Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Grace That is Greater

"I am overwhelmed by goodness,
By grace I can't explain!
His faithfulness, His mercy,
And yet, mine is the gain!"

I struggle with feeling like an inconvenience to those around me, especially the people that are dearest to me. I hate feeling like I am a burden to those that mean the most to me. After a particular wave of this guilt and heaviness, I broke down and cried, and began asking God questions. Not the sort that demands, "Why do you let me go through this? Why must I carry this burden?" It was rather an admittance - a confession - that I was not worthy of the kindness that presented itself whenever my burden grew greatest. "God, I do not deserve this good thing that you have blessed me with... I shouldn't have it! Why have I been blessed with such goodness and patience? Why have I been given such a gift? I am not comfortable with it because I am not worthy of it. It is wrong for me to have it. I don't deserve this good thing!"

And, as He has in times past, He answered with a question.

"What good thing in your life have you deserved?"

It stopped me in my tracks. There was only one response to such a question: none. I have not earned any of the blessings in my life. They are gifts, and all that I am capable of doing is falling to my knees and thanking God for them and praising Him for His goodness, instead of focusing on my own lack thereof. Thanking God for His grace in every area of my life instead of accepting it only in the places where I feel most comfortable with it - the places where I do not fully realize the desperation of my need for it.

I have always struggled with feeling undeserving - feeling guilty for the good things I have in my life. I am blessed so beyond what I could have ever dreamed to ask for... even when I was still living with sinful thoughts and attitudes, with no real interest in what the Lord might have for me, He was already preparing for me a life that is so beautiful and so full of adventure, it stuns me when I look at it for what it is. There is so much beauty in the everyday, in the lives of my dear ones, in laughter, in uncertainty, in sunshine, in nature, in poetry, in sorrow, in pain - yes, even in the uncertainty, the sorrow, the pain! God grants light and beauty and joy, sometimes more than we could ever imagine at the time, and sometimes we are able to see His eternal plan more clearly when we look at the past with eyes that have been cleared by tears.

Life is unpredictable. We all know this to be true. A day that is considered to be completely normal could be followed by the unthinkable. We never know what the future holds for certain, but that is not a bad thing. With our finite knowledge, we are then able to look back on what has happened in wonder, awe, and amazement, and thank God for the great things He hath done.
I have peace about this burden now... it is not something that I feel guilty about anymore (it is not a moral shortcoming, but rather a physical weakness which we have not yet found an explanation for). I no longer feel the horrible despair, the lie that feels like a black cloud of discouraging "truth", that whispers in its cruel spite, "You will always be a burden to the people you care most about. You don't deserve them .They don't deserve to be straddled with someone who has this problem."

I don't deserve them, it is true.

But what good thing have I ever deserved?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Time is a Heavenly Gift

What a lovely place to be in. What a lovely spot of life.

If I'm curious of something, I can drive to the library and either pick up a few books or just spend the day sitting in one of the armchairs, reading comfortably. I can look up videos and tutorials on how to learn new skills or enhance old ones. I can watch historical movies, or shows that focus on a culture I am not acquainted with and learn more about how others live their lives. Biographies have become this girl's best friends - I am immensely enjoying taking a peek into the lives of others who have gone before and applying wisdom that they gained through their experiences to my own life. I am able to take college courses that interest me at the local community college at very little cost.

I have time that could be spent to strengthen relationships with my friends, family, and those who I'd like to be closer to - people I look up to, people who I would like to emulate in some ways, people who incite me to follow God more fully, to trust in Him more completely, and to love Him more wholeheartedly.

