Discouragements

Sometimes you stare at a blank screen without so much as a syllable coming through your mind. The screen mirrors your mind. Blank. Empty. Without words.

It’s not as if you don’t have anything on your mind-the to-do list for your day or your week, future aspirations, current news, relationships with others, relationship with God. But we’ve maneuvered and compartmentalized so much of ourselves that we draw up to life with a big blank. No space really for any more boxes of things for our mind to dwell on, but plenty of white space filling in everywhere.

In that white space is where this year has been lived for me, alot of seeming noise but not quite distinct, just fuzzy. Not much intentionality or planning, just shoving boxes of life around to get through a day or a week. I realized in not making me choices or truly focused decisions, I’d made the choice for my life to just exist this year. To not really engage much mentally or use the excuse of one activity to define my whole existence.

Disappointments will come and go, but discouragement is a choice you make.

I was reminded over the weekend of this quote from Charles Stanley years ago. And it made sense that much of the white noise was discouragement over the boxes I’d put my life into only to revisit for nostalgia and wallowing in discouragement. I would look at the actions or assumptions I had put on others around me deemed it discouraging and just existed in it.

Over and over again.

I chose discouragement at every turn.

For 10 months, discouragement has crept onto the blank screen and the white space of my life. It was a record of habit, choosing it over fuel for pursuit, building a habit of packing it up instead of getting back up.

So what happens when you meet your repeated discouragement over disappointments? You have that choice to walk back into that room or begin to pick yourself up and go back to the disappointment and find ways of pushing through them or correcting where you were responsible. We have lost our sense of accountability and responsibility in many ways currently, but most of all we’ve lost our sense of responsibility to ourselves. To pursuing resilience and fight rather than discouragement and packing it all up. We flight alot more than we fight these days when faced with discouragement, when the disappointments get to be too much.

It’s how we respond that is on us. We can choose intentional pursuit of what we are given, facing disappointments and failures and going back the next day. Or we can pack that up in a box, shove it over in the corner, and then wondering why we can’t build a good habit of success for our lives.

Moore of Christ, Less of Them

I read the words of Beth Moore Sunday morning, 280 characters splayed across my smartphone. Words I couldn’t put to what I had been feeling and living in the last nine months. A heart conflicted and wondering. A heart struggling to rectify two pieces of life.

Emotions bubble up, along with my hackles. I’d get angry, self-righteous, and then remorseful. Over the last nine months it’s often felt like it was building to something in my life, a turning point…but it’s been more of a birth than anything. A birth of a heart and life that was becoming too dependent upon emotion and hurt feelings.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I’m just saying you can trust Jesus. Don’t let anybody who failed you confuse you about Jesus. Ain’t nobody Jesus but Jesus. Give the real one a real chance. You’ve missed Him so much. You just did not realize He was the one you were missing.</p>&mdash; Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BethMooreLPM/status/1046375475017383936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 30, 2018</a></blockquote>
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I had allowed someone else-several someone elses-be the influencers in my relationship with Christ, be the key reason I’d distanced myself from my faith, my church, and from God. I’d supplanted looking to Jesus to looking at the actions of individuals for nine months.

Reading Beth’s words, I found they applied to me in a different way than she might have intended, but deep within I felt the Spirit stirring me to address what I’d been allowing to grow inside of me. Maybe you needed them too. Maybe you needed a reminder that people aren’t Jesus. Their words aren’t gospel and their actions against you are not serving Him, no matter their Christian status in the church or community. Christ is Christ to you, and for you, and wants to walk with you through the hurt of it all. He wants to speak to your emotions and feelings, that the devil will attempt to manipulate and use against you.

Traveling Light

It was about a year ago I went on my own bucket list trip. I think it is always interesting to hear about people’s bucket lists and the things and places they want to travel to, see, and do in their life. Sometimes the experiences are very similar to others and sometimes they are wildly different. Reflecting the uniqueness of every human being and the desires of adventure and curiosity of exploration.

