On this day…

Facebook can be cruel, right?  Bringing up old memories and the good old days.  The ones that we are trying to forget or maybe long to go back to.

It’s this cruel joke really. Reminding of what use to be.  I don’t know about you, but some days those memories are hard.

  • “I use to be skinnier.”
  • “Look how much fun I had.”
  • “I had so many friends.”
  • “That was when things were good between us.”
  • “Look how happy we were.”

Those memories maybe remind you that you are a long way from where you used to be or where you want to be now. Reminding you of what you used to have or are still waiting for.

Recently, because I didn’t want to sit alone in my pity party, I took a screen shot of a post from a year ago and sent it to one of my best friends.

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I might have said something like… “last year was very different, huh, ugh, sigh!” Not really sure how I felt and not sure what kind of answer I was hoping to get or wanted to get.

This is how she replied. “It is very different. But oh friend, I am so encouraged and encourage you to be comforted with your words. “Everyday He shows his abundant love for me in ways I can’t even imagine” it’s cool to think, wow, he’s still doing that.”

What I wanted in that moment, was maybe someone to say that I was better off now.  Or even to say, I am so sorry that you aren’t as happy! Or maybe even a snarky, cynical remark about how much Valentine’s day is stupid.

How dare she quote me to me!!

The truth….the pity party doesn’t work. 

It feels good for a second.  It feels good to draw someone else into your loneliness and bitterness. We long to have company in that.  We want others to validate our outlook and make us feel comfortable in those feelings. And to quote Gilmore Girls…..

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It is a vicious circle though.  The pity party is one with deflated balloons, and left overs from someone’s wedding. It doesn’t provide encouragement or hope.  In fact, it is the kind of party that you leave feeling worse than when you came.

We look to our circumstances to dictate how we feel about ourselves, the world, and God. Maybe we think our circumstances are a reflection about how God feels about us.  Choosing to bless those he loves more than others, to answer their prayers.

It is easy when things are good to think God is good.  It is easy to say, “Hallelujah” (praise hands emoji) to God when everything is peachy. But what about those days when the invites to pity parties are strong, when you can barely get out of bed, and your heart is heavy and hurting.

My words that I said a year ago mean just as much as the did on that day “Everyday he shows his abundant love for me in was I can’t even imagine.”

He is working out all things for the good of those whom he loves. And oh, how He loves you. 

He loves you, not just because you have it all worked out.  Because you can do at lot of great things for him.  Not because you have all those spiritual disciplines down.  Not because you have all those ducks in a row.  Not because you can smile at strangers or keep a tidy house.  Not because you don’t complain or are good with your money.

He loves you because he loves you because he loves you.

It might sound trite in your circumstances today.  It might seem empty and lame to whatever you are walking through.  But it is no less true.  There is no other truth I want to lean into. And I long to have a faith that is quick to see His goodness even in the midst of hard days.

Our God is not one of empty promises or of accidents.  He is not wondering what to do next in your life.  He is not surprised by the things that happens. He is the God of Jacob and Moses.  He comes through. He is faithful.

Because a pity party is really about ourselves, it is about us looking at our lives and thinking only of ourselves, the only thing that helps me make a quick exit, is remembering. 

Remembering the one in whom I say I trust.  Remembering the works that he has done in my life and those around me.

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“I will remember the dead of the Lord, yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” -Psalm 77:11

Remembering His faithfulness.  Remembering how he has answered my prayers and fulfilled desires in the past.  Remembering how he hasn’t given up on me, even on my darkest days.

Our God is not like us, one that gives up on people, letting us just figured it out on our own or resigning to defeat.  He is a God that works….sure it may not be how we hope he would work.  It may not always wrap up in a neat little tidy bow.  And it may not be in our timing. But He isn’t like us, thank goodness!

Psalm 77:16-20

“When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.  The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.  The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.  Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

 

Friends, sometimes God’s way is through the sea, through great waters, where we cannot see his footprints.  I pray that if you are in that spot that you would remember. Remember his works, his faithfulness, his goodness, his grace and love for you. He is trustworthy.

