Stuff I want to worry about…

I realized one thing this week on my walk, and one thing tonight, working through that book that Elspeth recommended we all read this week.

Item 1:  If I need something, God is faithful to bring exactly that something into my life.  Fussing about figuring out all the details of exactly what I want is an invitation to covetous sin, and it’s stress inducing, anxiety inducing… and totally a waste of time.  God’s got this.  [Instead I should figure out what's going on in my head and talk it out with God].

Item 2:  I am not on this earth, in this hologram, to fill every one of my dreams.  (This is very countercultural thinking).  If I think, “Gee I’d like to live somewhere else.  Where exactly do I want to live?”  You know what I’m NOT thinking?  (other than point #1)  I’m not thinking, “What was I put on this earth to do, and how can I serve God today?”  [Instead I should tell God everything, from how desperately I want to please Him to much I miss looking at trees].

….

I edited this… because I took the advice of that book and took my daydreams to God.  I was expecting to leave them on the altar, get my nose-thump, and get on with life.   I was very surprised not to get that “thump”.

Another lesson I’ve been learning lately, something from the still small voice… it’s to stop hitting myself about stuff that wasn’t sin that I’ve grown past.   Pardon my difficulty putting this in words, please.  It’s *not* that I don’t think there is stuff in my life to be sad about.  But I tend to respond to the instruction to step up to the next level by hating on myself for being on the level I’m at, or the level before that.

I am not yet perfectly grateful or perfectly trusting.  But I’m being called up, pulled up to the next stage in the growth of those virtues.   And maybe I need to be grateful for the place I’m in.  Maybe I need to be grateful for having gone through the years.  Maybe I need to trust that God is in charge of me, as I have so often begged Him to be.   That though He *could* make me as virtuous as I’ll be the day I die… today… that that’s just not how He does it.

Maybe I need to rest and go forward and stop turning ’round on this walk so I can throw stones at the woman I was a year ago.  Maybe I need to extend love and forgiveness to myself, as well as to others.   Maybe I should laugh at myself and resume the dance… and maybe in being in this moment, without denying my dreams or my past, maybe in that moment, I’ll learn patience.

First World Problems

“Be thankful for everything”  “In everything give thanks” “Be anxious for nothing”

I think God wants us to thank Him for EVERYTHING.

In Corrie Ten Boom’s classic novel, The Hiding Place, she tells about her sister encouraging her to be thankful for *everything* – in their case, that included the fleas that infested their sleeping quarters in the concentration camp.  Turned out later that those fleas kept the guards from doing the inspections they were supposed to do.

Be thankful for *everything*.

I feel embarrassed about being thankful for anything right now.   But it is what it is – I’ve had some of my first world problems thrown into perspective.  And I am grateful.

There are whole categories of stuff I’d fuss and nag and fret about in my life.  I just don’t have time or emotional energy.  I’m grateful.

My body is getting stronger and I’m *really enjoying* my necessary self-care time.  I am grateful.

I’m working with my husband on a problem… it’s fun to work with him.  I am grateful.

I’m doing some growing up… and I am grateful.  Also I’m too busy to focus on the growing pains, which is nice.  ;)

I am grateful.  Filled up with gratitude.  Well.  Gratitude and chamomile/lavender tea.  I didn’t SAY I wasn’t stressed… lol.  Just that I’m grateful too.

Separation and Simplicity

Next Lesson:  I can help folks and love on ‘em without stressing just ’cause they’re stressed.  It’s not my fault they’re unhappy, I don’t have to carry it.  I can love them and bring joy and serve them without tying myself up in knots.  Um, theoretically.  ;)

These thoughts are a bit patchworky, come along and tell me if you can make sense out of my process.

The Lord is our shield.  K.

We are instructed to carry the shield of faith.  K.

How does that work?  Well.  If I were carrying a shield into battle, if I had total faith in the efficacy of the shield to keep me safe, I wouldn’t be forever examining the shield to see if it had split because of a particularly nasty arrow-strike, I’d just keep moving and about my business.