In March of last year I saw one of my favorite musicians was doing a summer 40th anniversary tour, and living in Music City USA means we often get the concerts smaller towns don’t. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have long been my favorite band, probably because my momma raised me right. But I knew I didn’t want to see them in Nashville. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Bridgestone, but for the first time seeing my favorite musician?) So I looked at other cities and saw Seattle, a city I’d long wanted to visit but had 1-no excuse to and 2-no one to journey there with.

IMG_5110And that’s a hard rub as a single person. You know your other single friends are on budgets like yourself, and may not be up for traveling to the same place or seeing the same things as you. You don’t want to force people to adhere to your travel plans or destinations out of shear selfishness.

 

20953703_10105336340976795_4326938811749454304_nSo I went alone. To a city I have never been to. Staying in an AirBnB. Driving in a city I had never driven in (but hey, still on the left side of the road!). Because I wanted to see my favorite musician and visit a city I’d dreamt of seeing for a decade. I did research on some things to check out, bought a random city pass to see a bunch of sites I may not have otherwise have gotten to see. I went to two different distilleries for tours and tastings, saw the OG Starbucks, and even fell in love with an artist that I will not shut up about a year later (Chihuly glass!).

 

 

Chihuly Blue

Yes, there were times when I was apprehensive about being there alone. Loneliness crept in at moments, just like they do on a random Tuesday night at home. But I learned that I miss out on life, on living and adventuring if I wait for a boyfriend or spouse to come along to do those things with. Sometimes you do have friends who can make trips work, or you go on adventures with your family to places like I am doing in a couple of weeks with my sister to Chicago. But there are times, when you are single, that you just cannot make it work and you either sit by planning for the day when you might have a partner or you jump and take the trip.

If I had waited, I would’ve missed seeing my favorite musician live in concert. Maybe that’s what has really spurred my heart and passion for traveling as a single. Because if I had put off that trip, or opted out because of my marital status, I would never have seen him perform in person (and ya’ll it was so good….).

You still have to be aware when you travel alone, and probably more hyper aware than when with another person or in a group. But living your life means living it as it’s gifted to you right now. Not waiting for the “what if” days to come that may never come to fruition. As I shared on Instagram earlier this week, Flying across the country solo showed me the beauty of life, adventure and even my singleness while also reminding me that no matter what I may feel as a single, God’s designed my life and is very present in every bit of it. I have to choose to recognize my heart and desire for living out that life. Regardless of the lie of “less than” as a single, regardless of the loneliness, regardless of the emotion I attach to it or presume about it.

Singled Out in Prayer

Over the month of July I was out of town almost every weekend, traveling for birthdays, weddings and concerts. While it was fun for the summer, it also removed me from my home church most Sundays. If I am honest, it was also a bit of a breather as I have been in some major wrestling on the state of the Baptist church as a whole and specifically the Southern Baptist church which I have been a part of for most of my adult years (and all of my childhood). That’s at least a chapter in my second book for sure-how to wrestle in the Southern Baptist ring.

Last Sunday found my first weekend home in what felt like ages, so part of me was looking forward to being back at church and the other part was really just hoping to sleep in. The wrestling of my inner dialogue that many have on a Sunday morning hit full force but I made myself get my butt to a seat in our church plant service. I glance at the bulletin to see what Scripture we’ll be reading and see it’s the Armor of God in Ephesians…

WOOHOO! I missed the entire chapter plus on marriage!” was my initial thought. But then our pastor does the ole switcharoo. Preaching off script on marriage instead. The weekend prior I was at a wedding. The weekend before I was celebrating another birthday being single. Needless to say, my head and heart wanted to get up and walk out. My emotions were closing off and crossing my arms, thinking “well this won’t apply to me, should’ve stayed in my pajamas with coffee.”

This also fell after a conversation earlier in the week where it felt as though I was being single-shamed because I didn’t have a husband and kids to keep me busy and therefore could take on something. (For transparency’s sake, this wasn’t at my job) It may not have been the intention of the individuals but we all need some self-awareness of our words, even especially me.