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Held together

Shattered and Broken. Destroyed and torn apart.

Everything is ending, the pieces are on the floor in front of you. The door just slammed, the call just came, the tears are running down your face.

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Maybe it is a job, a relationship or a family.  Or maybe it is a hope, dream or desire you have held as a pillar in your life for so long.

Whatever it is, you can’t breathe or focus, or seem to move on, it just feels as if you will die under the weight of the shattered pieces of your loss.  You might feel as you can’t continue, you can’t face the world, the others that haven’t been broken, and everything is together for them.

Perhaps you are in hard place of “this time of year” that can be suffocating.  You can’t muster the strength to smile and pretend everything is fine, so you just don’t go to that work party or that event with your friends.  You can’t face them again when your insides feel ripped in two. The happy couple or put together family is a punch to the gut.

My heart has been heavy this year thinking about how this advent season, the season of longing is truly that for many people.  2016 was a hard year for many, filled with heartache and pain and worry.  A year that just didn’t seem to quit. The world seems to be aching in so many ways.  Brokenness, shattered lives, cities literally crushed by hate and war, it is all too much.

We want to look away, we want to run and hide.  It seems too much to handle, to bear, to carry around from day to day. So maybe you ignore or just numb your self to the pain because you just can’t.

If you are anything like me, there might be things that seem impossible to hold together, to balance, to get through.  I look to myself to try to do it for myself, to pick up the pieces, to hold it together until I leave a party before I crumble.

The truth is that we actually don’t have to just power through, keep it in, and stuff it down.  Friends, we don’t have to hold ourselves together.  

We don’t do a very good job anyway, right.  We make a mess of it, like a stain that we try to fix without the stain remover.

The truth is that we have something that holds us together.  Someone, really.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and longing, I have been reminded that what we receive in the birth of Jesus is way through the pain, someone to hold it together for us, to be with us in the suffering.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

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And in Christ, all things hold together.  

The power of that statement, in those moments when all the plates you have been juggling come tumbling down, when you feel at the precipice of destruction, when nothing seems sure, is water for the parched soul.

He came to us, he came to our world and lived the hard life that we are living.  He knows the pain and suffering of living this human life.  He knows. And he is still here.  He doesn’t run from it or hide from us. He stays and is with us. What a beautiful savior we have in Jesus.

Friends, as we wrap up 2016, we don’t have to pretend or posture before God about the state of our lives.  Our lives might be laying there destroyed by our sin or by others.  We might be in the midst of suffering and pain.  Or maybe 2016 was one of your best, but the message is the same.  It isn’t up to us to hold it together. 

We don’t have that power or might, but we have the One that does.

Friends, live in the freedom of not having to hold it together.  Step into the heartache and pain, you won’t be left there, you won’t be alone in it and it isn’t up to you to make it better. Praise Him.

photo credit: Shattered dove via photopin (license)

Numb

 

“Phew, she canceled on me, I don’t actually have to leave the house today.”

I didn’t have to get out of my pajamas for another couple hours.  I had spent the day before, laying on my couch for most of the day, and here I was wanting to do the same.  Even with piles of laundry on my bed and a sink full of dirty dishes, and I had a BBQ that I was invited to later. I was given relief for a few more hours.

No one really talks about the hard days growing up.  They tell you things like, “Work hard and you will be successful.” “Get an education and you can have a great job.” “You never know when you will meet your spouse, but you will.”

Life is hard.  Sometimes there are things we encounter that are hard simply because they are.  It isn’t necessarily because we did something or there were big changes, but because the daily grind of life is a toil.  It is hard.

However, the hard days are glossed over for this thing that we are chasing, “THE GOOD LIFE.” The life that is comfortable and secure, with enough money in your bank account, a good job, marriage, kids, a minivan, a house in the suburbs. Or maybe a version of that.

But what we don’t talk about enough is that life is hard, difficult and messy.

People get cancer, people end up not finding the love of their life in college, jobs get cut, houses fall apart, cars break down, babies never come or miscarry, people change, move away or hurt you.