So.  If the Lord is *my* shield, and the shield is faith, maybe what I’m supposed to do is have total faith in God’s ability to handle the arrows whizzing by and stop worrying about stuff other than what’s in front of me.   (Would you like a half-dozen verses condemning worry/anxiety/fear?)

Maybe God can handle what He puts in front of me, too.  Hm.

Life Stuff:  On Friday, BFF started chemo.  On Friday, my husband had a rotten day at work.  Me?  Oh, I went to the beach with the daughter, then we had a mini-picnic with lemonade at the park and sat on the swings.

There’s a lot of me that wants to feel really rotten about that.  You only have to poke my shoulders to see that I’m stressed… but as stressed as they are?  No.  And I love those two more than I love anyone else on this planet.  I should suffer with them.  Shouldn’t I?  Er.  Maybe not.  Can I make my husband’s work easier by denying myself sand and sun?  Can I heal my BFF’s cancer by avoiding lemonade?  Nope.

In fact, my proper work for Friday *was* getting my daughter out for some exercise (or so says the state of CA), and we all enjoyed the lemonade that she made.   I did my job – and that day, my job was pretty nice.  (Most of my life is pretty nice, I’m blessed and I know it).

It feels frivolous and heartless to enjoy what I have in front of me.  Other people hurt.  But I my pleasure hurts no one.  In fact… in fact… if I focus on being grateful for what I’ve been given, if I focus on the joy of the everyday, maybe I can bring more light to the people who I have been given.

If I separate myself – my business, my heart – from the world, from the craziness around me, if I simplify my life to looking up to my God to worship, looking around for people to bless, and spending more time enjoying my life… well, maybe I might end up being more effective.

Y’think?

This Christian living thing might be simpler than it appears….

Joy, Happiness, and Good Clean Fun

While the Christian life is not necessarily filled with temporal happiness, it is supposed to be filled with joy.  We all know that.  But I think we forget something – well, those of us raised in the American Protestant tradition, anyway.

Being with God is supposed to be fun.

If you read your OT, you’ll see the instructions to the children of Israel in regards to the holy days and feasts.  Do you know what they were supposed to do?  Bring their tithes of food and drink, and go to Jerusalem and have a party.  Yep.  Says to go to Jerusalem and eat and drink to the glory of the Lord.

Yes, life is full of valleys of shadow.  Places where fun just isn’t.  And we’re supposed to live righteously through those valleys.  Endure.  And those of us who fight against the follies of the flesh can forget… God made us for fun.  There *is* such a thing as good clean fun!   And we should have it.  We should make room for it.

Because we don’t have a bloodless faith, a dead faith, a faith that lies only in our minds.  We have a living God, a holy Bridegroom waiting for His bride, One who made wine and was called a glutton.  He laughed – we can laugh.

When we get our hearts right, when we get our heads right – laughter should be a part of our lives, and so should fun.

There is a time to *every* purpose under heaven.  Maybe even a snowball fight.  ;)

Not-instantaneous Process: And that’s okay

This weekend, I was emptied.  Saturday was all joy and good tired.  By the end of Sunday, my neck had locked up again and I was a mess.  This morning?  I was sore at heart and so tired.  Empty.  Beyond my capacity.

This morning, I went off on a long walk.  I have committed to having an “adventure” day where I go off and do something interesting with my body, or at least go walk somewhere without sidewalks and concrete once a week.    I miss the wilderness, my soul craves it.

I left some stress up with the eucalyptus.  And my raw parts were soothed and healed, and I started the process of filling back up.   At least a tiny bit.  I realized up there with the wind in the trees that I’ve talked about how awesome God’s work in our lives has been, but I hadn’t thanked Him directly – so I did that.  I sang a little bit.  I’m not whole, filled up and brimming over – but I’m okay.

This process of change, where I leave off the bits of me that need to go, and take up burdens, grow stronger… it’s no more fun than any physical process of strengthening has ever been.  I had to have physical therapy once upon a time.  And my PT appointments weren’t easy.  But although there was pain, there was suffering – it was okay.  I accepted that as a necessary part of the process.  So too is this.

