Making Mistakes

Today was the first day in a few weeks I broke down in tears and fell on my knees, literally crying out to God.

Even though this past weekend was enjoyable as we spent time on the beach in Delaware and I watched Belle frolic in the ocean for the first time, I could feel something bubble up, just beneath the surface. I could feel it in the way I had trouble focusing on anything other than Belle, in the way I couldn’t control checking my phone though I knew there was no reason to, and in the way I could barely finish a thought without a heavy mental sigh. Another episode.

I missed my therapy appointment last week because of our trip to Delaware. I thought I’d be okay for a week, but I guess I didn’t realize how much therapy is helping me.

I left work early today, explaining I “don’t feel well,” that I’m “taking it one day at a time,” and requested to work from home the rest of the week in hopes it will help me recoup some of myself. I don’t know if it will.

Honestly, the only thing I know to do at this point is cry out to God.

A few days ago, I woke up with this idea in my head: we can acknowledge we made a mistake without dismissing that we learned from it. As the day wore on (and I do mean wore on), I began to wonder if it was God trying to speak to me.

For weeks, I’ve been told by (some) family members not to view past decisions as mistakes. But why not? These people seem to think I’m somehow dismissing that I’ve learned from the mistake. I promise you, I’m not. I just learned the hard way. But the fact of the matter is I did make a mistake. If I don’t admit it, if I don’t say it out loud, if I don’t own up to it, then nothing can ever change.

I made a mistake.

Now all I can do is thank God for letting me learn, for not forsaking me, even in the midst of my mistakes, and for keeping His promises, even if I cannot see them yet.

Since my positivity challenge ended, I’ve struggled to write. It goes back to feeling I have nothing to write about, nothing that anyone else would care about.

But that is the enemy speaking.

I know that because one of the comments the Editor wrote on my draft of my final publication for the positivity challenge was telling me that she followed each of the posts and that I have inspired others to challenge themselves. And what better praise could an aspiring writer get than to hear you’ve inspired others?

So, yes, I made a mistake. But already God has kept a promise to me, and He has used that mistake to turn me back to a gift He blessed me with.

After falling on my knees, and with tears still streaming down my face, I took a nap. (Because when I’m depressed, I sleep a lot.) I slept longer than I meant to, but when I woke up, I felt a little better. Maybe not 100%, because that will come in time, but a little. My tears had stopped at least. But in that tearful crying out, I felt close to God. In the admitting of making a mistake, in admitting to trusting in my own will above His, I felt relief.

I hope I can encourage you. If you made a mistake, cry out to Him. It doesn’t make you weak. It brings peace, relief, and new insight. It is in those moments, when you give yourself entirely to Him, that He will speak to you.

Day 13: Help My Unbelief

How did it go?

Hazy is one word to describe today.

I just felt as if I was existing in a constant haze. I couldn’t focus for the longest time. When I finally did, at least, I got a project done that I didn’t think I would get done today. I was proud of myself in that moment.

I managed to listen to the most recent Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast episode, which was great. It served as a good “distraction” for my spiraling mind on my commute.

I also listened to TED Radio Hour’s episode Prevention. But I’m going to have to re-listen because I started working on my project as this episode was finishing, so I didn’t get to really catch all of it. What I did catch, though, was really good. The only problem was it begins with the concept that stress would be less stressful if we planned for it. I beg to differ on that. I’m a planner, but that planning has gotten me into chaos in life. Plus, thinking about all that planning, and all the “if this happens, then…” scenarios, makes my head spin, which ends up causing anxiety. Maybe, though, what he is suggesting is a healthy balance of planning. Maybe that’s what I missed.

Because of the haze of today, though, my day seemed to go by pretty quickly. Before I knew it, I was picking up Belle from “dog daycamp” and bringing her home, which is, of course, always the best part of my day.

What did I learn?

 Well, I tried setting a timer for myself every 90 minutes to check in with myself. I was trying to hold myself accountable that for those 90 minutes I remained focus on whatever task I was working on.

Then I decreased it to every 60.

After the third time trying, I quit.

And I’m so upset with myself that I did!

But I began to get frustrated. I found I had the same thoughts every time I would “check in”. What’s the point of checking in with yourself if nothing new is happening!?

As I settled down in the evening, though, I realized checking in with myself wasn’t about getting immediate change in my attitude or thoughts. Instead, it was about knowing where my thoughts were that could distract me and writing them down, releasing them to God so I no longer held on to them.