In the midst of hard days, we chose one of two routes, either push through the hard or numb ourselves out and avoid it.

The later is usually my choice.  Hard days lead to exhaustion and spent emotions.  I long for rest and refreshment and for some reason, the idea of laying on my couch doing nothing always sounds appealing.  I turn on Netflix and zone out. My addictive personality is fed and satisfied, and craving more.  T

wo days later it is time for me to go to work again and I still feel exhausted.  I just spent my weekend not really living, just numb. Feeling far from God, not really experiencing anything.

I let myself hide, not face the hard things, because I think it will be easier.  I avoid friends, and pretend it is just because I am not working out and didn’t get enough of my summer. But that is a lie.

It hits me Monday morning….

“Is this the life you really want?”

Even though I am living a life that I didn’t necessarily imagine, it can still be a life that I choose.

Because if I am truly honest, I just react to what life throws at me.  I tell myself that it isn’t my fault, “things changed,” “I am not in control of certain things in my life.” I let myself fall into the depression, when I know that there are patterns that perpetuate these feelings.  These patterns pull me down in the pit.

But it is a lie that I believe that I can’t help how life has turned out. Because I chose how I spend my days.

I chose whether or not to get out of bed in good time on a Saturday morning.  I chose to turn on the TV instead of just going to bed.  I chose to not text my friend back because I just want to escape from the questions.

That other route…the one that involves pushing through the hard things. The one less traveled. It means doing hard things. And the truth is….we are fully capable to work through hard things.  We can chose to face the hard things and still live despite the trials and level of difficulty.

I am not saying that this is a white knuckle through hard things, just trying harder, doing more or fix it yourself. That’s a lie too.

Because the greatest promise is that we aren’t left on our own.  Often I have chosen to be numb because I believed that I had to push the hard thing on my own, I had to face down the demon by myself.

I don’t.  I don’t stand on this earth without someone standing right beside me/in front of me.

Friends, this isn’t a confession of figuring life out, or telling the story how I have conquered the avoidance tactics I take when things get tough.  This is a confession that I am not good at this, running towards life instead of from it.

This is a recognition that this is not the life that I want to live.  This is not how I want to spend my days! I want to live life present and alive, in connection God and with the people that I love.  I want to uncover the life and passion that are underneath the surface of these numb feelings. The older I get, the more I realize that the hard days make the good ones even sweeter and more full. img_7373

The ironic thing is that I said these words to a student last week that maybe I need for myself, “I know that this hard, but I believe that you can do hard things.  You have the potential to do a lot of hard things.”

If you think about human history, and how we continue to advance, break records, and overcome odds against all sorts of circumstances, we are capable of more that we would ever believe.

AND we have one that overcame first and did THE HARDEST THING so that we wouldn’t have to. He overcame the world, he fought back the enemy and won.  So that even in the midst of trials and tribulation we would know that it isn’t the END!

Friends, take heart.  We have an savior that knows that trials will come, and hasn’t left us alone.  He has overcome the world, so that the world won’t overcome us.

Do you take the hard road or the avoidance one like I do?  Do you lean in or run away?  How do you find encouragement when things are just plain hard?

(As I was finishing this post, I looked back at some of my previous posts in the last month. They are all about hard things, change, conquering hard things….it is sort of a theme, but I am okay with that! I hope you keep reading!)

Change is hard

It is actually is hard. Really hard.  Whether it is your ways, your life, or even the people around you, it is a terribly hard thing.

I have found of all the things that I have to deal with as an adult, change is one of the hardest.  Sure it can be exciting and thrilling, but it is still hard.  

We get used to things.  We get used to our routes to work, the people we see on a daily basis. Then….things change. We move, things happen, people leave, and suddenly everything is different.  Maybe not bad or terrible, but different and we suddenly have to get used to everything again.

Were we disillusioned in thinking that after all that change from high school to college (where you move every year) that after all that, everything would just settle down and be normal and predictable? Maybe we thought that we wouldn’t have to encounter hard things like this? Probably.

