Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I am a big picture type person. When I put together a bookshelf, I take all of the pieces out of the box, glance at the picture to get a general idea of how the finished product should look, and then toss it aside. I try to put the bookshelf together without reading the directions... only consulting them if I get stuck (or put a shelf on upside down and backwards, which happens every single time!). I know that the end result is a bookshelf and I know what a bookshelf looks like. I can get there! It might take a few tries, but I will MAKE the bookshelf! And it will be WONDERFUL and I will take credit for its wonder as if it was the first bookshelf ever built! Conversely, if someone were to give me a pile of materials and a list of instructions without telling me what I was supposed to build I would FREAK OUT. Even if they assured me that if I followed the instructions I would assemble exactly what was supposed to be built my brain can.not.compute. things this way. I have to KNOW what I'm building BEFORE I start building it. Without that big picture I get mired down in the details, I focus on the wrong things because I don't know what the point is-- I don't know what I'm supposed to end up with. After doing some research, I've found out that this means I'm a right-brained person. Now, I didn't do any research to find out if the majority of the world is comprised of right-brained people, but I'm assuming that it isn't... not because I want to be special, but because it is a scary thought-- our world under the control of the jittery flitting-about-from-thing-to-thing minds of the right-brained thinker.

I have been frustrated with the idea of not knowing what is going to happen before it happens for as long as I can remember. Surprises? Forget it! I do not like them. It is something I struggle with in my faith often. I want a tiny sneak peek at the plan that God has for my life. I want Him to just let me see it JUST ONCE so that I can figure out on my own what the big picture looks like and how to get there. But again, that's my problem... "figure out on my own". I doubt God's a big fan of that way of thinking, but I still have a hard time relinquishing control of everything and letting Him be in the driver's seat. I'm sure God thinks it's hilarious that I think I have any form of control at all! But it remains to me very disheartening that I can't peek into the future and see if my life will be wonderful and happy and full of great things 5...10...15 years from now. That I can't know for sure what I'm working towards NOW. In reality, I don't have to look ahead, because I know that God has already promised me that anything I could come up with isn't anywhere NEAR the greatness He has in store for me. That knowledge doesn't stop the little voice in my head from it's spastic fit-throwing. My little voice almost always resembles a sleep-starved child falling out on the floor screaming about how unfair life is...

buuuuuuuuuut DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WANNNTTT TOOOO KNOWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
tellmetellmetellme tellllll meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! pleasssseeeeee!

(if you're picturing the "RICKRICKRICK" skit from SNL, you've pretty much got the right idea.)

And most likely, God has already been TRYING to tell me, but I won't shut my mouth long enough to listen to Him.

People tell me that God is talking to them. Telling them what to do with their lives, showing them signs, and my response is something akin to, "well He hasn't been talking to ME!" In fact, I've said quite a few times in the past months that God isn't talking to me. I have said it to my mom, I have said it to my sister, I have said it to my friends. Each one has told me that I need to listen better. I've had anxiety attacks over what my "purpose" is... but again, I get caught up in trying to figure it out on my own... which let's face it, rarely works out. As I mentioned before, I recently read "Cure for the Common Life" by Max Lucado and was not only wildly impressed by the book but I was surprised at what I found out about myself. Part of the book asks you to write out 4-6 times in your life when you felt like you did something that made you feel happy and fulfilled. Four out of my six had to do with being part of a church community. When I have thought on what I enjoy doing before I have always come up with three things: Writing, Teaching, and Learning. These three things were present in each of the six things that I listed, but there was SO.MUCH.MORE. that I hadn't considered. I figured out that being in fellowship with others makes me fulfilled, being connected to a group, actively doing mission work - whether through song or physically building things, HELPING people, ministering to people... these things make me feel fantastic... and they are all things that I've been trying to live my life without.

Essentially I have been approaching my life like I put together bookshelves. I don't bother with the instructions and I end up frustrated surrounded by all of these pieces that I can't make sense of any of... I can't figure out what anything is for or if I even have everything I need to be successful. I don't know where anything GOES because I don't know what I'm trying to build. Every now and then when something doesn't look quite right I stop and read some of the steps and realize that I'm going to have to not only cease all forward progress but backtrack and take everything apart again and build it the right way... and in the past I've only fixed that ONE part I can see for sure is wrong and then carelessly thrown the directions aside again. Because I want to build it MY WAY! (Cause I'm a master carpenter, y'know...)

