Saturday, June 21, 2014

Looking Forward

It's probably been a mercy to the readers of my blog that I haven't had a computer this year, until now (I just obtained a new-to-me, gently used laptop that will hopefully serve me for a few years).  I have had a very interesting year, and I think it's been good that I haven't been able to blog every last detail of it to death.  I think, perhaps, it's been better that I've had a good long chance to process all that's happened to me this year before spilling it out in dozens of over-sharing blogs that would probably bore my readers to tears.

I'm not exactly sure what direction the blog is going, but I decided it was time to attempt a fresh start (I revamped the like?).  For now, here's a little update on things that have happened in the past six months or so, and how God's been faithfully teaching me and growing me.

I theme every year, as my long-time readers know, with words from the Biblical Christmas account.  2014's theme is "Do not be afraid."  I knew when I prayerfully chose that theme that it would be a year that would stretch and grow me, but I could never anticipate how much and in how many ways God would stretch and grow me.

I think the main thing that God has taught me this year is that there are two main ways that I can choose to respond to challenges, especially challenges regarding other people.  I can choose fear--which manifests itself through insecurity, anger, defensiveness, accusations, gossip, etc.  I can also choose love--which overlooks offenses, which seeks understanding, which honors another person over self, which rejoices in the truth.  In a lot of ways, I've found love to be the opposite, the antithesis of fear.  That's what my song of the year, "Love Alone is Worth the Fight" by Switchfoot is about.  It's been a great song to go along with my theme, a great reminder that love, though difficult, really is worth it.

I'm a terribly insecure person, and I'm far from perfect.  I definitely haven't always reacted lovingly this year.  But God has blessed me with a lot of situations that have given me opportunities to learn.  And I know I am learning--not because I'm really all that teachable, but because God is just gracious like that.

I could go into great detail about a lot of individual situations, but that would make this blog extremely long, and I'm trying to learn to be more concise.  That's hard for someone like me, especially when I haven't been able to write in a long time.  But to make this less tedious for everyone, I'm just going to list (and briefly?? explain) some of the things that have happened this year, some of the ways God's been working.

-I've had a few uncomfortable work situations, in multiple jobs, that have helped me realize that I'm not the only one with insecurities.  I'm tempted sometimes to believe I'm under attack, when in reality, the other person is just as defensive as I am--in some cases, even more so.  When other people, especially non-Christians, act or react out of fear, that gives me a unique opportunity to show love to them.  It isn't easy, especially when I believe, or even know, that I'm right.  Sometimes, showing love to someone means giving up our rights to be right.  It's particularly difficult for me because I am a brutally honest person, and I don't like it when I feel that truth is compromised.  But in choosing love over fear, we often have to surrender and trust God to uphold truth and justice.  After all, He has a lot better of an understanding of it than we do.

-I've had to let go of a lot of things.  Honestly, the first six months of this year have been some of the most freeing, healing times of my life.  I don't want to go into great detail in this, because while I don't mind sharing my own business, I don't want to invade the private lives of others.  I just finally was able to let go completely of a former relationship I had been holding onto for almost a decade.  The reason I held on to it was because I firmly believe I was supposed to, up until recently.  And there's probably still a lot of people who would disagree with that assessment, and that would have really hurt my feelings in the past, but I don't care anymore.  It wasn't their struggle.  It was mine.  And I'm exceedingly thankful for it.  There's a time and a season to gather stones, and there's a time to scatter them.  If I trusted God in the gathering, I'm also going to trust Him in the scattering.  That's really just all there is to it.  I'm just grateful that He's taken me on this journey, that He called me to cling to something for a season, that the season is over.  I'm grateful now that He's calling me to something else.  I don't know what I'm looking forward to--I'm just looking forward.

-One of my resolutions this year was to keep my eyes open for new opportunities.  I'm not at all a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker, but I at least wanted to keep an open mind when an opportunity presented itself  I don't know how faithful I've been in that, but there's at least one new scary-awesome thing I've taken on.  For the past three or four months, I've been singing with a small Christian rock band that I was asked to join.  It's not that big of a deal, but it's something that has taken me way out of my comfort zone.  Some of the music is way more hardcore than anything I've ever tried to sing before (I'm a church choir geek, not a rocker), and learning to sing and communicate with a group of very talented and experienced musicians has proved to be a blessing and a challenge.  It's still a new thing to me, and I've got a lot of insecurities to work through (don't I always?).  But I'm grateful for this new opportunity, and I'm anticipating what God's going to do through all of this.  At any rate, I've made a few new cool friends.