God is giving me enough – and more than enough.  I get unexpected little grace notes all through my days and weeks.  I feel His hand, I feel His blessing, I feel His mercy.

I am very tired.  And sometimes I’m sad, and sometimes I’m overcome with joy, and sometimes I succumb to worry or anger.  But it’s okay.  I accept this change.  I know God has it in hand.  It’s okay with me that He stretches me past my comfort.  If He did not, I would not change.

At first I felt like I had it all figured out, that I’d analyzed all the things in my life that needed to change, that God was going to change.  And I listed them out and looked up expectantly and said, “Okay, so this is what needs to change, I’ll change that, we can be done, right?”  -rueful head shake-  No.  Because having some idea (some slight idea – I don’t think I know all or most of what He intends to teach me) of what must be done isn’t the same thing as building up the habits and muscles of actually doing it.  Of repetition, even under stress.

This process is going to take time.  The storm is going to hang out for a while.  And I *don’t* know what will be at the end.  I know God will work it for good, but I don’t know if it will be for *my* good or not.  I don’t feel any assurance about any of the stuff the prosperity preachers would tell you to feel assured of.  But it’s okay.  It’s okay.

Because God didn’t ask me for that kind of faith.  God asked me to submit to Him, to follow Him where He takes me.  I don’t have to beat myself up for not being someone I’m not … yet.  I don’t have to finish this test in half an hour.  I can’t.  I can just let this roll over me, and go forward.  His will be done.  I know He’ll do good with me, because that’s who He is.

It’s okay.  And it’s okay that I’m not enjoying it.  It’s okay.  I’m not in control.

He works all things together for good

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.

Have you ever sat down with that verse and really contemplated it?  It promises that God will work everything out for good for those who love Him.

Things it doesn’t promise:

- Temporal good.  It doesn’t say, “Love God and find a Rolls Royce in your driveway”.  There are plenty of very poor Christians, Christians going through dark times, Christians whose entire lives are lived in pain.  If it meant “temporal good”, Peter’s epistles would be contradictory and we could assume that all the martyrs were unsaved.  That’s not just wrong, it’s offensive.

- That the good that is worked is for you.  So…. when you’re old and sick and have to be cared for, your mind has returned to childhood and you think your nurse was your elementary school crush… exactly what life lesson are you learning?  You’re not.  But maybe your nurse, son, daughter, grandchild… maybe they’re learning things they couldn’t learn without your physical existence.

I believe, because God loves us, that He doesn’t count our tears as cheap coin.  I do believe He 1) values things that we do not and 2) is capable of investing that coin in ways we could never imagine.  We have been encouraged to think that our lives are only about us… so my tears, my pain – they’re about me.  And they relate to my immediate problems.  But what if my pain isn’t a lesson for me, or *only* a lesson for me?  What if I need to be changed not for what I want right now, but for a way in which I can serve him 50 years from now?

There is a temptation to make God smaller, to make His ways more understandable.   It’s not a bad thing to search for the lessons in life’s storms, to eagerly seek out the changes God wants us to make.  Which one of us is perfect?  Which one of us could not spend more time in awe, watching God work all around us?  No, that’s a good thing.  But when we *reduce* the effect of the storm to the immediate, we can reduce ourselves to bargaining with almighty God.  “If I submit to You, then You will do this thing I’ve been wanting You to do”.  Well, maybe not.  Maybe that wasn’t the point.   

God is capable of taking your storm and affecting you, and your neighbor, and someone you’ll never meet 100 years from now (does He tarry that long).   You can eagerly submit to His will, eagerly follow Him wherever He leads you – and those are good responses, right responses.  

But as I submit now, kneeling in the dust I realize… my submission, my desire to do whatever pleases Him… those things aren’t going to make the storm stop.  Because it’s not all about me.

Trackback:  http://lovingintheruins.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/fixing-what-you-can-fix-2/  Thanks for helping me find some words.