But I'm getting it all wrong. ALL of it. I'm back to that right-brained place that is stuck in one tiny detail because I don't know what the big picture is. Don't I?

The thing I guess I didn't realize is that God IS the big picture. I've focused on my tiny piece in this big picture and tried to figure out what it's purpose is... I thought that it WAS the thing I was trying to build... and I've missed the entire point. My life isn't MY life... I'm meant to be a small part of something much bigger... not the other way around.

When I wrote the first post of this blog, I was only going to send the link to one of my friends. To the friend who told me that I should try writing it in the first place. I sent her the link and then I thought about posting it on Facebook, but immediately thought it was a bad idea- I thought of all of my friends that don't share my same point-of-view and how it might make them feel uncomfortable. I thought about how putting out such personal information would make ME feel uncomfortable... how people who knew me years and years ago might think that it was all a bunch of bologna because I used to be religious and talk about God but I abandoned it so long ago. I thought that they would think of me as a hypocrite... not because they ever said they thought that about me but because I felt like one every time I saw them. And then I realized that this was the perfect way to hold me accountable for what I say and do. Positive feedback, negative feedback, no feedback... it doesn't really matter- the point is I know that there is an off-chance that someone else is reading along, and that maybe God would have me say something that would bless someone else, that someone else also needed to hear. I also realized that it will be a place where I can go back and look at where I started and where I go from here.

...but I didn't realize that it would be an opportunity for God to talk to me in unexpected ways. Especially so quickly. I talked to a friend about it that lives in Arizona, and I mentioned to her that I struggled with finding a church here in the metroplex because the one that I sometimes go to seems to be very difficult for me to get integrated into and involved in... and within minutes she had connected me with another of her friends who lives practically 10 minutes from me who invited me to visit her church. We had a nice long conversation about the logistics and she was super helpful in answering all of my crazy questions. So on Sunday I'm trying out a new church... it may not be THE church that I end up at, but it's a good start! Thank God for small beginnings!

So I suppose I'll surrender to the ways of the left-brained and focus on God's directions for me and see what He ends up building in the future...

Some scripture I found inspiring:

Psalm 118: 21-24
I will give thanks to You
because You have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the LORD;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Isaiah 30: 18-21
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Proverbs 3: 5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Jeremiah 10:23

I know, LORD,
that a man's way of life is not his own;
no one who walks determines his own steps.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Small Beginnings

I used to be a very bold person. I never met a stranger, never walked into a crowd with my head down, and never hesitated to take a risk. Somewhere along the way I got scared. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I became beyond fearful. It was very likely when I got divorced that this change happened, although it was a few years in the making but the result was I convinced myself that I was not special, nor was I loveable. I convinced myself that I was being punished for poor decisions, for bad choices. I convinced myself that I had gotten exactly what I deserved out of life because I had made mistakes. I convinced myself that God was the one punishing me because I needed to be taught a lesson. There were times when I was anxious about walking into a coffee shop because I thought everyone would judge me when I walked through the door… was I wearing the right thing? Was my hair a mess? Was my lipstick smeared? I began to worry about every single move that I made.

My life is somewhat different now, but not as different as it should be. Right now my car is filthy. The outside gets washed when I get the oil changed. Sometimes. See, car washes are not what they used to be. They are so very advanced and automated now, and I find that every time I drive past one I think about stopping in-- and then I remember the track that you have to maneuver your wheels onto, the precise moment you have to shift the gear into neutral and the flashing signs that warn you “DO NOT MOVE YOUR STEERING WHEEL!” and “DO NOT PUT YOUR CAR IN DRIVE”. The moment of entering the car wash sends me into a panic. The idea of leaving my car in neutral and losing control of the situation. The act of taking my hands off of the wheel and taking my foot off of the gas and the brakes. I visualize myself… what? Careening into the walls? Wrecking my car? Breaking the car wash? I am terrified of breaking things in my life now. I have become an extremely careful person. One who does not step too far out of her comfort zone and becomes anxious when others do. Crossing the street with a friend before the crosswalk sign said to threw me into a tizzy. He looked at me and said, “There are no cars, we will be okay” and I spouted off about the rules of pedestrians and how you could get ticketed by the police if you didn’t wait until the sign told you to walk. There really were no cars. We made it safely across the street but I had a FIT. The 18 year old me would have skipped across the street backwards, maybe done a cartwheel, but the 28 year old me was stuck and terrified at the idea of doing something that made me uncomfortable. Please don’t take this as me saying that my friend was right that rules were made to be broken. I think that for the most part rules are in place for a very good reason, but at 11pm with a great view of empty streets on both sides of the crosswalk, sometimes it makes sense to walk ahead even though the lights aren’t flashing you permission.

