Sunday, November 16, 2014

Want To See What India is Like?

Here are some photos from my recent trip with Partners International to the southern part of India.  For more information, visit www.partnersintl.org.



Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Lost Passions



MultiMarkdown


There are a few things in life that I love to do.  I mean, I know we all have things we enjoy, but I’m talking about those activities that we absolutely love.   The ones that somehow minister to our own souls and maybe, like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, cause us to “feel God’s pleasure”.  Those things.

I have a few of them, and I suspect you do to.  I won’t name them for you because surely yours are different from mine and this isn’t about mental comparisons of the activities themselves.  But let’s just all agree that we have them and can identify them.

The question that rattles around in my head is, “Why do I rarely do them?”  These passions seem lost in the everyday ebb and flow of my life.  They are the things I love most, but can never quite get to.  If you’re old enough to know who Jim Croce is, you know this isn’t a new phenomenon because “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them”.

But there are plenty of instances where I have the time, but still don’t make the effort.  Surely there has to be something else at play. Here are three possibilities that keep me from my passions and a few reminders to myself on how to overcome them.

Help, I’m Drowning!
Overload and mental fatigue are likely my biggest deterrents to fulfilling lost passions. When there’s so much of life that I can barely keep up, and I finally have a quiet moment to myself, I don’t want to fill it with anything…even something I love. Maybe it’s stress or simply lack of motivation. It’s just too much effort to do one more thing. Being so overloaded that I begin to lose desire, even for those things I love, is a warning sign that I need to throttle back a bit. I need to alter my “full steam ahead” pace and slow down. Take inventory of your days. Is your stress load drowning you? Are you so exhausted that even the thought of doing something you love sends your circuits into overload? Make an effort to lower your pace and make space for yourself and the things you love.

Get it Right!
I often fall into the trap of thinking, “If I can’t do it properly, I’m not going to do it at all”. For those of us with perfectionistic tendencies, we don’t want to tackle our passions if we can’t do them properly or perfectly.  So we sacrifice the whole thing and reassure ourselves we’ll get to it when we can “really do it right”. Don’t let perfectionism hinder you. You don’t have to devote all weekend to your passion.   You don’t have to buy more gear before you can begin or watch hours of YouTube videos to make sure you have correct technique.  Start small. Work with what you have and do it for a few minutes. Get started. Do what you can.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

No, No, No…After You!
As women, wives, and moms, we often give in to deciding that we will take care of everyone else’s needs, and if and when there’s any time left over, we can do something for ourselves. This way of thinking crosses a subtle line between loving and serving our families and falling into martyrdom. Hours turn into days that turn into weeks that we fill with the activities of others, but not our own. Maybe I’ll get to that on Saturday. I might have 10 minutes before bed next Thursday night. But those times never come because we continually fill them with our to-do list for other people. We tell ourselves, “After I finish taking care of everyone else, I will allow myself to do something for me”. But, we get tired and the passion gets lost, or at best, relegated to lowest priority. We’re afraid that by taking time to enjoying our passions, we’re shirking responsibility in other areas of our lives. Guilt creeps in, so we go back to serving to soothe our conscience. By all means, take care of the loved ones in your life, but don’t trick yourself into thinking that somehow you’re being a better person by always putting your own passions last. Martyrdom will leave you bitter, especially at those you are trying so hard to serve.

Whether your passion is a hobby, a relationship, or maybe even your walk with God, don’t let overload, perfectionism, or martyrdom be the reason you don’t follow through. God is the author of our desires and passions. He created them in us for a purpose and He is pleased when we properly put them to use for His glory!


Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Sacrifice of "Craze"



“My life feels out of control!”, I confessed to God, as I drove in to the office.  I have a 30 minute commute and even though the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, it wasn’t enough to calm my restless spirit.

I’ve been grappling with an overpacked schedule, a few small physical challenges, a few more mental challenges, and coming to terms with my inability to juggle it all.

As I poured out my laundry list to God, I found myself running the gamut of issues, from teensy to gigantic, as we often do when we feel overwhelmed.  

I'll never get everything on my to-do list done today...

I'm too busy to keep my house perfectly like my friend does...

If I don't make it to the store today, it'll be Lucky Charms for dinner...

Dang, I'm out of grocery money... 

Maybe I shouldn't eat anyway.  I'm too fat...

Why haven't I saved more money...

We'll never be able to afford college for our son...

I'm going to die alone and broke...

...and on and on it goes.

Then after a momentary pity party, a humbling realization hit me.   Being in ministry, working hard to give priority time to my family, pushing myself out of my comfort box, and sometimes living in chaos, are choices I deliberately make.
  
Sometimes we sacrifice peace, low stress, and easy living in order to follow God's calling on our lives.
  
