December knocked me down and stole my lunch money.
That's the way it seems, anyway. In December, I lost all track of the pathetic semblance of a routine I pretended I once had. I had a full work week this past week, which started out with me being an hour late because I had misread the schedule. Doh. Great start to a new year...or not. The rest of the week was a pretty confusing blur.
Anyway, I am trying to get my life back together so that I can actually start doing some of the awesome things I planned on doing this year. But this morning I started thinking, "Hmm. The words 'getting my life BACK together' imply that my life has deteriorated from a previous state of 'togetherness.' I'm not so sure I EVER had my 'life together' to begin with."
I remember my second senior year of college (that should tell you something right there) when I was 24 and most the girls on my hall were 18-year-old freshmen. Bless them, most of them looked up to me. Some of them even called me "Mama Ruth." And a few of them even expressed to me that they thought I had it "all together." Yeah, I'm sure it probably seemed that way because I had 6 years of experience that those girls didn't yet have. The truth is, I've never really had it "all together."
But I really do want to be more organized than I currently am. I don't have to be perfect. That's not what I'm all about here. This idea of having it "all together" is just how I'd like to appear to people, and honestly, it just doesn't really matter what other people think. Most people don't pay enough attention anyway because they don't care. Most of them are probably too busy trying to organize their own lives to worry about how I do or do not organize my life. It's just this stupid competition we all imagine ourselves having with other people.
With that being said, I still need to get organized so that I can actually start doing the things I want to do this year (and this life). The reason for this is because I've been given a lot; I'm responsible for using what I've been given.
I've heard well-meaning people say we should just trust God. Trust God and it will all turn out all right. Trust God. Trust God. Trust God.
I know where they're coming from. I believe, as they most likely do, that Christians are not saved by works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. And I can understand how it can seem a little sticky when God has given us work to do. How much of that work is our effort, and how much of that is God's intervention?
It's easy to drift to one extreme or the other. Either we don't do anything and just "trust God," or we go to the other end, putting all our human effort into it--and eventually get arrogant and steal glory from God.
In the not too distant past, I think I was veering towards the first of those, though perhaps not to the most extreme extreme. I was working towards my goals and working on the projects I had, but I was not doing as much as I could. I didn't want to take glory from God. I wanted to trust Him to complete what He had begun.
But the more I write, pray, and live, the more I believe I am supposed to be an excellent writer--or at least the most excellent writer I can be. It's not because I have some glorious ambition of being the next J. K. Rowling (that train left a lot time ago--and it was NOT the Hogwarts Express). It's because the One who has called me and equipped me is excellent.
When it all comes down to it, I didn't will myself to be a writer. The ability to write was given to me. The abilities to imagine, create, dream, edit were also given to me. God the Author has made me in His image by breathing His creativity into me. He's given me dreams that have become stories. When I sit down with pen and paper, or when I sit down at the laptop keyboard, something happens. The Creator of the universe enables me to write. The gifts are from Him.
But if I don't sit down and write, then nothing happens.
And if I write and just try to present the first draft of my stories or songs or whatever, they might be good, but they probably aren't excellent. And I've got to look beyond the idea that I'm making things excellent so that other people will see their excellence. Certainly that is a very good thing. I want people to enjoy and get something out of what I write. But it's not the most important thing.
Because Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous that God had found Abel's sacrifice acceptable, while rejecting Cain's. But Cain's heart wasn't right to begin with, because he didn't give his best. And like Cain, I don't have anything except what's been given me. But if I just put forth minimal effort with what I've been given, then that's a pretty poor offering.
The context is slightly different, but King David said that he would not offer God a sacrifice that cost him nothing. In David's case, he was insisting upon paying a man for the location, oxen, and materials he would use for a burnt offering. In my situation, the context is different, but the idea is the same. Am I to offer to God work that cost me nothing--or next to nothing? Am I to just produce something to be producing it, or should it be my best work?
And if it's my best work, then shouldn't I be spending a lot more time writing, editing, rewriting, and editing again...and again...and again...? Shouldn't I really be working to pursue agents instead of just sending out a few pathetic letters and praying for the best?
I've come to the conclusion that the work I do is not something I enable myself to do, but since I have been given the ability, I also have the responsibility to produce the most excellent work I can. It's not because I'm brilliant. It's not because I want to be some great writer (well, okay, so I do...but that's not the main thing). It's because the One who has called me is worth my best work.
So I'm trying to get my life as "together" as I can get it. It's a work in progress, like pretty much everything else. I'm starting a diet/exercise routine tomorrow (God willing). I'm trying to stick with a plan of reading the Bible in a year. I'm keeping record of whether or not I pray everyday, just because I know I'm not disciplined without it (on a side note, I'm not just praying to check it off a list. I'm praying because I need to spend time with God, but I know myself enough to know that right now I need the discipline aid of marking it off a list). I'm also going to start making some goals for myself in getting writing done and query letters out. I also need to start making some serious plans towards recording some songs. That's right. And with those songs, I'm going to have to settle for making them only as excellent as I can make them. My guitar skills are on an elementary level. In other words, I suck.
But the Lord has given me these things to do. I have some interesting ideas for them. I'm excited to see what He's going to do in the next few months. I'm pretty sure I'll never have it "all together," but even though I'm trying to work hard, I'm still relying on grace. There's hope. Lots of hope.