I learned that boredom frustrates me and actually causes me a bit of anxiety.

I also learned I associate God and prayer with instant gratification. And that is no way to have faith. Because, as the Bible study I am currently working through has reminded me, we are put in desert seasons for a reason: God is trying to work on us, humble us, shape us into who He needs us to be before we can continue on.

Even the Christian podcast I listen to reminds us that we need to trust in God’s timing, that He must work on us before we can receive anything He has in store for us.

So, I’m going to try that checking in process again. Sure, maybe I’ll start low—maybe at 30 minutes—just so I feel accomplished when I do it. But I’ll bet as I keep working—as I keep holding myself accountable, as I keep humbling myself to Him, and as I keep searching for Him—I will see God move in miraculous ways.

Sometimes just a little hope, just a little belief, is what gets you through.

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

Day 12: Seeing in Others What We Hate About Ourselves

How did it go?

Today felt like a long day.

I got a new journal yesterday to begin in August (the one I got from my husband for Christmas will be full by then), and so today I went out to get some stickers and such to personalize it. I always love the feeling and thought of a new journal, and I always get new ideas for how the new one will function, so I look forward to seeing that pan out.

Other than that, it was another day of apartment-searching. I’ve done my duty of calculating what I can afford and making my comparative list of “must haves” versus “would be nice to have.” What came along with today’s search, though, had me thinking. I began to feel guilty about the type of apartment I can afford versus what I feel someone like me should have. I’ll put it this way: what I can afford is actually better than what I feel I deserve.

What does that say about my mentality?

Nothing positive, I’ll tell you that. But I simply don’t know what to make of those feelings or really how to articulate them. I guess that’s something else for therapy.

What did I learn?

One of the hosts of my favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, said in an episode: “We hate in others what we hate in ourselves” (or something along those lines). Unfortunately, I can’t remember what season or what episode this was in, and I can’t even remember if he was quoting someone else or not. But the idea has stuck with me, and I saw it most in myself today.

(Quick background: I’m currently living with my mother in her basement suite while I work to save and pay off some debt.) My mother wanted to put together a desk she has had for about two weeks as soon as we got home from apartment-searching. I, on the other hand, wanted to analyze my housing options and put together my new journal layout. As I was moving the old desk to the garage, I was thinking: “why now, at this very moment, are we doing this?”

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I am thankful my mom has allowed me to live with her rent-free for a few months while I get some things settled. It’s just odd to do after living on my own for, well, a long time.

Anyway, while I wasn’t angry or anything at this sudden desire, I thought to myself how many times I had done that to my husband. We would have gotten home from something, he’d be tired, but I’d insist on doing something around the house, thinking that would be as good a time as any. And, as I was thinking, I realized I had no idea why, really, I did that, and I didn’t like the person I was in those particular moments.

So, other than learning that I am too much like my mother, I learned that what can annoy me in others are the things that annoy others about me. Isn’t that interesting?

While this may not seem positive, it did one positive thing for me: helped me to learn about myself, why I react the way I do at certain times, and why I feel certain things. Which is, in essence, what this challenge is about for me.

Here’s my thought: maybe we should do some internal digging the next time we get upset with something someone else is doing. It may just be something we don’t like about ourselves.

Day 6: Neutrality

How did it go?

Have you ever had one of those days where you don’t feel fantastic…but you don’t feel terrible either? A day where you just sort of…float around, knowing what you’re supposed to do, trying to do it, but not really feeling motivated to do any of it?

Well, that was my day.

I don’t want to say I felt empty. At the same time, though, I’m not sure I felt much of anything. Even the two podcast episodes I finished today didn’t help other than to distract me on my commute. I guess that’s how depression works–some days you’re good, some days you’re not, and some days you’re just…there, a shell.

Maybe today was just a neutral day.

Then again, maybe God was using today to show me something.

What did I learn?

I don’t think my learning about the day stops just because I write. I think I learn a bit more about what my day had to offer me even as I write. Maybe what I learned today, then, is that neutrality is okay.

I also learned I don’t like feeling like a shell of myself. Yet…I’m not quite sure how to achieve not feeling like that when, well, I do. Maybe that’s something I’ll learn along the way.

I learned, too, that God wants us to call to Him in our times of trouble. We need to realize that we cannot rely on ourselves or what the world has to offer for wisdom and healing.

