Day 19: It Isn’t Over Yet

How did it go?

I went to my first Oakland Athletics game in (roughly) 5 years with my dad today, and, though I got a little sunburned, I was not disappointed.

We were playing the Minnesota Twins, and they had a good lead. Before the second inning had even begun, we were down 3 – 0. At the 3rd inning, we scored 2 runs, and by the end of the 8th inning it was a tied game: 5 – 5.

The game ended in the 12th inning with an Athletics walkoff home run. The final score was 6 – 5.

At the top of the 11th inning, my dad suggested we get going. We had been in the sun since we got there, we were burned, and it appeared the game may not end in our favor. “But it’s not over yet!” I told him, on the edge of my seat, hands clasped together, waiting.

He chuckled and told me, “alright, let’s give it one more, how’s that?”

Of course, we were glad we stayed. We saw that winning home run, got to watch the team rush the field, got to clap with the rest of the fans.

We got to see the end because we chose to just give it a little bit longer. We got to see the end because we decided it would be worth it.

What did I learn?

We have to stay faithful.

If we give in because of what we cannot see, we will miss the miracles God has in store for us. If we trust only the scoreboard of us against the enemy and forget about the capabilities we have, we will give in too soon, and we won’t be available for whatever comes next.

The Athletics could have given up. A baseball game is “supposed” to only be 9 innings. At the bottom of the 9th, the team could have decided this is pointless; we won’t be able to score; let’s stop doing our best. But they didn’t. They knew they had fans who had come to see them, who were cheering for them. Because they didn’t give up in outfield, they continued to perform at bat, and they eventually won.

If we feel defeated and we allow that defeat to take root, we will stop trying (outfield). If we stop trying, stop listening to God and communicating with Him daily (at bat), we will be unable to win any battle brought against us.

And know there are always others cheering for you. God, for one. But others, too. Strangers who are going through something similar and who also hope for freedom or answers. Family and friends who want to see you do more than just survive. Those people are not going to go home, no matter how late the innings go. Because they want what you do: hope, freedom, miracles.

As my dad used to joke with me, “it ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings.”

Don’t let the scoreboard determine your fate. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe. Don’t give up on the dreams God has given you. It isn’t over until God decides it is.

Are you looking at the scoreboard thinking you won’t win? What battle are you fighting that God wants you to win? What miracle are you waiting on?

Remember: it only takes one really good hit for that ball to fly through the air and the stands and be a home run.

So let God guide your hit and you’ll hit it out of the park.

Day 14: A Day in the Moment

How did it go?

When I got home after work yesterday, I got out of my car to find a very flat tire. The flat probably accounted for the loud bang I heard as I exited the freeway, which I took to be me running over something pretty solid.

AAA came by to put on the spare, and I drove it down to the tire store. This morning, I got the call it was fixed—the tire just needed a patch.

Thank God for small positive things.

But the best part of the day was walking Belle to the tire place (because how else was I going to get there and get my car?). It was a cooler day today, for once not extremely hot and humid, and she seemed to have so much fun on the walk. I also noticed that, while she did want to run after some bunnies, by the time we got to the part of the walk it was vital for her to pay attention (since we were next to a freeway and busy street), she walked well and behaved. She definitely isn’t the same as she was when we first moved (in a good way).

It made me proud of how I’ve trained her. Much like a parent smiles at their child when the child finally grasps a concept, I couldn’t stop smiling at Belle. I am just so proud.

Because of the car, though, I worked from home today. Just having Belle lay at my feet while I worked was an incredibly calming feeling. I chuckled at her intermittent groans when she stretched; I smiled and leaned down to pet her when I would get up to stretch; I laughed when she insisted on squishing onto the couch next to me and one of the cats.

Today, then, was just about being present in the moment, whatever that meant. It felt weird, almost unnatural, because I’m so used to planning everything. At the same time, though, it was a bit of a relief—as if someone had given me permission to not have to look ahead for right now—and that was just fine.

What did I learn?

It’s okay to simply be in the moment. What matters is what you do with that.

Meditation, especially on God’s word, is going to be vital for me. I need to get back to my Bible study. I need to have conversations with God. I need to stop just telling Him what I want, because He already knows my heart; instead, I need to be quiet and not drown Him out.

I need to slow down and be in the moment more. I’m just still figuring out how to do that, what it means.

That’s how I’m learning to be positive.

What do you do to slow down? How to you talk with God? And how do you know when you hear Him?

(Not) Exceeding Expectations

“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” – Professor Dumbledore

The Harry Potter novels are full of wisdom and life lessons, usually found in the words of Albus Dumbledore. There is meaning in most everything in the novels, and many people, myself included, have examined these meanings and written about the themes present throughout the series. All my best learning seems to come from Harry Potter.

Perhaps that is why my favorite podcast has become Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Although this podcast has been around for over a year, I have just started listening, and I started from the bottom (Book 1, Chapter 1). But one session in particular made an impact on me: “Expectations: The Journey from Platform 9 3/4.”