In reality, life turns out so much different than we think or imagine, and can be so hard at times.

Me too

I had a conversation with a student about some of my co-workers that changed jobs. (Meaning they don’t work in my school anymore.) She came to school the first day and realized that they really weren’t there. Just new people.  This young lady was upset at them.  She was acting out and complaining about not having them to talk to anymore. Most likely in her immaturity, change doesn’t always make sense, and it feels like an attack against her and her life.

The funny thing is, I can remember feeling that way.  It was a couple of weeks ago.  Things were changing and people were leaving.  It felt like the life that I was very used to suddenly wasn’t the same anymore.  A dear friend moved away, I suddenly was living by myself, people were having ALL THE BABIES, and the school year was shaping up to be VERY different. I was so depressed about it.  Like the kind of depressed that I didn’t want to leave my house for a couple of days.

Fortunately, someone affirmed something in my soul..all of these changes were a loss.  And I needed to grieve over them.  If I just pretended everything was fine, I would stuff down all the sadness and hard emotions and not deal with them.  Un-dealt with things have a tendency to come back later to haunt you, right? So I had to face these losses and start the process of moving on.

In my conversation with this young lady, I told her this.  I told her I was sad too.  I missed my friends and it is hard when people leave.  I knew that she was thinking hard about this because she asked, “When does it get easier?” What do I say, when I myself am not yet quite out of it.

I told her that there isn’t a timeline, but every day it will feel just a little better.

In this situation it gets easier to live life without these people around, but does change ever really get easier.  Probably not. Change will always be a hard thing to deal with, but what I think is that we get better at dealing with it.  We learn to emotionally process the hard things we encounter.  We lean harder on the One who doesn’t ever change.

Promises

We were never promised an easy life.  We were promised an eternal one.  Our world screams at us, that if we work hard enough, we can create an easy life for ourselves.  We start to pursue it and find that it is just an empty promise, just like many of the other promises of this world.

Sometimes I think that God allows change and other hard things to happen in my life because I become complacent.  I become lazy in my pursuit of him.  He wants to remind me that I should be dependent on him more than anything in this world.  He does this to rip away my codependent tendencies I have with the ways of this world.

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

(Isaiah 41:13)

What a sovereign God that I serve that continues to desire for me depend on him.  He continues to draw me near to him and doesn’t let me get lost in the promises of this world. Which are enticing and seemingly good at times. He doesn’t let me stay there, he shifts something, he stirs up my life to pull me back to him.

I could get mad and angry at him, (I have and probably will again) that he lets hard things happen in my life, but He sees the big picture, he knows what is coming and he knows that more than anything I need to be leaning into him and holding on to the anchor in the midst of the storm of change.

For the better

My trainer told me once that our bodies figure out the most efficient way to move, and sometimes that means we don’t use all our muscles, then the muscles we don’t use get weak and we are prone to injury.  We have to change up what we do when we work out to use all our muscles.

Maybe our hearts and brains are like that.  Change can be good because we figure out the most efficient way to live, we become dependent on people and routines, and don’t actually live to our full potential. We sort of half live, because that is the easiest thing to do.

God knows this, he allows change to happen because he knows our hearts, he knows our weaknesses and wants to challenge us to live our lives to the fullest.

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Friend, perhaps you are staring down a big change that is happening or just happened.  You are struggling to deal, you are wanting to run away and avoid this hard thing.  I know the feeling.  I can’t always claim that I did the best to run to God, but know that the moments I did, it was better.  He sustains and helps.

How do you deal with change?  What do you do when things get hard in life?  What is change that is hard to deal with lately?

 

Things I love!

Perhaps July will be my month of blogging, I have probably posted more in the last 2 weeks, then I have all semester!

Much of what I do all day in the summer is follow the goings on of Twitter!  Most people think it is pointless, maybe they don’t really know how to use Twitter to its full potential, but I honestly learn a lot from it.  A lot of people I follow post links to articles and blogs, that I read and pass on to others who might want to read it too!

Recently Relevant Magazine posted a link to this article.