There are adventures I am free to have and interests I am capable of pursuing. There are character traits I'd like to have that I have time to work on and things on my bucket list I would love to scratch off. There are stories in my head, begging to be written and insistently returning to my mind every so often, reminding me that I have time to write now. I can make those recipes I've been wanting to try for awhile. I can research what it was like for the Celts and the Norse people, the Anglo-Saxons and the Scots of long ago. I could host a English tea party if I liked, or a sleepover, or I could see if my far-away friends could make a trip down to stay at my house. I could crochet dolls and animals to sell, or even to donate to children who are shut up in the hospital all day. I could take up sewing again, and make some of my own skirts and dresses and accessories. If the fancy took me, I could try cross-stitching and embroidery again, or even latch hook pieces.

I have more time to spend than I tend to think I do, and in making such a mistake, I often waste the time I do not remember I've been given to steward. I abuse the opportunity I have through technology and spend hours scrolling, scrolling, scrolling... what a mindless pursuit of nothings! It would be better not to have it than to use it as I do sometimes!

Here's a thought: what if, rather than spending my "unfilled" time with social media and internet articles that don't concern me, I met up with a friend and we had a encouraging conversation and learned how to build each other up in our respective walks with Christ? What if, instead of snatching my phone on my lunch break at work, I read another book from my reading list that I've been meaning to read for months? Rather than sleeping in late, I got up early and got to work, accomplishing everything I need to that day so that I can spend quality time with my family later? What if I didn't procrastinate on things I knew I would eventually have to sit down and do? What if I had the self-discipline to shut down distractions and everything that tried to stand in the way of my growth in my Lord and Savior? What if...?

Oh, what a lot of what-if's. They thrill and fascinate me, and I so often forget that I am the one to which they are so pointedly aimed.

In five short weeks, I leave for an internship in South Carolina - nearly nine hours away from where I and my family live. I could not be more excited to be pursuing this longing, but I also do not intend to use this short time left at home as an excuse not to put much effort in. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of "It's not worth the effort because I'm not here for much longer anyway."
In direct defiance of this, I plan to work on specific areas of my character while I wait for this adventure to begin - areas that will help me regardless of where I am or what I'm doing.

For example,
1) Getting up at six every morning and sticking to a stricter bedtime
2) Limiting phone time to thirty minutes or less every day
3) Keeping personal areas (like my crafty corner in my bedroom) clean and orderly
4) Only checking social media 2-3 days a week (likely Mondays and Fridays)
5) Journaling on a daily basis (even if it's just to jot down a few sentences!)

These seemingly minor goals are ones that I ought to have drilled into me already, but I have neglected them sadly. They are all small things that could be easily conquered with self-discipline, which is the main reason I am working on them. Once these have been accomplished and lived out, I will move on the next goals; I never want to stop growing and learning and serving, and through this kind of growing, I am able to learn and serve more. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

My Grace is Sufficient For Thee (6/26/19)

It came into my knowledge some weeks ago that the company I worked for supported some causes that I believe to be completely opposed to what the Bible says is good and right. For this reason, when I came into this knowledge, it seemed to me that my only recourse was to turn in my two weeks notice and seek employment with another company.

Mind, I had just been offered a full-time position at the first workplace, with the guarantee of at least thirty-two hours a week and the likely possibility of more if I wanted them. With this promise of more hours, I would have been perfectly set up to save up enough money for the internship I had been accepted to this fall with a Christian theatre that God has fastened on my heart. It all seemed so ideal, so perfectly set-up for my success...

...and then, without warning, the door of opportunity seemed to slam closed in my face, and I was left scrambling frantically to find another means of earning the money I had once been so sure of.

This, like most other moral scenarios, fell into the category of ethical dilemmas in which the end would NOT justify the means. I struggled with attempting to justify it, and coming up with all manner of excuses, only to have each shallow, selfish excuse shut down by a single truth that I held deep inside: I cannot support something that is so against everything I know to be true, even if it is through an indirect medium. If I were to stay, it would sear my conscious every moment I was on the clock. Such money would feel stained and defiled in my hands, and I would use no such money to pay my way to becoming more involved with the Christian ministry that means so much to me. I refuse to sell my conscious for so little, and it would not be worth having a guilty heart to obtain any sum.