It's a sacrifice of "craze", given to God to let him rule our lives as He seems fit.  I could very easily skip church and clean my house spotless.  I could trade my time preparing Bible lessons for time at the gym, and I could certainly work more hours, make more money, socking it away in a retirement fund, rather than spend time volunteering with a mission organization.

We don't do these things because we're some kind of wonderful, extra-holy person.  We do them because God has put them before us and asked us to humbly serve him.  It's an honor, a calling, a privilege.  And, it requires sacrifice.  

So the humbling realization that hit me was...gratitude

Once I arrived at work and settled in to my desk, I decided to read a quick scripture before I started my day in earnest. I let the Bible App on my iPad suggest a random chapter and here’s what I got…

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”
 - Isaiah 32:18

So, for now, I will remind myself that there will always be a to-do list, that a house can be cluttered, yet full of love, that "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or God's children begging bread.", and that Lucky Charms are "Magically Delicious".

It's my reasonable service, my sacrifice.  Maybe it's yours, too...

  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Benefits



My devotion this morning was Palm 103.  One of my all time favorites, which in fact, inspired one of my first published articles, The Benefits Package.   "Praise the Lord, O my soul...and forget not all his benefits..."  I love the list that follows of all the things that God does for us.

Today, however, verse five seemed to jump off the page at me.  "He satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagles."  Lately I've been feeling the pressure of the desires of my life that don't seem to be getting met.

I'm not talking about the superficial things we all want (not that those are all bad either), but I'm talking more about those desires of our heart that run deeper than anyone but us really knows or understands.  We may share them with a friend or a spouse, but even though they try, they don't really get it.  It's those longings unfulfilled that I wonder about.  Does God care about this?  Can I ever make this a reality in my life?  

Maybe.  And maybe not.  But Psalm 103, verse 5 reassures me that God does care about those desires.  More than that, he'll satisfy them.  That doesn't mean all my desires will necessarily come true, but God will satisfy them with good things.  Good things.  I can quit all my worrying and planning over these desires, because He knows them and will satisfy me with good things. Even if it's not the original thing I think I wanted.  Whew.  Relief.

And, as an added bonus, the end of the verse tells me my youth will be renewed like the eagle's.  That's not such bad news for a 40-Something girl with a birthday coming up either...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

All Things...Almost



I played basketball when I was young.  Height was never on my side, but I could usually make up for it with speed and aggressiveness.  Movement came naturally to my young body.  I was physical, active, competitive, and didn't understand why everyone made such a big deal about stretching.  I figured it was just the old people telling us kids to stretch because they needed it, not because we did.  My pet peeve was doing arm circles.  Really, Coach?  Arm circles?  Come on. Give us something challenging to do.
 
Now, speed has left me, motion (at least to the degree I had it when I was young) has left me, and I save my aggressiveness for my Pinochle game. Well, that and driving.  I play basketball with my son, but the older and bigger he gets, the less success I have.

I've been struggling with pain in my neck for a little more than a year, and it's, well...a pain in the neck.  In a conversation about "motion" with a friend at work, we were discussing how, even as former athletes, we just stop using parts of our bodies effectively over time and the pain sets in.  The dreaded arm circles came up and how much more difficult they are as adults, because we don't use that full shoulder rotation for very many activities.

When I came home from work, the arm circles were still bugging me, and my competitive nature began to seep out.  Of course I could still do arm circles.  They're the easiest of all exercises, right? Maybe if I did more of them, my shoulders and neck wouldn't hurt as much.  I hopped out of my recliner to the middle of the living room and began flailing my arms around.  See?  I can still do this.  Easy Peasy. This just might be the answer to all my pain problems.

An hour later, I can barely move my left shoulder and my head doesn't turn that direction.  I guess "I can do all things through Christ" doesn't include arm circles after 40.
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Unrecognizable Me



Change is a strange thing. Sometimes you realize its presence and other times it catches you totally off guard--creeping up to startle you when you least expect it.  Last year at this time, I was a career Information Technology Manager.  I worked more with machines and systems than with people.  I had a PC, a benefits package, and a nice salary.  This year, I look in the mirror and wonder, who is this girl and where did my stable life go?  

The problem with this change thing is, if you're not careful, before you know it, you find yourself working part-time in the Marketing department--with a MacBook. Being creative rather than logical, learning to play the guitar and suddenly, you don't recognize yourself any more.

What's more than that, you're a missionary, working with people, traveling to some pretty scary places, raising support, and learning in a whole new way what "Trust the Lord" really means.  Weird.

Additionally, you're a writer who hasn't been writing much but looking for inspiration. You're a teacher, feeling much more like a student. Learning...changing...growing.  Being forced to step outside your box. Way outside the box. To step out of the boat, because that's where God is leading you.

Before you know it, you are the Unrecognizable You.  So, if you think your Christian life is comfortable and under control, hang on because...change is coming. 

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