was weird and felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes, so I stopped, excepting Passover.  It’s not that I don’t think those are the real holy-days, because I do.  It’s just.. well. Give it a try some year – celebrate a year’s worth of holidays that you’ve never celebrated before.  Be sure to confuse all your friends and relations by making them try new traditions.  Anyway.  I have the holy days marked on my calendar – but the run ups?  Nope.

I popped over to one of my buddies’ blogs and she mentioned that this was the month of Elul.  My response was, “Well.  -swearword-”  Why?  Because *this* has described my month perfectly.  (from chabad.org)

As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking—a time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year, and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah andYom Kippur.

As the month of divine mercy and forgiveness, Elul is a most opportune time forteshuvah (“return” to G‑d), prayer, charity, and increased ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew), in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to G‑d.

Wha?  So I’m preparing for a new year?  And I went through that spiritual inventory because I felt the need but somehow it was totally timely?  Extra helpings of introspection and looking at the changes I need to make?  Oh.  Well NoBloodyWonder, then.  

I’ll be celebrating Rosh Hashanah this year, properly.  Because the Jewish year 5775 is going to be a big one for me.

I’ve been processing through a lot of emotion and doing a lot of thrashing around and complaining.  Hey, my best friend/sister of my heart has stage three breast cancer (at least, testing still happening).  That’s a lot to process.   She’s moving four doors up after years of trying to find a house… and it’s fallen out that she’ll be moving in when she starts chemo.  Yeah, my life is about to change.  (Hers too, but part of MY process is leaving other people to their own processes).

I’ve talked endlessly about being task oriented rather than trying to steer.  Well, this is my year to learn.  I’m going to be given the opportunity to stay so busy that keeping my eyes on my own paper (hattip: St. Velvet) is going to get a lot easier.  Even so, I have a choice.  I can thrash around on the line like I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks (I can’t believe we only found out on the 19th), and I can end 5775 with my faults magnified… I’ll be 10lb heavier, more stressed out, my kids will have another sucky year in school, and I won’t have gotten one step further along in my professional/personal development.

OR

I can use my good brain and the gifts God has given me to bless my BFF, and then let Him do what He’s going to do.   I can do the things that come so very easily to me – after a lifetime managing a house, I can feed a couple of extra mouths without noticing – and I can make time for her.   I can stay task oriented and continue to take care of my own stuff – continue to stay on top of my kids’ schoolwork.  Continue to take care of my body and take exercise daily.   Continue to spend serious time in my sewing room and think hard about what I’m going to do next and how to get there.  In other words, I can do what God has called me to and stop trying to steer.  (He’s peeling my hands off a couple other steering wheels here too, to my mingled amusement and discomfort).

It’s my choice – will I choose to let God do what He intends to do in my life, one day at a time, one task at a time?  Or will I sit here and fidget and fuss?  

So.  I will celebrate Rosh Hashanah this year, not because I think 5775 will be a year without tears, a year without stress, a year without sorrow… but because I choose to let God use this time to change me, to transform me into the woman He wants me to be (at least the woman He wants me to be in 5776).  I’ll raise my glass to THAT.

May God’s will be done.  

 

 

 

(PS RH starts the evening of the 24th, and we should all just be getting started with the way we’ll be doing things this year about then).

The Art of Letting Go

I’m an interfering wench… I mean, doesn’t all of life work so much better if I’m right there to pet it and cajole it and help it along?  No?  Are you *sure*?  Hm.

It’s hard for me to do my work and then let go and walk away.  I wouldn’t write so much about how necessary and blessed it is if I didn’t have it in front of my face!  It is especially hard for me because my “work” tends not to be physical work – I’ve never had a problem just cleaning something or doing work for an employer and walking away when it was done.  Finis!  No, I’m talking about emotional work, or “helping” work – you know, the “I’ll make life nice for this person” stuff.  Figuring out when you’re done and you need to step back is tricky.  

For me, the trick tends to be concentrating on God-as-employer.  God’s my boss – so I want to do all things as unto Him.  But I also must surrender my specific tasks to Him… so it’s not “I should make everything perfect for X” – no, my job is to “bake a cake” or “have this phone conversation”.   Do you see the difference?  I see it, but oh it’s hard to just stop after the job is done.  I can see so much more than needs work!  I’m an emotional workaholic.  -rueful laughter-  You know what that indicates?  That I’m working for *myself* – my own sense of satisfaction – not working for God.  (Ouch, btw).

I have been thinking of this in the context of … well, everything… but especially in the context of BFF and her cancer.  I’d LOVE to go just go barge in and arrange their lives for them.  But that’s *not* my job – in fact, if I start doing that, I’ll interfere with the lessons that God is trying to teach them during this time of trial.  I can do lots of helpful things, but they have to be tasks, not systems.  

The next year of my life is going to be full of lessons.  For one thing, I think I just figured out why all my church volunteerism has been put on the backmost backburner.  Guess maybe I had other work waiting for me.  Heck, even my pastor “magically” decided to preach through Ecclesiastes.  Who’s ever heard of a preacher preaching through that book on Sunday morning?  