The quote the session began with is what hit me hard and got me thinking (and crying) in my car: “Expectations are resentments under construction” – Anne Lamott

And it really got me thinking about the expectations I have had in my (short) life.

I was told that I sometimes make people feel like they’re just part of some plan I have in life. That hurt to hear, but then I realized that maybe there is truth in that.

I romanticize just about everything. (Not necessarily intentionally, and not necessarily consciously either.) In my Creative Writing course in college, my instructor told me he loved my story concept, and that I should keep writing it, but that I may have to end it in a way I hadn’t anticipated: with an unhappy ending. I gave up the story immediately because I love happy endings. I couldn’t put my character through the struggle I knew I would have to write because I wouldn’t want to go through it. I had an expectation going into writing that could not be met as I developed the character and the story. So I got upset and never wrote another word on it. Because I knew there was no way the ending could turn out any other way.

Choices show what we are, so what does this choice say about me? That I wasn’t ready to face the expectations I knew couldn’t be met.

I create these expectations of situations and people around me that no one can ever live up to. When those expectations aren’t met, I can become frustrated and angry, which only hurts the other person, me, and whatever relationship was there. It creates resentment because I just think “how could this expectation not have been met? was it that difficult?” And, of course, all that does is grow into a tumor of resentment in the back of my head.

I always thought growing up meant making all these plans and packing up ideas in a box with a neat little bow on top and presenting it, saying, “here’s the solution!” That’s what I expected from everything in life: school, marriage, a career. And that tumor would just continue to grow. But I’ve recently realized that isn’t the case.

If I learned just one thing in the seven years I was participating in higher education (and the one year I’ve been out), it is this: college is not reality. Do not base your expectations for life on what you experienced in college. Because in school, everything is packaged neatly: you have specific classes you need to take (with a few of your own choices scattered here and there), you have deadlines for assignments and exams, there are office hours with professors, you have a plan to lead you to graduation… That is all well and good, but life does not mirror that one bit.

I thought having these types of expectations for a person showed I cared, but, in reality, they breed resentment (remember the aforementioned tumor?).

Why?

Because no one can live up to romanticized expectations that sound like they’re out of a storybook, and life isn’t “once upon a time…”

When someone doesn’t meet those expectations and I become upset, it makes it seem as if I am trying to change that person or fixing something to be the way I want it to be, even if that was not my intention. It makes them feel as if they are just a cog in my machine of a plan of life and not the player or partner in it they should be.

My mom has often give me this little nugget of advice: don’t expect someone to do something (or act in the same way) you would because they are not you. Even if they began as good-natured expectations, those types of expectations will always breed resentment. Because you are expecting someone to act in a way that may not be in their nature. It leads to implications that their nature, who they are, is an inconvenience to you.

I have heard that a few times: that because I had the expectation of a plan, I was making the other person feel like an inconvenience. So these expectations can not only make us resent others, but they can also make others resent us.

Since hearing this perspective-altering quote, I have decided to adjust my perspective, to change my expectations. Sometimes, it’s best not to have any.

If choices show what we truly are, what does this choice say about me? I hope it says I am willing to recognize my faults and weaknesses and make things right when needed.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back to writing that story…

Finding Fulfillment

Finding fulfillment. It’s something we all struggle with at one point or another, some earlier than others. It’s something I have struggled a lot with in the past few months and something I have come to realize can mean many different things to many different people.

I grew up in an environment that told me to always pursue my dreams and to never allow being female to get in the way. I watched my mom progress through her career in a male-dominated industry and thought “That’s what a career is. That’s fulfillment.” While I admired her, and I still do, I’ve learned that as much as her and I are alike, we are also vastly different.

I’ve been in school (basically) my entire life. As a fresh M.A. graduate, a foray into the “real world” seemed like a breath of fresh air—much needed, scary, yet necessary. It took months to even get interviews, and more months to get any offers. I knew I wouldn’t find “the dream job” immediately after graduation, but I thought that finding “the perfect job” would give me the fulfillment I had been missing as I stayed home without a single paper to write—and the money to do my part for my household. I had felt useless and hopeless for months, and I was looking for a way out of that feeling. I thought a job would provide me that.

I was wrong.

As it turns out, and as I’ve found as I’ve been reflecting the past few days, a career does not fulfillment make. (I don’t even know if that makes sense, but you get the gist.) So what creates fulfillment? That’s harder to answer than it seems. Why? Because it’s entirely up to you.

I’ve realized that what fulfills me is my faith and my marriage. This does not mean I do not desire to work, because I do. It also does not mean I rely on my husband as the source of my happiness, as my “end-all-be-all.” What it means, for me, is that is where I find my happiest moments and memories, my joy, and my comfort.

I am all too familiar with the feelings of guilt or being less than because of this mentality. I am also familiar with the feeling of the need to fit in with those around you. But fitting in in this world should not be my concern. Instead, I should be concerned with my heart, if I am doing what I am called to do.

I’ve realized lately that perhaps I am not.

I think I felt I needed to be my mom to make my family happy. Maybe that’s the mentality of an only child—needing to please. Whatever the psychology behind it, I’ve learned that’s not the case. I need to be me. And that means finding fulfillment however I find it, not my mom.

