Friday, September 27, 2013

What I Learned in September

Today I'm linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky to share what I learned in September. Listed below, in no particular order, are my revelations, from the silly to serious.

1.) Eight hour shifts working at the mall end in silliness. Today was no different. We played Motown music at the end of my shift To cap off the night, I serenaded my coworkers  with "Stand By Me" and grooved to "My Girl". Worth every moment even if you get strange looks from customers.

Mayhem back to sleep within 10 minutes of me getting out of bed.
2.) My two cats substitute as an alarm clock on my days off. It never fails that on the time I don't set an alarm and determine to sleep in, Mayhem and Milton (my adorable early risers) make enough racket to raise me from my slumber. Then, once I'm awake (with coffee in grasped in hand), they drift off to sleep.

Pictured to the left is one of the culprits. Innocent, right?

3.) Everyone has problems. This is so simple but it's hard to believe when put into practice. Once a month, my husband and I attend a young couples fellowship. This month we had our pastor and his wife join us and share 25 years of marital wisdom. The night before the fellowship I told my husband I wasn't looking forward to it because we certainly aren't perfect in our marriage and hearing about theirs would surely put ours in a bleak contrast. Surprisingly (or not), they have had struggles of their own and growth that was needed too. It was such a good reminder not to compare my "behind the scenes with their highlight reel" (quoted from Steve Furtick of Elevation Church).

4.) You can be injured playing the Wii. Truth. My husband and I were playing the Wii one night and the next day, the pad of my hand by my thumb ached. We played Boom Blox, friends, not a very intense game. It's kinda like Jenga for the Wii except you get points for the blocks you knock off. Ever since the second game we've played, I have heard a popping followed by intense pain. No medical advise has been sought yet, but soon my friends, very soon.

5.) Fall is my favorite season. For years, I've said that winter was my favorite primarily because I was born in December and Christmas is my favorite holiday. But this year, as the stores switched over to scarves and boots, and cafes sported their new fall flavors, I found myself soaking in the comfort of the season. Fall has come to mean a season of new beginnings, new relationships and a time to connect. There is both an excitement and a comfort that fall brings. I welcome it this with open arms and grab it close because I know that the cool breezes and warm days will disappear all too quickly into Ohio winter.

6.) I can make GOOD coffee! The trick? Get good coffee and the rest is history. So simple.

7.) During the month of October, bloggers accept a challenge to write on one subject for 31 days. I have yet to decide whether to accept this challenge. Honestly, I'm a bit intimidated and feel like I'm totally unprepared. My husband had a word of wisdom: Why don't you figure it out as you go along? After all, your first year doesn't have to be perfect after all right? Still deciding but I think it's a great idea. If you're interested in joining the challenge, read more about it here

Comment below and share some of what you've learned this month.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Priceless Worth

Posted originally by Christine Caine.
Last weekend, I gathered in a beautiful home filled with kindhearted women to celebrate the expected arrival of my best friend's first baby. I knew maybe two of the women there, including the mother-to-be, but I connected  with these new women from all walks of life. We were joyful, filled with love and I sat in awe of the community my friend had built to support her.

But more than the beauty of the home and the overwhelming hospitality that these women demonstrated, I was struck to the core by the prayer our hostess prayed for the little boy we all were there to celebrate. She paraphrased Psalm 139:13-16 which reads:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before they came to be.

I have heard this scripture many times before, but hearing it spoken in a prayer for this little one, who has not yet entered the world, it spoke a new meaning to me; a meaning of worth and value.We sat in that cozy living room with hopes and dreams for this little guy. There was not one mention of expectations of what he will be, do or become. Instead, we were all aglow with hope and joy. His value was the most precious and nothing could change that in our sights.

Everyone always says babies are so precious, but when do we stop seeing ourselves that way? Why do we let the circumstances and experiences of our lives determine the measure of our worth? Our worth and our value does not decrease based on what has happened to us; nor does it increase if we gain that particular job, husband or child. Our value is determined by a most high God and King. He saw us as worthy enough to send his son to die for the sins that we committed so that our relationship with Him could be restored.

Why do I forget that my value isn't determined by someone's opinion or my performance? This world creates a mist that we fumble through to find a clear meaning of who we are. We see but through a veil, but if I look to the scripture above, the veil is lifted. I can see clearly.