God really DOES have everything coordinated.  I don’t like it – so many, many ways in which I don’t like it – but that’s really not my problem, now is it?

Not today’s verse, but the passage that was chosen for the front of our announcement page………

 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

Play your part in the orchestra of life, play it with all your might, and don’t worry about directing.  Surrender. 

I’m not going to lie and say I’m doing this very well, but I do know what I have to do.  

God’s Got This

I’m hurting today.  My BFF has cancer and every time we get news, it seems like the news gets worse.  Other stuff going on, just normal stressors that show up because you’re alive.  It’s been a really tense month … and it seems like most of the people I know are going through similar times.  

But because I’m a woman of faith, I keep my eyes open… always looking for the “why” and “how is God working through this” and watching to see how God’s orchestra of life brings in one instrument or another at a particular time and place for a particular reason.

I’ve already seen a couple of things start blooming out of K’s cancer diagnosis, and some really unexpected harmonics are happening.  It’s God’s timing.  He’s got this.

It’s hard.  So HARD to rest in Him and the head-knowledge that He does love us, more than we love ourselves, more than we love each other… and that He won’t ever waste our pain or the rocky places we struggle through.   He will work things ’round so that we’re just gaping at His awesomeness and His glory and His love.

But.  We have to watch and keep our eyes peeled, so that we can appreciate the whole symphony… not just the bits that we find most pleasant or most impressive.  

That doesn’t change that quite frankly, I’m a mess today.  I’m stressed, my shoulders are tight, I didn’t sleep well.  But this will pass.  This is going to be a rocky day – we’re going off to the doc for the Big Appointment, where the treatment plan gets laid out and questions get asked, etc.  Is it fun?  No.  But we’ll come out the other side.  God *does* have this sorted, and if He’s allowing it, it’s for a reason.  Probably reasons, plural.  He’s like that.

I know that.  I trust Him totally.  It still hurts, but I trust my Lord.

God’s got this.

Arrow Not Shield

“When we think we are in control of the results, rather than called to be obedient as we release the results to God, we will experience guilt, tension, and discouragement”. – Dee Brestin, “Idol Lies”

My main spiritual gift is exhortation.  I’m God’s little cheerleader – the friend that will come alongside you and encourage you to do whatever it is that you need to do, the one who always has the optimistic lookout, the one who will smile while she kicks you in the rear.   I do that unofficially, I’m going to start doing that officially soon (finally found the right people to connect with at church… mentorship program here I come).  I enjoy being who God made me.

But it is VERY easy for me to fall into thinking that I have some control over the outcome.  I don’t!  Even when I’m working with someone hand-in-hand for years at a go, I don’t have control.  When I start believing that I control the results, and that the results have something to do with *me*… well, I get discouraged.  (It’s always the reverse of your best gift that is your worst sin – I’ve swallowed despair’s lies a time or two, to my shame).

I’ve been in a period of mostly short-term missions, where I’ve been learning to open myself up to just bringing a little of God’s light where ever He points me.  And thus He’s taught me to be an arrow.  Fly swift, straight, obedient to His direction. Do what I’m supposed to do, say what I’m told to say, pray and love and embrace and encourage.  God gave me the gift of love – I love easily and naturally.   It makes exhortation easy – I love very nearly everyone, so naturally I want their best.  It’s not like I can help it.  :p

But love makes me protective.  And I am not supposed to protect.  I got hit with that 2×4 today while doing my study.  I’ve been burdened with unforgiveness for someone who hurt someone I love for decades – I kept willing to forgive, doing the work, praying… and finally it broke today.  I was using that unforgiveness, that old hurt, to hold “strong” so that I could protect.   (Pretty sad source of strength, oh well).

But the Lord is her shield.  Not me.  The Lord is MY shield.  And all my loved ones – if they belong to God, they’re shielded by Him.  He never asked me to stand in His place – that’s His job. I need to let go.    He is the avenger of blood, He is justice, He will protect.  Not me.  Never have I been asked to do these things – I wasn’t made for that.  

To be who God called me to be, I need to be able to give my very best and then leave the results to Him.   To open my hands and to trust in the God who loves more than I could ever imagine loving.   I need to keep my eyes open to opportunities to do right – I’m being challenged to really step up in maturity – but I don’t have to carry the weight of the results.  Not my burden.   I’m just an arrow – I have to drop the burdens so that I can fly whereever the Lord chooses to send me.

So… time to fly!

Boredom

Boredom is much maligned around these parts, but boredom is a useful emotion.   (I certainly am not defending those who say, “I’m bored” and then wait for the universe to provide novelty – the sensation of boredom, however, is worth exploring).

Boredom, or the craving for novelty, is what starts people doing and learning new things.  I, personally, am forever getting an itch to do something different or learn something new.   And what has that got me, you ask?

One year I learned to bake bread, properly.  And I baked so much bread I provided 75% of my family’s bread that year.

One year I decided to stop being afraid of pastry – and learned to make a mean pie.

One year I decided to try my hand at tailoring.

This year it was making corsets.

