Tuesday, January 20, 2015

That's Why It's Called Trust

I've been blogging a lot lately, which is probably a good thing.  I don't know.  At least I'm writing something.  I haven't been able to do that so much lately.

Depression--particularly the apathetic kind, to which I seem to be prone--is a beast.

I've got a day off today, which is a rare and wonderful thing.  I have stuff I should be doing--errands I should be running.  I need to go make a bunch of appointments--to see the eye doctor, to see the real doctor, to go get a massage someone was kind enough to buy for me.  But I decided to stay in today and just rest, just think about life.

I've been under Spiritual attack a lot lately, whether it's through insecurity or depression or anxiety or a fierce combination of all of those.  And mostly, people have been awesome about it.  I do get the occasional, "Well, here's a book to show you how to change your life around in ten easy steps," or "Hey, maybe you need to take these 'magic pills' that make you happy," or, perhaps the worst, "What sins have you been committing that have led to your depression and anxiety? God doesn't want us to be depressed or anxious.  You must be doing something sinful to cause these problems in your life."

I'm not perfect.  I make a lot of mistakes.  And honestly, the more I pray through what I'm going through, I think God is showing me how much he's working in and through my imperfections.  I don't have to be perfect.  I don't have to do everything right.

Right now, I'm struggling to get up in the morning.  I'm struggling to do simple tasks like make the coffee (which, ironically, is something that helps me get the day going).  I'm struggling to do my preschool planning.  I'm struggling to study music for songs I'm learning.  I'm struggling to read books, to write--something that has been second nature to me for so long.  The prospect of hanging out with friends or chatting over coffee is even something I sort of dread all of the sudden--even though I know I'll enjoy it if I just go DO it.  Everything is just suddenly so hard.

And, basically, I know I'm not doing all the things I could be doing.  I know I'm not doing all the things I should be doing.

Yet, God is doing so much in the midst of these things in which I'm failing.  Just last week, a dear friend and preschool coworker presented me with a gift card for no reason at all.  Well, she had a reason.  It was something that absolutely astounded me.  She gave me a little note with the gift card just thanking me for always having a friendly, encouraging word and a smile for her in the mornings.  I didn't even realize I was encouraging her.  I come into work most mornings feeling like I'm not doing all I should be doing.  But I do remember greeting her on those mornings, talking with her briefly, maybe giving her a hug that I needed more than she did.  Apparently, that was HUGE to her.  And all I can say is that I didn't really do anything--God did all of that through me.

And I wish I could just focus on little things like that all the time.

I need to confess a sin of pride that is just eating away at me.

It's a pride that is so sneaky that it disguises itself, quite well, as humility.  And I have a feeling there will be some song lyrics to come out of that before all of this is over.

The other day, someone me gave me a compliment.  Only, I didn't see it as such.  I know the person did NOTHING wrong.  I wasn't mad at him at all.  But what he said was devastating.  It shook me so hard that I wanted to retreat back into the turtle shell I've somehow developed as of late.

There are certain vocalists that I don't like.  Hearing them sing makes me cringe.  And this guy compared my voice to that of a vocalist I really don't like.

He meant nothing by it.  He was being nice.  But I respect his musical opinion very much.  And what he said sent me in a downward spiral like nothing else.  The ironic thing was, he also said something about how much he appreciated my humility.

But I wasn't being humble.  I was being the opposite of humble.

Because suddenly, I thought that if I sounded like that vocalist I don't like, then it meant I was a horrible singer (something he never said, but my insecurity was shouting at me).  I thought that if I was a horrible singer, I shouldn't be singing at all.  I thought that if I shouldn't be singing at all, then all the things I thought about myself and had worked towards were worthless.  If all the things I thought about myself and had worked towards were worthless, then I was worthless.

Because, as I might have mentioned in previous blogs, I can go from "just fine" to "worst-case-scenario" in less than 60 seconds.

Similar things have happened with my writing.  I lost a jump drive with a complete novel on it, one I was editing.  I had saved versions of it elsewhere.  I KNOW I had saved them in multiple places--including on email accounts so I couldn't lose them, but now I can't find them anywhere.  And after all the work I put into that book, I wonder now if the reason I lost it was because God never wanted me to write in the first place.  It makes me wonder if all the things I've wanted to do and be are things I was never supposed to do and be.  And if that's the case, who in the world am I?

And it really makes it hard for me to want to try again.