 My value was formed before I was even formed in my mother's womb. My Heavenly Father saw me and said I was precious. He said I was precious when I was born, when I gradated from kindergarten and when I stumbled in my faith. My worth doesn't increase with a success or failure at work. My marriage isn't what defines my value. My life stage isn't the definition of my being. No. God has named me precious and I am choosing to begin seeing myself in the same way.

I pray that you too may see beyond the veil. May each day henceforth cause that mist to evaporate until  one day, you walk with a clear and sunny forecast of "I am precious."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Autumn Memories

Last night, I distractedly called into the living room, asking my husband to look up what the weather would be like today. I was standing in front of my closet pondering what to wear to work. "Hmm... the skirt with this blouse would look nice..." I glanced over the sweaters in my closet and longed for the weather to snuggle into them. I was resigning myself to another day of thin shirts and breezy pants when I heard my husband's response: "High of 68 tomorrow."

I blinked. "Really?!" I ran into the living room to look at his computer screen myself. There it was. A beautiful forecast of sunny skies and a high of 68. For two days we will have the glorious fall, breezy weather my heart has desired. I've had enough of the suffocating humidity and hazy days of summer. And now we have a momentary reprieve and I am soaking in its glory.

Waking up today to a cool apartment and a crisp scent of leaves in the air stirs something in my soul. I feel at home in this season. The colors burst all over the landscape. Leaves reveal jewel tones of gold, amethyst and ruby. Cold beverages warm hands and hearts as friends sit outside cafes and on campus lawns, taking a moment to connect in the spaces between busy and overwhelmed. LIFE happens in the fall.

Growing up, I never anticipated the return of fall very much. I have never been one for change and fall usually meant a new school year, with new expectations. A creature of routine scampers away from change as quickly as a cockroach from light. But recently, I've come to reflect on this season with a warm fondness.

Autumn. Fall. It holds so many beautiful memories...

Standing in the parking lot with a good friend, exchanging words and hugs as he goes off to school.

A kiss at midnight as the cool breeze swirls around us- our first kiss as boyfriend and girlfriend.

Laughing outside with friends as we await going on stage for the opening night of a play.

Getting soaked with rain walking across campus with a friend and then getting back to our dorm only to realize we could have used the tunnels.

Waking up early at a retreat and walking through the foggy air to a room full of college students there to hear God's Word and praise His name.

Watching the UC football team two rows away but anticipating the half-time show with more excitement and awe. 

Looking over these few memories and surveying others I hold dearly, I see a pattern unfold. Connections and new beginnings. A slower pace- which seems like an oxymoron when you consider that fall has usually been the starting gate and busy period for the last 18 years. But more than the homework, the events, and late nights, I remember moments of beauty, of connection, of relationships.

 I realize, as I write this that I am longing for this autumn to be filled with the same promise. 

New relationships. A time of slowing down and speeding up. Transition. Let this season be filled to the brim with warm memories that comfort and excite. Let this season bring LIFE.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Who's Driving Your Life?

Last Thursday evening I sat together with other young women discussing why we are here on this earth. We threw out some ideas that we had heard or learned that defines our purpose: success, money, status, acceptance, love, Jesus. Being a group of Christian women, we all recognized that living a life that glorifies Jesus is our ultimate mission. This is the "right" answer; however, I was struck, as I have been repeatedly in the last three weeks, by how much our motive influences our drive and that drive powers our life. Imagine if you will a car, and any number of motives can step into that driver's seat. My motive? Performance.

This motive has only within the last year unveiled itself as the driver of my life. As a child, I learned that there were two ways to perform: good and bad. I decided that I must perform good... eh... well. The people who held authority in my life set the standard for what was good and bad, solidifying my life's goal which was essentially to perform a certain way to obtain my greatest desire, love and acceptance.

At first, this motive, Perform Well, served me. I achieved much in my academic years, earning honor roll and accolades of success. In high school, a friend and I were even named most likely to succeed. Surely, I was elected because my peers recognized I had my nose to the grindstone and rarely came up for air. Try hard, do your best and you will go far. A great mentality, right?A good mantra, until you don't.