There was the year I did a proper double-dug garden – in heavy clay.  (I was younger then, but yes – I really did, two feet deep and properly fluffed, every inch).

For me, boredom is the push that makes the difference between, “I’d like to learn about that someday” and “Today is a good day to start”.  If I was perfectly content doing the same things over and over and over… I’d be the same person I was decades ago.  And wouldn’t *that* be dreadful.

Some people find that travel satisfies that itch.  They have to see what’s on the far side of the hill.  And why not?  We need explorers.  We need people who like to bring back novelties to those at home.  

Some people find that serious study satisfies the itch.  They start learning about insects and never stop… sometimes those people make interesting discoveries.  Until the last century or so, most scientists were rich and bored – or monks and bored.  The room to work with, the room to explore… time to “waste” that becomes time not in the least wasted.  The ability to try new things.  

Boredom isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t a bad thing at all.  It’s only bad when you don’t see it as a push to open new doors in life.  There are always new things to do, new things to learn, new things to see, new things to experience, new things to contribute to the world around you.  

It’s only a bad thing when you stop at, “I’m bored” and don’t go on to, “Well, now what?”  No one else can satisfy that itch, you’re just going to have to get off the couch and do something.

Carpe diem!  Let’s go find a rock to turn over, shall we?  -grin-

Otherworldly Thinking

In this world, we’re told to:  Make our own destinies.  Take action.  Steer the course for our lives.  We’re told that we *should* control our situations, our surroundings.

It’s very counter-cultural to be willing to cast all cares aside and trust utterly in God.  And it’s *not easy*.  It should be.  But it is an otherworldly way of thinking, and it is a battle.  Ah, yes.  We’re supposed to take every thought captive.  But those captives can make quite a noise behind their prison walls….

I want to be something I’m not yet.  I want to be like that hermit on the hill who trusts God to bring him food and drink, sunshine and rain, joy and meaning.  I want to soar effortlessly along, flying on wings of faith.

“I want” is always a problem, is it not?  :)  Are we humans ever satisfied? Satisfied with ourselves, satisfied with our surroundings?

I look at myself and I am displeased.  I make the mark, “Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” and I fall short.  (Duh).   And I grit my teeth and shove hard on that prison door, leaning on it to hold it closed.   Instead I should be holding this verse to heart…

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Instead of holding the prison door with my strength, perhaps I should take those thoughts captive so I can hand the string over to Christ and have done.  Not burying the worries, but surrendering them.  Surrendering them over and over again – as often as they come up.  Talking things out with Him, not just confessing anxiety.

Not every moment of life can be easy.  For me, being patient in a time of change is terribly difficult.   It doesn’t have to be easy, it doesn’t have to look easy.   Because I have hope.  Hope not in the change, but hope in Christ, that whatever comes will be beautiful.   All this *will* pass………………

It’s positively otherworldly, to let it go and not try to hang on and steer.

Right Action, Perfectionism, Control

I like control as much as the next person.  As I’ve been writing about control as an illusion, I’m starting to realize that one of the ways I exhibit my desire to control my life is by displaying the inverse.  When I can’t get the results that I want, I walk away.   I give it my all, do everything I’m “supposed” to do – and when it doesn’t work out, I can say, “Well, I did everything I was told, and it didn’t work, so I’m out!”

I’m showing that my hope is in the result.  That what matters is what I’m showing, not what I’m doing.  The outside, not the inside.

It’s results-oriented.  I’m trying to let God make me into someone far more process-oriented.   There are far too many factors in life that I have no control over – results aren’t my business.  But that doesn’t mean I can just throw up my hands and walk.   Nope.  I still need to do my duty, even if I think my right actions aren’t making a difference.   There’s where faith comes in – having the faith that God’s got it, and He’ll make good from my little mud pies.

And ripping my hope in the results out and letting it burn.  Because God’s “good result” might not be *my* “good result”.  Our pictures aren’t necessarily the same.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

It’s tempting for me to play it safe when I decide to be process oriented.  Why give my all and not get my prize?  After all, if I’m going to sweat, I’m going to sweat for a result, right?   RIGHT?

Wrong.

Colossians 3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

That verse was written to servants serving their masters, but can it not equally apply to me, working for myself?  Am I not a human?  How much stuff do I do *for myself*.  For *my* goals, for my pride, for my glory?  (Yes, I’m wincing as I write this).

There’s no way to rip this desire to please myself out without replacing it with something else.   So then, with what shall I replace this?

With a desire to please my Lord.

And how can I make *that* desire more than an intellectual exercise?   I have to spend more time with Him.   Fall more in love with Him.  Talk more with Him, and listen when He tells me where to reach and when to wait.

Greater dependence on God, less dependence on me.  … And still get up, do what has to be done, and do my very, very best while I’m doing it.  Shine and dance and sing – for an audience of One.

The way out of perfectionism, the way to let go control, is love.  Loving Jesus and obeying Him in all things.

 

 

(In an exhibit of God’s usual humor, I started listening to a CD that I bought my husband for his bday as I was writing this.  The first song and the first paragraph… ah, Lord.  Some days you’re louder than others… -shakes head, laughs softly-)