It's all pride.  It's all me putting trust in myself and in the abilities I was given.  And the thing is, those abilities are things God gave me--but they ARE NOT GOD.

And when you put your trust in anything besides God, no matter how good it is, you're sinning.

And that's how I've been sinning lately.  That's NOT to say that my sin has CAUSED my anxiety and depression.  Rather, God's just good enough to show me things as I'm walking with Him through whatever He's brought me to.

The anxiety and depression and whatever I'm going through are just ways God is showing me how NOT in control I am.  I can't despair of the season I'm in.  Nor can I will myself out of it, or just "try harder" or any of that nonsense.  I know I can't try harder.  I've tried to try harder.  That's when something else happens to knock the proverbial wind out of my proverbial sails.  BECAUSE THIS IS NOT ABOUT MY EFFORTS.  It's about God doing what I can't do.  And there's a lot that I just CAN'T do.

What I can do, however, is trust.

I can trust that God is using me, as I am--as weak, as imperfect, as broken as I am.  He's using me.
I can trust that He is in control.  I can trust He's leading me, even when I can't see what's ahead or what He's doing.  I can trust that where He's leading is not somewhere He doesn't want me to be.  I can trust that where He's leading is to something that is ultimately going to bring Him more glory.
I can trust that He's good.  I can trust that He's able.  I can trust that He loves me.

I'm scared.  I'm afraid.

And I know this is the year of "Do not be afraid, Part Two."  I know that God repeated in Scripture, over and over, "Be strong and courageous."  I figure He repeated that so much because He knows our fears.  Being strong and courageous is part of the battle, part of the struggle.

And there's mercy in the struggle.

So maybe my writing isn't something that I'm supposed to share with the world (I don't think that's the case, actually, but you know, just hypothetically speaking).  Maybe my voice isn't the greatest, and maybe my songs aren't a style a lot of people want to hear.

And maybe God is using me anyway.  Maybe God is using those talents He gave me anyway.  And maybe I need to trust in Him more than in those talents and things that I thought were what made me who I am.

As I told a friend yesterday, "Trust is hard.  That's why it's called trust."

It's a one-day-at-a-time sort of thing.  All I can do is put one foot in front of the other as He leads.

I'm sharing a song to close this post.  It's called "My Salvation" by Mitch McVicker.

"Lord, please change these driftings in my soul,
Cuz I've been fading just trying to grab control...

You're my strength
You're the tune I'm whistling
When I'm afraid.
So now I cling to You when I can't see.
Every day
You become
My Salvation.
You're my Salvation."


Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Survival Mechanism I Could Never Live With

About a month ago I did something that most people these days have done in their lives...sometimes on a daily basis.  I offended someone on Facebook.  They'd posted a picture with an inspirational quote, nothing big. They were well-meaning, and I wasn't offended by what they posted.  I just had a reply for it that I don't think they could appreciate.

Okay.  Back story.

Earlier that day, I'd been just flat out accosted by misunderstandings.  One person assumed I was angry when I was fine, and started walking on unnecessary eggshells around me.  The fact that they assumed I was angry ended up making me as angry as they originally assumed me to be (funny how that works).  But I just took Queen Elsa's advice:

Only my hair didn't look as awesome.

  Later that day, when I was minding my own business, a friend greeted me with the statement, "What's wrong with you? You look like something's bothering you."  I said nothing was bothering me, because nothing was bothering me, and I got an argument in reply.  "No.  Something's bothering you.  I can tell from the look on your face."  I restated, rather firmly, that nothing was bothering me.  In fact, the only thing bothering me at that particular moment was the fact that she kept insisting that something was bothering me.  "Well, I know something's bothering you because your voice sounds like something's bothering you."


Look lady.

But I just took Taylor's advice:

Sidenote: I think there should be an obscure American religions version of this song:
Shakers gonna shake shake shake shake shake shake
Quakers gonna quake quake quake quake quake quake.
...no? Okay.

About twenty minutes later, when I was again minding my own business, ANOTHER friend just flat out started attacking me with accusations that I was being rude to her. 

I'd run out of cartoon characters, pop culture icons, and catchy lyrics to give me advice of what to do in such situations, and I basically threw a Ruth Fit

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

I'd had enough.  People who were my friends were misinterpreting my facial expressions or my introversion and jumping to conclusions about my thought processes, and I felt attacked.  I felt like I couldn't even mind my own business without hurting someone's feelings somehow.  And since I have a whole mess of insecurities inside this crazy brain of mine, I pretty much went from being completely un-bovveredbothered to wanting to crawl under a rock and die the death.