Perform Well was a great friend to have around when things were smooth and I was rolling high on good grades and a squeaky clean reputation. But when a mistake took the stage, Perform Well became an abusive and controlling b****.  Into that car piled in Self Defeat, Shame, Condemnation, Regret and many more, until I would sit in the back seat of this dysfunctional clown car with Jesus, unable to hear what He is speaking because the din of the other voices is so loud. I was, still am, whip lashed by the standards that Perform Well has set to rule my life.

At the beginning of August, I made a choice. To silence the voices and to earn a reprieve, I stopped the car, shoved the majority of those voices aside and elected Jesus to sit in the driver's seat. Good intentions, yes, but my ability to follow through with Jesus being my motive for life is difficult to maintain when I am so used to, or rather, addicted, to former ways of coping. Perform Well has often traded positions with Jesus to take the wheel and drive me towards success and recognition out of a need to prove I am worthy of that love and acceptance I long for. Thankfully, I can now recognize the exchange of motive and shove that old friend aside, but more often than not, I hang onto the reins rather than handing it over to Christ (this is what I call Control, another long-term relationship I've had since childhood).

But despite the struggle to "let go and let God," there are victories that I can see in my life since taking time to rest and refocus.

1) Recognition of when I am in control and when another motive steps in. This allows me to readjust perspective and get my motives in line.

2) The din of voices is quieting. Perform Well still nags from the backseat at time, especially when I know I can do better. But rather than allowing it to beat me into the ground, I look to Jesus and ask is there truth in the correction. How can I improve to glorify Him more?

Although I desperately want to be free of struggling with this constant need to perform well and control my life, I am thankful that I can recognize the growth. Every change in life starts with a recognition that this is where I am and then deciding what to do with it.

So now it's your turn. Who is driving your life and is it going in the direction you want it to be?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Changing Seasons

The cursor blinks at me as I sit, staring into the void that is a blank page.

How do you begin a story mid-rex? I've always marveled at the beautiful way writers are able to grab your attention and carry you from confusion, to enlightenment and deep into compassion for a character. It is no easy thing to draw someone in to a life that is caught up in a
conflict, but, after all, don't we all love the drama of a change and a challenge?

I can admit that I do not volunteer for change. A challenge, yes, but change? I'm a creature of habit. If I were a character from Middle Earth, I may very well fit in with the Hobbits who like their life comfy-cozy, their food rich in flavor and their nature pure. But sometimes forces invade the comfortable hobbit hole of life, crashing through the door and demanding you go on an adventure. So you pack up your nap sack and stand attention to your Gandalf's direction: "What next?"

But there are also times when you are on the outside viewing someone else taking the head spin into an amazing adventure filled with danger and all the promise of success. This was Bilbo when Frodo had his visit from Gandalf. He left the ring behind and traveled out to visit Rivendell. He laid aside the burden he had been carrying and found respite in that beautiful realm (For those of you who have seen the movie- Why can't we have something as beautiful and serene as that? I mean, really?)

As much as I would love to say I'm Frodo about to go wage war on Sauron, I'm Bilbo. For two years I have served a campus ministry that reaches students for Christ and equips them in leadership. I have seen students be transformed and challenged in their faith. I have also served as an admin for a youth ministry, stepping in two years ago after the previous admin of 12 years vacated the position; and I have served on a leadership team growing a newly launched college-age ministry at our church. I don't say all of this to glorify myself. I need to say it to affirm what I have accomplished and to remind myself of the adventures I have been on; they have been amazing but wearisome. I have seen the Lonely Mountain, fought some dragons and now I'm coming into a season of rest while others take the helm of these ministries. I should be elated, but I fight against disappointment.

I wonder if Bilbo sat looking out over the beauty of that glen and longed for what Frodo was experiencing. Or did he simply lean back and wish the young lad luck? In truth, I think there was probably a bit of both. It's hard to let go when your heart is wrapped up in something, whether it's a job or a relationship, or something entirely different. However, if you keep clinging to that thing, you may find yourself losing it or losing out on another opportunity more fulfilling and a better fit.

So I let go. I listen to the crickets chirp and soak in the cool breeze that our lovely Ohio weather is affording us in early August. I think of the new leaders and wish them luck. I anticipate where this new path will bring me in the next six months. My Rivendell may just be another launch into a bigger adventure. I don't know what to expect but I know for now I'm willing to be still and enjoy the serenity.

What season are you in? 

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