I’ve made mistakes to get to this realization. I’ve made decisions that were not right, that were made out of fear, before coming to this realization. But the important part is that I got there.

My goal is to go back to what truly fulfills me and stop trying to fill a hole with something that won’t fill it.

I guess my message through all of this is: find your fulfillment. Whatever it is, whatever it means to you. Do not be afraid to find that your fulfillment does not match how others’ may define it. Do not be afraid to find yourself. Do not be afraid to admit when you have done wrong, but also do not be afraid to make amends. Find what makes your heart happy, because your life will be all the less cheerful if you don’t.

In the Eye of the Storm

Right now, my life is chaos. I definitely feel I am in the eye of the storm I would inevitably go through.

That being said, I need to take a hiatus from writing in my blog for a while. I think it will be healthier for me. I’ll also be taking a break from social media.

I am praying God leads us through and that He shows me how to survive this battle. I rely on His strength, because right now I have none. As always, I will rely on Him, because He is the only one who can provide unfathomable peace during stormy weather.

Thank you to all of you who have read this blog. Writing is so therapeutic for me, and I never thought anyone would read what I have to say. But I have been pleasantly surprised. Thank you for interacting. I hope you have found a friend here.

So this is goodbye for right now. Because this storm is taking all my energy.

The Greatest Commandment is Love

Yesterday was…chaotic, in a word. Our family is having some struggles with this move, and it has led to many tense conversations and emotional breakdowns. My soul feels tired. But yesterday’s and today’s Scriptures have helped replenish me a little, and I am leaning on my Scripture writing for guidance and comfort.

So here is another entry that will talk about two Scriptures. Bear with me.

 

1 Peter 1:3-9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

This Scripture tells that that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to give us hope. Through Christ’s resurrection, we are offered “a living hope,” one that is pure and cannot be contaminated or corrupted by this world because it is in Heaven. In other words, our hope is Christ in Heaven. It also tells us that our faith is a precious thing and, though it may be tested, we should still glorify, honor, and praise God because He sent Jesus for us. Lastly, it says that we love Him even though we do not see Him.

This, perhaps, is the strongest verse.

We believe in our souls in our God and in Christ, so we love Him. And that is faith—believing in something even if you cannot see it.

 

Mark 12:28-33

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.””

Here, Jesus is telling us that what God views most important are two things: love Him with your whole being and to love others. The scribe responds that this is true, of course, but what is important is the last line: that those are “more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In other words, it does not matter what offerings or sacrifices you give if you do not do it in love for God or love for others.

 

The take away is…

I am going to make a leap here to connect these two Scriptures, and I ask that you take the leap with me. 1 Peter 1:3-9 is telling us that Jesus Christ is our living hope and we should glorify God above all else, even in times when our faith is tested. Like it may be when we try to abide by the second most important commandment in Mark: love others. In Mark 12:28-33, Jesus tells the scribe that the first greatest commandment is to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and the second is to love others. It can be hard to glorify God when we are having difficulty loving others. (Let’s face it—we’ve all been there.) But we must.

We should love and glorify and honor God with our entire being, as Jesus commands, no matter what we are going through. Our faith may be tested with fire, but still we should love God as He commands.

I won’t lie to you: that can be hard. Heavens, that can be hard.

What about that time my grandfather became suddenly ill and passed away before I truly had a chance to say goodbye? I can tell you, I did not glorify God then. I was angry. How could He take this person from me, from my family?

What about that time my husband made a commitment that I didn’t fully understand and needed to know more about but he made it anyway? Did I glorify God? No. I cried, I yelled, I asked “why my marriage, God?” Did I “love others” in this instance? Probably not. I was mean spirited and I pushed my husband away.

And what about when my parents divorced? I didn’t glorify Him then.

But now I see the beauty in some things.

Does it still hurt that my grandfather is no longer here? Yes. But my faith tells me he is with his Heavenly Father, and what more glorious place to be than there.

I was angry for a while with my husband. Unrightly so. But God has blessed us through that decision. My husband has found his passion, his calling. He may not have otherwise. And I thank God for that. And, if it’s possible, I love him even more.

10 years later, does it still hurt that my parents divorced? Eh, yes and no. I’m over it at any rate. Old enough to know it isn’t my concern. But I am still blessed through that. How? My parents both still support me. They both still love me and care about me. My mom has gotten to do things in her career that she has always wanted to do. I get to visit more places. The dad-daughter time I have with my dad when I see him is that much more special.

My point is, we can be tested, but there is a blessing in everything, even if we don’t see it yet. That is faith—believing in something even if you cannot see it.

What do you need to have faith for? Maybe it’s a change of scenery or of a situation. Maybe it’s just that “things,” whatever they may be, work out. Maybe it’s that everything stays the same. Or maybe you need a push to love others because you have been hurt by something in the past. Whatever it may be, allow me to encourage you to never stop believing. The most important commandment is to love God and His people (“love your neighbor as yourself”) above all else.

So, today, practice love.

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.