So maybe it’s not so much about being in a “good mood” all the time, but rather to diminish the negative thoughts. And maybe it’s about drawing closer to God.

Maybe that’s what neutral days are for.

Day 1: My Weaknesses in Positivity

How did it go?

Day one was harder than I thought.

I realized my negative thoughts actually begin as soon as I wake up—my alarm goes off and I just think “ugh, I can’t do this anymore.” So, this morning, I rephrased that to: “getting up this early let’s me take more time with Belle and I don’t have to stress about traffic.”

Surprise. It worked. Getting up was easier, and I felt better as I donned my work outfit (and I even tried harder on my makeup!).

But then there was traffic. I hate traffic, especially in such a large metropolitan area. And that got me negative super quick, so I had to reframe, and fast. I looked at it as an opportunity to really invest attention to podcasts and learning what they have to offer (my favorite podcasts are: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, TED Radio Hour, Lore, Teaching in Higher Ed, and BrainStuff).

Once I refocused my attention on my podcast (still paying attention to the road, of course!) I noticed a small difference in my attitude as I pulled into the parking lot at work. Small, but noticeable.

Ah, work. Inevitably, there are parts of any job we just don’t like, for whatever reason. My strategy for this was to remind myself all assignments provide a learning opportunity. It can be difficult, though, for me to not let my mind spin when I’m at work, mainly because most of my work is on the computer. My favorite part of my job, though, is writing, hands down. That’s the time I get to be creative, even slightly, and form a narrative. So, I reframed all my work today into that: forming a narrative. Everything I did became part of some story.

And what I noticed about this surprised me, even though it shouldn’t have. I am happiest when I am writing.

At one point later in my day, a coworker and I started talking on a more personal level. This took a toll on me, and I had to take a few steadying breaths to stop myself from crying. I went back to my office and read the post that started this challenge, and I focused on 2 of them: stay in the present moment and trust in something bigger than yourself. I closed my eyes and prayed for peace, strength, and focus. I took a deep breath. I opened my eyes, looked at the work I had to do for the rest of the day, and got back to it.

What did I learn?

I learned some simple things: my negativity begins partly because of when I have to wake up (so maybe I need to work on changing that, too) and I am happiest when I write.

But I learned a singular hard lesson today.

Being positive is harder than I thought, and it’s more than just saying “everything is alright”; it’s a complete change of the way your mind works. As I’ve told my students countless times, beliefs and values are the hardest to change. When you have “believed” in negativity for so long, it won’t be easy to become positive, and it’s going to take more than telling yourself “have a good day!” (And sometimes even telling yourself that can be difficult.)

Today, really, I learned about myself–that I have been right about my passion and my weaknesses when it comes to positivity, the places I need to grow.

But I also learned I am willing to grow. And perhaps that was the most important lesson.

Is it sometimes difficult for you to be positive? What are your weaknesses when it comes to positivity?

Reference Points

Whew! The past two weeks have been two of the most exciting, emotional, and revealing weeks I have experienced so far in my short 25 years. I say “so far” because my reference points are different, and they’re expanding and changing every day, every week, every year of my life.

So, let’s see. On Monday, January 23 my mom and I piled in my little car, with 2 cats and a dog, and drove 2 days to get from Arizona to Maryland. At 9 in the morning, I hugged and kissed my amazing husband goodbye, as tears fell down my cheeks, while my husband nodded to respond to my question: “You promise we will see each other?”

For 4 days, I unpacked, got the animals comfortable, and dealt with my own emotional repercussions. I worried, I cried, and my reference points changed again.

I had not experienced such emotional discontentment since my husband went to basic training in 2015. And there were no texts or phone calls then.

This past Monday, I started my new job. And I was, and am, so excited about it all. Yes, it’s still new and shiny, and I am young. But this is the industry I was raised in, this is the industry I fought for years to not be a part of, and this is the industry I ended up desiring to be a part of. This is my first “big girl job,” and I am really looking forward to how I grow and how my reference points change.

And they already have. Living with my mom, I commute an hour and 10 minutes each way (and in the DC metro area, it’s usually more like an hour and a half to get “home”). Even though I may not be doing lots of physical activity, I have never been more exhausted when I get home. And I’ve realized how my husband feels. While he doesn’t have the same type of commute, he does work all day. When I wasn’t working, I would want nothing more than to go to something when he got home at 5, or even do something on weekends, and I would get so frustrated when all he wanted to do was sit.

But now I understand. My reference point has changed.