That's actually a pretty common-place occurrence.  I can go from just-fine to worst-case-scenario in less than 60 seconds.  Call it a superpower, if you want to.  I call it a jerkface.  Incidentally, that's also the name of my elliptical.  Fitting, since I keep running in circles obsessively with both of them and never actually get anywhere.

Well, since I can't keep anything in, I put a little something on the Facebook about all these attacks.  Maybe I shouldn't do that.  People are always like, "If you're vague on the Facebook, it's because you want attention."  Actually, I just want prayer, which is usually what I ask for when being vague, but okay.

I prayed through it myself, and started realizing that the first two "attacks" weren't really attacks at all.  They were simple misunderstandings from concerned friends.  Maybe these friends were pushy, but it wasn't their intention to be harmful.  They cared.  The third attack really was an attack, but I started thinking about the possible reasons behind the attack.

She was attacking me.  Why do people attack?  Because they're defensive.  Why do people get defensive?  Because they're afraid.

And I took the focus off myself and put it on the other person.  She was afraid.  She misinterpreted my minding my own business to be something unkind towards her--I was preoccupied with what I was doing and trying to focus (something that's hard for me because I get distracted by shiny objects), but she thought I was ignoring her.  And that hurt her feelings.  So she accused me of some things that weren't true.  I sent her an email about it.  We talked.  We made up.  We're friends again.

But through all of that, the things on the Facebook still remained, and a well-meaning friend posted one of those inspirational quotes on my wall to help me feel better.  I don't even remember what it said, but it was one of those generic things about only letting people in your life who appreciate you, about getting rid of the people who hurt you.

And I understand why these attitudes exist.  They are survival mechanisms.  There are abusive people in this world.  There are people who will take and take and take and never give.  There are toxic people with horrible attitudes and actions that just poison everyone else around them.  I understand that.  And sometimes they abuse others so much that it's entirely healthy and good for those people to GET OUT of those relationships, to get away from those people, to move on in a different, more positive direction.

I've had to let go of some friendships that I realized were toxic.  I realized I was always apologizing for the sake of restoring the friendship, even when I hadn't really done anything wrong. I was trying to be the "Peacemaker," but no peace was being made because the other person didn't want to change. The other person was always quick to "forgive me" for my apologies, but she never admitted guilt of her own.  I eventually "defriended" this individual, but I never blocked her.  Because I'm praying that there's restoration one day.  I'll always pray for that.  I still pray for her.  I still think about her.  I still hope one day we can be friends again.

Because when it really comes down to it, it's completely against my nature to stop caring.  And I think there's a danger in taking the "Let it go" attitude too far.  I've only seen Frozen a couple of times, and it has some decent lessons in it.  The trouble is, too many people focus on Elsa's "Let it go" rampage more than they do on Anna's sacrificial love for her sister.  And "shaking things off" is great if you're talking about not caring too much about what people think, but it can go too far if you use that attitude to stop actually caring about PEOPLE.  And I think people don't know the difference anymore.  But I probably err too much on the other side and care too much about what people think WHILE I'm caring about the people.  And I just can't seem to stop caring about people.

I'm not trying to say I'm anything great.  I'm not.  I've got hangups and stuff as much as anyone else (see above comments about crazy brain insecurities).  But one of the perks about being an overly-sensitive person is that I do care about people.  Sometimes that care can morph into something ugly where I care too much about what people think or say.  But the flipside of that, the good side of that, is that the main reason I let things bother me so much is because I do care about people.

That's why, after I calmed down, I was able to sit there and think the whole situation through.  I was able to think through things and determine if a friend's comments were spoken out of love, or if they were spoken out of fear.  I was able to reach out to a person who had attacked and deeply hurt me because I realized SHE was hurting, too.

I could have just let this friend go.  I could have just shook her off.  The world would have told me to do just that.  I am glad I didn't.  And I know it's not always applicable.  Some people have been in situations where it's dangerous and unwise to seek reconciliation.  But I'm thankful that God has never looked at me, a rebellious child who has failed him time and time again, who takes so much and gives so little back of what I've been given, and He's never turned His back on me.  We're not God.  We're not able to take as much as He can take.  We're not able to give as much of ourselves as He has given of Himself.  But aren't we called to see beyond our own selves and our own fears and defenses and insecurities?  Aren't we called to forgive?  Aren't we called to love?