-I'm writing again.  Or, I'm trying to.  I've had so many ridiculous setbacks and part of me has wondered if God even wants me to keep pursuing these dreams.  I've been filling up notebooks with potential song lyrics.  I've got stories in my head that need to be written out.  Now that I have a computer again (thank God), that should help.  I just have to get motivated.  But I believe that even in these struggles, love alone is worth the fight.  I'm praying for grace to persevere.

-I'm learning how to accept blessings.  I didn't think this was a huge struggle for me, but I guess it really has been one all my life.  I used to just flatly refuse large monetary gifts, and, in so doing, inadvertently insult people.  I tend to feel really guilty over just about everything--so it was a lose-lose situation for me. If I accepted the gift, I felt guilty.  If I didn't accept the gift, I felt guilty.  And that's so not what the giver ever wanted me to feel.  They wanted me to be blessed; they wanted to feel blessed.  I'm slowly, slowly learning that "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it."  It's not easy, but it's easier to have the attitude that "my stuff" isn't really my stuff.  It's God's.  It's harder for me to come to the attitude that "another person's stuff" isn't really that other person's stuff.  It's also God's.  It is ALL God's.  And I'm grateful that a lot of people have chosen to give to me lately, who have expressed to me that they're just stewards of what God possesses.  I'm learning that if I'm blessed beyond what I think I deserve or what I think I need, then the best thing I can do is just pass that blessing on to someone else.  It's not like it was ever really mine to begin with.  And if I can bless and be blessed by accepting a gift from someone and then pass a little of that blessing on, well, that's just a triple blessing right there.  Maybe even a quadruple blessing.  That's some awesome stuff right there.

-I'm learning that sometimes I need to stand up for myself, but not at all in the way people think.  And I might write a separate blog on this, because it's been a HUGE realization to me--it's one of those things in my life that made my whole outlook on things do a 180 turn.  All our lives, we get told that we should just be ourselves, right?  I have always believed that, and I've always had a pretty good idea of who I am.  So you'd think I wouldn't have much of a problem in just being myself.  Except, the wolves are often in sheep's clothing, and sometimes even the wolves are completely unaware of that they're not sheep.  I've had a lot of well-intentioned people tell me over the years that I need to be more assertive, that I need to speak up, that I need to stand up for myself.  They tell me I need to be more confident in who I am, that I need to be bolder, that I need to stop apologizing for little things, and WOMAN up.  So for years, I wondered what was wrong with me that I was still timid.  I wondered why I struggled so much with anxiety, with self-esteem, with self-confidence, etc.  People would quote from the Scripture, "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power..." and cause me to go on these huge guilt trips because I still had a spirit of fear and timidity, and very little spirit of power.  I'm not trying to say that the Scripture that was relevant for Paul and Timothy isn't relevant to us here and now, but I do think it's been misquoted and misapplied A LOT.  'Cause here's the thing.  I'm not fearless.  I'm not confident.  I'm not bold and brave and self-assured.  And I don't think any amount of prayer or Bible reading or Spiritual exercise is going to make me all those things that well-meaning people have said I have to be.  I can't speak for Paul because I'm not Paul.  I can't speak for Timothy because I'm not Timothy.  All I know is that, for me, Christianity, faith, life in general, it's all a process and it's all a struggle.  And being fearless doesn't mean I'm just going to pray a prayer or quote a Scripture and suddenly lose all my fear and doubt.  It means that I'm going to constantly strive, day by day, moment by moment, situation by situation, to choose love over fear.  And I've learned that when people tell me I have to be confident or self-assured or some other blasted thing that I JUST CAN'T BE, then I'm going to have to stand up for myself in a way that they never intended.  I'm going to have to assert my non-assertiveness, and unapologetically stand up for my apologetic nature.  I'm going to have to speak up for the fact that I'm often a quiet person.  It's a bit of a paradox, perhaps, but I think that's who I am.  I like myself.  I like who I am.  I know I've offended some people with this attitude, and that makes me sad, but I can't do much about how other people are going to respond to me.  I am only responsible for my own actions and reactions.  And yes, I have to show grace and love to people even in this, because I know most people really have every intention of being helpful and not harmful.  It's just that I can no longer just allow people to walk all over me about the fact that I let people walk all over me.  I really am just a weak fool who God is choosing to shame the strong and wise, and that's the greatest hope someone like me could ever have.

Well, that's been this year so far, more or less.  I'm really grateful for all that I've learned, for all that I'm still learning.  I wrote above that I'm not very teachable, but I think God's really working to make me more teachable.  And if that's the case, then it's true that nothing is impossible with God, 'cause I'm a hot mess, y'all. 

But He's good.  He's patient.  He's faithful.  And this year has been an incredible journey.  It's only about halfway over, too.  So, yeah.  I'm looking forward.

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