You should read it!  And maybe use it to think about the things you love instead of the things you hate.
I am like the other, I probably talk about the things I don’t like more often then I think about the things I do love.  
 
In that thought, I wanted to make a list of a few things I do love! 
1. Summer mornings- the cool breeze, smell of cut grass, birds chirping, and the time I have to sit on my porch and leisurely drink my coffee from a cute mug instead of a travel mug on my way to school.
 
2. Coffeeshops- the constant buzz of people in and out, the sounds of the baristas making lots of yummy drinks, the smell that lingers on my clothes and in my books after I am gone, and the people I meet in them.
3. Corny jokes- I just love puns and silly jokes that kids tell you.  It makes me remember the simple things that cause joy.
4. Road trips- I love getting in my car and driving with friends somewhere! I recently took a trip with a few friends and it was amazingly soul refreshing.  Not to mention it was to my hometown and that made it so much better. 
These are just a few, maybe in the next couple of weeks, I will post a few more!
What are things that you love and love to talk about to others!

Sweet Summer Time

Last week about this time, I gained my freedom for the summer!

I certainly didn’t go into the teaching profession to have my summer’s off, but I won’t refuse the opportunity to sleep in, leisurely sip my coffee on my deck, read for fun, and spend my days by the pool.

If only that’s all that I did!

For several days, I have sorted through all of the things I have left undone throughout this year, things long ignored because of the pressing: ungraded papers, lessons to plan, emails to send, and meetings to attend.

As I have begun my annual cleaning of my entire apartment, and cleaning out of my closet and files.  I have also begun my bucket list of the summer!  I was inspired to make a list of things I would like to do this summer, but not things that have to be done.

Here is what I have so far:

1. Cook strange things!
– I have been pinning recipes on Pinterest all year, now is the time to actually try them out!  Perhaps, I will fall in love with cooking again.

2. Make new friends and spend quality time with old ones
– This is really a goal in life always, but I like to think that now I have some extra time, I want to be around my people.  The people that are ignored for those papers and lessons.

3. Write more
– I love writing and dreaming and thinking.  I want to spend more time penning thoughts on paper instead of always having to say them out loud to someone else.

4. Be creative
– Perhaps this goes along with writing, but my creative energy has been low this year, I want to spend time feeding that part of my soul. 

Where to begin…

I don’t even know how to update at this point. It has been a long while since I blogged.  My life is a little crazy busy right now.  I thought about updating during spring break….but I was trying to take a break and rest as much as I could.

So here are some quick updates of my life.

1. 6 weeks till summer!  We just finished state testing and there are a lot of things my students and I need to accomplish before the end of the year.  One includes reading a novel and doing lit circles. We had a super encouraging and beneficial training on lit circles last week. (You don’t hear that often about professional development, but it was!)


2. Still plugging away at grad school!  It isn’t so bad, but it definitely causes me to think about the future a lot which is scary and exciting at the same time.  (In fact, I am sitting in my favorite coffeeshop writing this post instead of doing homework!)

3. Running! I ran a 10K with my sister and brother-in-law over Spring Break and it was so exciting to run my fastest pace time!  I am getting faster and I can’t wait till this summer to have some more concentrated time to train.

4. THE WEATHER!  After 4 snow days and lots of cold mornings, the weather is starting to look up.  It is amazing how much this changes my outlook on life. I am so much more excited about my days!

5.  Finally got to meet Henry! The newest addition to our clan is here!  And I had to wait 6 weeks to meet him! But isn’t he adorable!

6.  Prayer! This last month as I began to think about what I am praying for my 27th year to look like, I decided that I am just going to continue surrender all those desires to the Lord and trust him to make things happen or change those desires!

7. Easter! My church got the whole family together and we celebrated at the Kansas City Convention Center.  I had to be there super early, but it was definitely worth it to watch the sunrise! It was awesome to see people I haven’t seen in a long time and make some new friends. 

The rest of the semester is full of activities, homework, planning and getting ready for the summer and next year!  As difficult and overwhelming as some days are, I am so blessed right now.  I look forward to this summer!