That love looks different in every relationship, every situation.  Sometimes it is more loving and more healthy to walk away.  But that should never be the norm, never the initial reaction.  My fear in this "let it go" society is that people are giving up on other people way too quickly.

And I looked at the inspirational thing my Facebook friend had sent me, and I knew it just wasn't fitting for me or my situation.  And I responded to it by saying something along the lines of, "If I had that attitude, it would mean I didn't care.  That's really just not my style."

And the relief I felt in posting that was just tangible.  I realized, again, that I really do like who I am.  It's something a lot of people misunderstand, it's something a lot of people just CAN'T understand.  But I like me.  I like me in all my insecure, over-thinking, obsessing-over-little-things glory.  I care too much.  And I dare to say that it's not always a bad thing.

I noticed that the entire post my Facebook friend had posted was gone a few minutes after I'd posted my comment on it, so I sincerely hope I didn't hurt any feelings.  As I've said, other people have other situations.  There's a place to let go of harmful people.  I just don't find myself in that place very often, and when I do, I never really stop caring completely.

That's why it took me the better part of a decade to get over a broken heart.
I don't even regret that.
I still care, in fact--not at ALL in a romantic way, but I do pray for him from time to time.  I pray that he's being a good husband to his new wife (and I'm thankful she's not me).  I pray God's leading him.

Because I'm not the sort of person to just forget the people who have hurt me.  I figure they were part of my life for a reason.  If they're not part of my life anymore, whether by their choice, my choice, or just chance, then I can still give them a passing thought or prayer. 

There are survival mechanisms and such that people adopt to get away from pain.  And I probably have a few of those in my crazy brain, too.  But I'm not able to turn off the part of my soul that cares.  In some ways, I guess it's inconvenient.  I just can't bring myself to regret even those relationships that have hurt me. 

And I can't bring myself to regret who I am.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Procrastination and Fear

It was a Sunday night.

I'd had a busy weekend.  Most of my weekends are busy.  This particular weekend was even busier--with an extra band practice and work and some side projects that were going to take up most of my time on Friday night, my whole Saturday, and my Sunday morning and afternoon, I knew I was going to have to plan well to get everything done.  So I told myself all week that I would have to be a grown up and set aside Sunday night to do some work for preschool.  I had a preschool work day on Monday and knew I would need to do some pre-planning for it.

So the weekend happened.  I had band practice and went to work and got all my side projects done.  Sunday night came.  I turned on my computer.  I looked at the folder on my computer's desktop--the one labeled "Preschool."  I looked at it for several seconds.

I clicked my internet browser on and clicked on my Facebook tab.  I played around on Facebook for a few minutes.  Or an hour.  I forget which.

I, again, had a stare-down with the "Preschool" folder on my computer's desktop.

I watched a few BuzzFeed YouTube videos.  Were Ashley and Andrew dating yet?

No.  Of course not.

I looked at that "Preschool" folder again.

I had to check Facebook again to see if anyone had responded to my hilarious status.  I had a couple likes.  That was nice.

I looked at the "Preschool" folder again.

I checked my bank account to make sure there were no fraudulent charges.  You never know when someone's going to steal your info.  Nope.  All clear there.

I checked the Facebook again.

I watched another YouTube video.  It had been a while since I watched David After Dentist, and you know, those older videos are still pretty hilarious.  How old is David now, anyway?  I should Google that.  Oh, My Lanta.  He's a teenager now.  I need to stop looking at this.  It makes me feel old.

And I looked at the "Preschool" folder.  Enough procrastination.  Do your work, Ruth.

I checked the Facebook again.

And then I started my preschool work.

Half an hour later, I was too tired to brain anymore.  My eyes were closing by themselves as I typed, so "Circle Time" became "Cieroiuadkjaofu."  I had to go to sleep.  My work was unfinished, but I figured I'd get up early and work on it.

Only, of course, I overslept.  I made it to work, but I had to use my work day to do my lesson plans instead of work on other stuff I'd intended to do.

And I realized I had a problem.


Now, I've always been a bit of a procrastinator.  I've never really had a problem with being a procrastinator.  But recently, I've started thinking about the reasons behind my procrastination.  And that was a slap in the face.  It wasn't what I was expecting, but I have to admit that it's true.

My procrastination is based on fear.