Within a day or two of my discovery, I quit. I worked out my two weeks, and that was it. With the rapidity of my departure, I had not yet found a reasonable employment to replace the one I had given up. I asked for prayer at the Wednesday night church service in quickly finding a job that would enable me to attend the theatre as an intern for the coming school year.

Two ladies from church, who I respect immensely, came up and asked me if I'd heard of a certain business website which enables you to find job listings that fit your ideal job description from basic keywords. It allows you to upload a resume and find jobs to apply for, while also allowing companies to search for people with experience in certain areas or fields (as listed on their resumes). I hadn't, but made an account that night and applied to three or four places almost immediately. 

Days went by... then a week... I didn't hear anything back from any of the places I'd applied to. Discouraged, I applied for a job that payed less than my last job, knowing that even if they gave me full-time hours, I wouldn't earn enough to go this fall. Still I waited... my closest friends encouraged me and tried to strengthen my faith, but I was growing extremely discouraged and was questioning why on earth everything fell to pieces the way it seemed to have. Everything had seemed to fall into place so perfectly... for nothing.

A company contacted me through the website, seeing from my resume that I'd had experience in their field and curious if I would be willing to apply for a position with them. I quickly did so, and was interviewed only days later. Today I finalized the paperwork and I begin working for them next week. There is no worry over whether they support the concepts I am so strongly against, and it is calm and low-key. There's no hint and little possibility that I see of some of the little things I disliked in my old work environment, and I am well-equipped for the position. On top of these attractive attributes, it pays slightly more than my old position.

All this to say:

I was so focused on what I had to do to save up enough money. I believed (and still do) that God called me to apply for the internship this fall, and I believe that He is the One who opened the door for me to get accepted for that opportunity. Even though I believed this in the beginning, I questioned it when it seemed like my means of getting there had vanished. Even with the constant reminding of my friends that He is faithful to provide, I doubted. Even with the memories of His provision and goodness and mercy in the past, I doubted.

As for my faith? It shatters. My trust in God's provision? I certainly have it, but it tends to go missing when I am most in need of it.

This is not a post I've written to boast of my faith, but rather to share how God has provided for me in spite of my lack of it. I'm still not sure how He will continue to show His goodness to me, but I'm humbled by my own doubting fears and uncertainty and by His grace and loving-kindness towards me regardless. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Barefoot Musings (5/1/19)

There's a lovely sort of feeling that I wish I could explain. I suppose it's a bit like inhaling deeply and filling your lungs with fresh, clean air and realizing that you hadn't really been breathing until that moment, or perhaps like feeling the sun upon your skin for the first time and coming to the conclusion that you had never before felt real warmth at all. It's the experience of realizing how much you haven't felt, and how much you've forgotten. And it's so indescribably lovely. To think of how much more there is in life and how there is still some that is good and pure and beautiful and earnest, even if we forget it or lose sight of it in all the useless nothings that we attach importance to.

Sometimes there are things that remind us - usually little things. The small details that hit us like a hurricane. It's reading a line in a book that sends a thrill down your spine so that you forget all else in your entranced state. It's going outside - not just to walk out to your car, or for a specific purpose - for no reason at all, and feeling the warm spring breeze and feeling the grass under your feet and just existing. Feeling the beauty of it and just wishing to simply be. No desires for something else, no questioning uncertainty of what may come, no unhappiness with your position in life... just a contented little sigh, a grateful heart, and a perfect contentment in just being. It's reading stories - legends, myths, and fables - of heroes and their noble quests, put in earnest words and hoping that someday you, too, will pass these on and tell your own. When I am in these moments, I glance with incredulity at how I spend the majority of my time and feel no inclination to return to those detrimental habits.