And I told him so. I texted him yesterday to say I was sorry for the way I had acted and treated him when he was working and that I understand now.

Throughout this process, I have felt as if God wanted us to learn something. I am beginning to see what could possibly be the first lesson: reference points.

I can get very needy and clingy when I am not busy. Of course, my husband becomes the object of this neediness. But because I didn’t have the reference points, I couldn’t understand how he was feeling or why he would get frustrated when I would get this way. Now I do. Because now I, too, am tired when I get home from work.

Like I said, I feel like God is trying to teach us (and me) something here. I think He is trying to teach me that I need to learn to relate to my husband on this different level. I think He is trying to show me that my reference points will change as I continue through this life, and that those reference points are going to be what help me relate to my husband as we both find our careers.

I think these reference points are also going to help us connect with each other. When we experience similar things, those reference points become similar, and it makes it easier to be on the same level when we discuss careers, moving, or anything that comes in this life.

The change in my reference points has already made an impact on me. It has changed the way I talk to my husband, it has changed the way I think about our life together, and it has changed the way I view our careers. We don’t have reference points for what life will be like in 10 years, or even for what it will be like in one year. But we have reference points for what we are going through now, and those can be our guide as we continue to navigate our current situation, our careers, and our marriage.

I still think God is teaching us something. And if I can already feel the first lesson, I know the next lessons will be tough. But I also know that I have a husband who is strong, supportive, and loves me no matter what; and I love my husband more than anything. Those are my reference points.

Be Equipped to be a New Creation

Today’s Word at church was the first part in a series, Equipped, about how God equips us for the plans He has for us. One of the things that stuck out to me the most was our pastor’s line: “Get intentional about being alone with God before you find yourself unintentionally alone without God.” It doesn’t matter what this looks like for you, but it is important that you do it. It’s the only way you will hear God clearly speak to your life. (I highly recommend the full sermon once it’s posted. Visit Covenant Church’s website: covenantchurch.org.)

It sounds strange, but in that moment, I realized that this Scripture Writing Plan I’ve embarked on, and the blogging about it, is my intentional time with God. I also realized that if I can hear Him during this small, 10 minute intentional time, then I am better equipped to hear Him when I speak those short prayers in a moment of fear, anxiety, or worry.

So let me share with you how today’s Scripture has equipped me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputting their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Wow. There’s a lot there. Let’s break it down a bit.

First: if you believe in God, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are new. Your past is forgiven. In fact, it is gone. Your slate is wiped clean. You get to start over. How cool is that!?

Second: Everything comes from God. He has fixed the broken relationship between Himself and His people through His Son, Jesus Christ. He has assigned us, as Christians, to be His people, His “ambassadors” and spread the Word.

Third: God fixed that relationship by sending His Son, who “knew no sin,” to take the place of all of our sins in this world. Jesus died so that we may be free.

 

The take away here is…

Yesterday’s Scripture was about counting the things we have given up to follow Christ “as loss” because our God is so much better. It’s interesting that today’s Scripture is about becoming a new creation if you are “in Christ.” Why? Because if you believe, if you are a new creation, if you have pronounced Jesus as your Savior, you have given up something: the old you. So the old you can be “counted loss for Christ.”

Because how much better is it to be a new creation, to be seen as completely clean, in the eyes of the Lord than to hang on to whatever chains you had?

And this resonates a lot with me. As I’ve said before, I will not pretend to be “the perfect Christian” (and I don’t think there is such a thing, really), nor will I pretend to know everything there is to know about the Bible and the intentions therein. All I know is what I feel in my heart and what I feel God speaks to me through His Word.

I have spent a countless amount of mental energy thinking “looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that,” “what if this or that had happened?,” and, most dangerously, “how could God possibly love me?” Have you struggled with those kinds of questions? I can’t see a show of hands, but I’m guessing the answer is yes.

But you know what? When we accept God into our lives, and we declare Jesus as our Savior, our past no longer matters. Because we are new in His eyes. And of course He loves us. We are His children! He created us! We are the creation He desires most of all. And how absolutely astounding is that? That our great God would desire us above all else.

So if there is anything you are struggling with right now, just call to Him. Just cry out, “Lord, I need you.” He will show up. And He will make you new. I know because I’ve felt that newness wash over me before. Actually, a few times. It is an incredible feeling.

I encourage you: do not be haunted by your past. Let God re-create you so He can show you the great plans He has for you.