And since I'm doing a repeat in my "Year of No Fear" (last year just wasn't enough of a lesson), fear-based procrastination just isn't good enough.  It's just not.

There are several reasons why I procrastinate.

1. I'm afraid what I need to do is going to take forever, so I don't want to start.

I have been watching the same girls for 6 years.  They're older now, so I'm pretty much just a glorified chauffeur who yells at them to do their chores and homework.  But when the youngest one was younger, I would help her with her homework.

And by "help her with her homework," I mean "we met on the glorious field of battle."

There were tears.  From both of us.  Cries of outrage. Fits of fury.  You name it.

The worst part about it was that she would whine/cry/scream/fight/literally throw things before she would even START on her homework.  She'd complain for at least 45 minutes, and usually much longer, about how hard her homework would be, about how long it would take her to finish.  I would physically put her pencil in her hand because she claimed it was too hard to hold it.  I'd make her write her name, and she would AGONIZE for five minutes over that simple starting task.  Sometimes this sort of thing went on for an hour or more.

Then, when she finally started, she was done with her homework in ten minutes.  Ten minutes.  Homework time sometimes lasted an hour.  Only ten minutes of that time was actual homework.  The other 50 minutes was the battle before hand--the needless worry and anxiety that it would take FOREVER.

And sometimes, I act just like that.  I don't want to start because I'm afraid of the time commitment.  If I would just START doing what I'm supposed to do, it would be over quickly.  The work would be done.  But that fear of committing the time is just so hard to overcome sometimes.

2. I'm afraid I'm going to fail, so I don't even want to try.

I'm not a perfectionist, but I do want to do things well when I do them.  Sometimes I'm afraid that I'm going to fail before I even start.  So I put it off because I don't want to fail.  I put it off because I think it's going to be too hard.  I put it off because I don't want to make mistakes.  I put it off because I don't think it's going to matter, that no one will care or notice, that all my work will be in vain.  I put it off because I don't want to deal with the fear of being wrong, of being imperfect, of being not good enough.

I think that's probably the most relatable procrastination fear.

It's just hard to try sometimes.  It's hard to trust that the effort you put into something is going to be worth it in the end.

3. I'm afraid I'm going to succeed, and dude, that's a lot of pressure.

Have you ever done something really well, and then all of the sudden people expect greatness out of you all of the time?  What if you can't reproduce that?  What if people only like you because you did something well?  What if they stop liking you if you don't do it as well the next time?  What if they try to build a bridge out of you because they think you're a witch?  What if? What if? What if?

Go home, insecure brain.  You're drunk on lies.

4. I am afraid of gaining my soul, but losing the whole world.


That's the face punch right there.

When you get right down to it, that's the biggest problem I have.  I want to use "my time" on "my pursuits."  I'm like a dumb kid who wants to eat a steady diet of jelly beans, when my mommy wants me to eat my veggies.  It's fun to eat the jelly beans, but it's not responsible, and I'm going to eventually get sick.

I'd rather sit on the computer and waste time on silly things like Facebook and YouTube videos than do work that's important.  That important work requires an investment, and that investment is something that's going to turn into something eternally good--blessing children and their parents, and more importantly, furthering God's Kingdom.  Watching a YouTube video isn't doing anything but furthering my kingdom.  And my kingdom is kind of lame, quite honestly.  We don't even have pony rides.

But sometimes I act like I don't want to lose that kingdom, that tiny, insignificant kingdom.  Sometimes I act like I'd rather forfeit my soul in order to gain the whole world.  And what good is that?  Seriously.  What good is that?

It's not good at all.  And it's based in a fear that is really quite silly and selfish.  And it's just not good enough.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't have down time.  I need down time.  There's nothing wrong with Facebook or YouTube videos or reading or television or video games or whatever.  But there is something wrong with wasting time for the sake of wasting time.  There's something wrong with procrastinating because you're afraid.  And I'm guilty of both of these things.

And I'm just thankful the Holy Spirit has convicted me.  The hard part is now--putting the knowledge into action, making the changes.

God's been so faithful to me in this season of depression and anxiety and fear.  I'm learning so much.  I know He's going to get me through this season.  I just have to remember what's important.  I just have to remember that I'm dust, but with His breath inside me.

I want to breathe.  I want to live.  I want this life He's given me to matter.

Living in fear, living in self, living in just mere existence?  That's not good enough.

He's done too much for me.

He's done too much for me to live in fear.