But... I forget. I forget all of it. Days pass, and weeks, and months, all crowding fast and furious and filled with daily thoughts and worries and actions, and somehow I forget. I'm left with my constant scurry of trying to keep up with real and imagined necessities and seeking what is "just around the corner."

Sometimes, it is people who unconsciously remind me, through words or kindnesses. The thoughtfulness of the people around me has left me weeping tears of humility and gratitude more than once, and I once more appreciate my own blessed lot in life as I ought to - at least for awhile. They shine like windows of hope in the midst of a darkened city, seemingly full of closed doors and missed opportunities but for the cheerful, expectant little glowing beams that alight on the road ahead and promise greater things. There's just something peaceful about how a candle shines... it's so comforting and calming. The sight of so many tiny, glowing flames through those windows gives me faith and I am so grateful to God for providing His light, that I might see.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Not Until I See (1/19/19)

It is late - or better put, it is early. There is too much going on right now and there are so many words in my head that they are overflowing into my heart. And so, I'm writing at 1:30 in the morning because it helps me sort through my thoughts. They're more than a little tangled and knotted right now.

One thing that is hard for me to grasp is how often I find it so hard to trust. I have the audacity to ask God why - as if that was necessary for me to know. I grow angry and frustrated when things don't go the way I thought they would... the way I prayed and hoped and cried for them to go... and I think with a bitterness and certainty that scare me, "There's no way this can turn out for good."

My mind is so narrow, I believe most of the time that my way is not just the best way, it is the only way - when in reality, it's neither. It's certainly not the only way, and it's usually not what's best, either. I have tunnel-vision when it comes to life (or anything, for that matter) and I only see the small portion that's right in front of me; even when I swivel my head around, I can only catch glimpses of the space that is right before me. I can hardly look in the past with clarity at all, peering through rose-coloured lenses and romantic fantasies of the things I remember differently. My future looms before me, great and dark and uncertain and terribly frightening.

I want to be like Joseph, staying true to God and trusting in the most questioning circumstances. I want to be like Esther and have tremendous courage, living the faith that she had been taught and that became her own. But most of the time, I'm Jacob - wrestling with God and refusing to let go until He blesses me. I'm Thomas, saying, "I won't believe it until I see it." I will not believe that this mess can somehow be made into something good until I see it. I will not accept that there is a purpose behind all this that I don't know yet until I see it. I will not stop questioning and begging for answers and fighting against all this with everything in me until I see it. Not until I see and know.

"Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Where is my faith? Where is my trusting obedience, my humility? Why do I become so caught up in myself and who I am that I so easily forget what He has done and who He is? I have been on earth eighteen years and I fail every single day; He is eternal, and never has. I am turbulent, always changing moods and switching out emotions and opinions; He is constant, and changeth not. 

Why do I cry that I cannot see? I can see that, even in these circumstances, God is all that is good and perfect - and that means His will for me is all that is good and perfect, too. I have eyes to see that He has been faithful even when I am faithless. I can see that there is so little that I really know, and He is in control of it all. How can I have the audacity to continue trying to take the wheel? I am only a vapor, saved by His grace.

(Genesis 32:24-30, Job 19:23-27, Psalm 91:7-8, Psalm 106:4-5, John 20:25-29)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Trust and Obey (1/7/19)

"I being in the way, the Lord led me..."
Lately Genesis 24 has been on my mind, as I wrestle with life and struggle to understand why I am here and not elsewhere. I wonder and hope and despair and cry, searching to know why God has placed me here now, when my whole heart longs for something that I don't have. 

I have started writing the word "hope" on a piece of paper and keeping it in front of me at work and every time I look at it, I whisper "God is good." I need that reminder right now when, in my frail humanity and weakness, I so often lose sight of His goodness. If He is all that is good and perfect and true (and we know that He is), will not His will for my life be good and perfect and true also? 