I am so terrified of little trivial things that I refuse to make a move. I am figuratively rooted to the ground afraid that any decision that I make will result in disaster. That once again my life will derail and I’ll be left off the tracks in the middle of a car wash paying for damages I cannot afford. This is an unhealthy fear. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not doing the things that I need to be doing to lead a full life; to lead a fulfilled life. I am actively aware of the need to change this but again, I’m scared to choose a path to do it. There are so many options, so many chances for failure that instead of doing something… ANYTHING, I sit still and wait… maybe tomorrow... maybe next week… maybe next year. The time for maybe is over.

I have a fear of failure that is causing me to fail by not trying anything at all. I have a self-actualizing fear complex!!!! How in the world did I get to that place?! Well, I can tell you exactly how I got there and when I do that, you’ll see the solution as clearly as I do now.

There was a time in my life, my younger backwards-skipping-cartwheeling life when God was the center of my world. I practically lived up at the church, I worshipped, I had fellowship with my peers, I sang, I participated, I had a church family. I had a group of people who loved the same thing that I did, had the same desires, the same hopes, and our commonality was God. I had moments of leadership, many late night philosophical conversations, we read the same things, sang the same songs, saw the same movies, we talked about the same sermons. There was camaraderie. There was love. There was hope. There was worship. I felt peaceful the moment that I walked through the doors of the church. I felt a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. I knew the narrow hallways in the dark as well as I did when the lights were on. I could locate anyone in the church, I knew where I was going, not only in the building but in life because I had these things that made me feel so fulfilled, so special. I had a relationship with God. I talked to Him, I studied His word, I wrote about Him, I praised Him. I looked for any excuse to be up at that church, to be in God’s presence. I was happy there. I knew my place. I knew my purpose. I knew the meaning of God’s love for me.

…And then things changed. I separated myself from the church, I pursued things that I thought I wanted for myself, I lost my core group of friends. I let people down, I let myself down, and worst of all, I felt like I had let God down. I tried going to church a couple of times during this period and I entered with worry and guilt and sadness instead of the joy and peace that was so commonplace before. I stopped going. I stopped talking to God at all. I felt like I had betrayed Him and I should punish myself by removing myself from His presence. Guilt is a very tricky thing. I broke my own heart when I should have known from all of my teachings that God would accept me no matter what mistakes I had made.

There have been moments over the years when I have thought about getting involved in a church again but each time I hear that little voice in my head telling me that I am not worthy of that love anymore. I hear that voice whispering in my ear that I can’t pick up where I left off, that I would be a hypocrite to walk back into church and worship a God that I abandoned for my own will so many years ago. I never stopped believing in God, I only stopped believing in my own worth. I convinced myself that I wasn’t a beautiful child of God anymore, that I was caked with sin and ungratefulness for the things that He offered me and I turned down. The time for that thinking is over.

Over the past few weeks I have started to reignite my interest in making God the center of my life again. Each time I do this I find that I am faced with a trial that tries to derail me. This time I thanked God for the trial set before me. I thanked Him for the opportunity to trust Him and grow from adversity. Immediately after I did that I felt completely peaceful about the situation. For the first time in years I was able to say thank you and hand over the struggle to God and say that I am not in control of it anymore… and to be completely okay with that knowledge. Wow, what a major step for me!

My challenge this week is to continue to let God shape my life, to actively seek Him and the plan that He has for my life. I’ve just finished Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life that was recommended to me by my dearest friend and I am amazed at how clear my purpose feels to me right now.

It is one thing to feel that you have a purpose and another thing to DO what you are being called to do though. And so the journey begins…

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1

“If we confess our sins he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9

“ For I know the plans I have for you—This is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”
Jeremiah 29:11