I know others that are living what I would call the perfect life. My view of perfect is not a common one in many ways, but in some ways it is what every Christian longs for: a life spent in service to Christ, knowing that you are in the center of His will for you and living in the freedom and joy that that knowledge endows. I dream of returning to the place where my heart has been called so strongly and my spirit fights so fiercely to find a way back.

But there is work here, too. God shows me in my broken moments when I want nothing except to go back and live the life that others lead that there are little things, reasons I am home. There is growth here, too. It is lonelier and harder to understand and see, but I know that God is faithful. There are people here that need me, friends that I need to be there for, lessons I need to learn, work to be done. 

"And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren." - Genesis 24:27

Knowing that the Lord will lead me... the Lord, who has not left us destitute of his mercy and his truth... and we need only to trust and obey. To have faith and to cling to Him in the uncertainty and the confusion and the heartache when we can do nothing else. This is my comfort, and this is what sees me through each day. This is my hope.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Remind Me (10/13/18)

Remind me, Lord, when I begin to forget the abundance of Your love for me.
Remind me how good and wholesome it is to be in the center of Your will when I am tempted to turn away.
Remind me when, in the humdrum of daily life, I lose sight of what is eternal and what is real.
Remind me what is it to follow You more fully and to dedicate each moment and each circumstance to You and to Your glory.
Remind me, Lord, when I begin to confuse what is comfortable and easy with what is unpleasant and necessary, and invariably am tempted by the former.
Remind me that I am not called to follow You only at certain times or in certain circumstances, but to give myself to You completely and follow You wherever You will lead.
Remind me, Father, when I feel lost and afraid, just how well and how lovingly You have cared for me and provided every need in the past.
Remind me that in every time of my life, You are holding me in the palm of Your hand and have commanded me not to fear.
Remind me that my mission in life is not to achieve my own happiness or goals, but to bring glory to You, to know You more each day, and to carry the Gospel to the people all around me.

I know what it is to follow You and trust You for all... to line up what I say and do and think with what is in Your Word and to live by it accordingly... but I am foolish and I fall and forget.

Please, with whatever it takes, remind me.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Winds of Change (9/26/18)

When I was 15, I decided I wanted the living room walls in my future home to be green. Not just any green, though - it had to be jade green. Nothing else would suffice. As I stated my future plans to different people in my life, I always got the same answer and the more I heard it, the more it ruffled me.

"Oh, well, your taste will change before then."
"By the time you're old enough to have your own home, you'll change your mind."
"You might like that now, but you won't like it later."

I'm not sure which part of it offended me most. Maybe it was because I thought they meant I was some flippant little butterfly that couldn't keep their mind made up. Maybe I believed that my taste and sense of style was something that was fixed in me and something I could not and never would change. I was probably mostly offended by their seeming lack of faith in my judgement and abilities. Whatever the case, the more they claimed I'd forget or change my mind, the more I was determined to go through with it.

I clung to that goal for longer than I care to admit through my teenage years. I wasn't sure what my house would look like or what kind of house it would be, but I knew the living room would be painted jade green.

I didn't realize just how fixed I was on this idea and how reluctant I was to change - even though there were other colours at this point that I actually preferred more! It's silly to think about.

"Well, I love this shade of blue... but I always wanted my walls to be jade green growing up, so even though I don't like it as much now, I guess I have to do it."

How ridiculous!

You are not obligated to be the person that you were five years ago. You're not obligated to be the person that you were last month. You're not obligated to be the person that you were yesterday.

Sometimes change takes years and sometimes it happens overnight. Changing is never something you should be ashamed of. It is a sign that you are living, and in many cases, it is a sign of growth.

Don't feel like you have to be the person that you were yesterday simply because that's the person that everyone knows if you can be better. Take heart and have the courage to be different than who you were last week! Study God's Word, live a life of prayer and an earnest desire to know Him more, surround yourself with good, Godly people that will encourage you in your faith, and reach out to people that don't know Him! Always be striving to grow and to change.

And no, I don't think I still want jade green walls. :)