So as I sat in the building God built, alongside brothers and sisters, I started having this conversation internally that I have to admit was Spirit influenced. God was being very direct that you know what, His Church isn’t me-centered, it’s Him-Centered. As it should be. And what if me praying for the marriages in that room was what He needed from me today. It wasn’t what I could get from Him but what He was asking of me, obedience in what can seem such a meaningless thing in the work of God but what He wants of me. Not to be me-focused, seeking Jesus-and out of life, but what I can do to serve Him. Giving up more of me so I can be fully who He knows I can be.

What would it look like to pray for every marriage I am around, that I know of? To pray over friends’ and families’ marriages that they would be God-centered, building a covenant relationship around love and respect, Biblical submission and leadership, authority and mutuality. That they would be the relationships I see as God-honoring and desire after the good things in those, rather than the Hallmark-saturated romance we are often using for relationships. How would the church look then? How would our communities and workplaces look?

Having that change of ‘tude made me grateful I had gone to church last week, that I’d been in a sermon on marriage and that even at the end our pastor made it a point to say he knew there were single individuals present and for us to be in fervent prayer for future spouses as well, just as he’d directed the spouses present to pray for one another. It was a reminder that I may not have a future spouse but I can sure pray for each and every one of them I know, and for my single friends as well to have spouses of the same prayerful focus.

Mountains Moving

Ever find yourself absolutely bowled over by a whisper?

Yesterday while out running errands I had the radio on, going full tilt down I-65 when these words came through my speakers “I’ve seen you move. You move the mountains. And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.” In those words I heard the whisper of God Himself, coming near asking me, “What if you are the mountain I have been moving?

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Y’all. I’ll spare you the details of much of the backstory, but even in that very car yesterday morning I’d been praying a prayer of change, of release on a tight grip of things, of open hands and a trusting heart and mind. A simple prayer but one that needed faith like a mustard seed. Simple but powerful.

When I am the mountain needing moving, it’s not my power or will doing it. It’s all Him. He is fulfilling His promise to be with me, to do good in me and through me. That good may look like desert times and hard winds in battle. It will leave scars and ask for the pound of flesh. But it’s the perfect faith in the power of the One Who wants to move me to the impossible. To the Kingdom now work. To His intimate fellowship and worship.

My eyes, heart, life are removed from focusing on the circumstance, relationship or place and instead intensely aware of my need of Him in my life. Faith in Him, trust in Him, surrender in Him to move me where He knows I should be and can be. In the absolute impossible of life.

Seeing Our Creative God

“So often we miss life’s beauty because we’re too preoccupied with it’s flaws.” -Ann Spangler

 

Did you forget God created you in His image? Or that He created the ground you walk on and grass you seem to mow 24/7? Or the cat who keeps calling your new patio cushions home?

I think we become so engrossed with what’s wrong or “what just has to be survived” rather than remembering the Creator who made it, Who thought it out of absolutely nothing to reflect Him.

It may seem rather Pollyanna-ish to think about it, but when you start to see a person as a fellow creative image of Him, created by His hand, you tend to approach them differently. You value them in a different way and the time you are given to interact and engage with them. It reflects our God, His creativity and absolute sovereignty in situations and our lives.

When we focus on the flaws of this life, even in ourselves, we miss the absolute wonder and creativity of the God who created this world from nothing, created us from mere dust of the earth, who brought land to life and animals into being. What if we focus on His beauty and creativity in our day rather than the flaws or ways we wish it were instead? I truly believe it brings Him joy and we get to give some praise back when we are able to celebrate His creative character in those small ways in every single day.

Killing “Just a Season You’re In” Mentality

Do you ever resign yourself to the thought “Well, this is just the season I am in,” and just wallow in it? It’s a difficult season, or a quiet one, and you just find yourself giving in and wallowing a bit? Does that sound familiar? Or that it’s just so busy and crowded with things, that you think this is the way it will always be?

Recently I was skimming a couple of social media accounts I follow and seeing their “Hang on (fill in the blank situation) person, this is only a season” and it gave me pause. The reason why I wouldn’t understand until this weekend. I truly believe it’s because I was putting my very own excuse on a “season” I have been in and have thus grown to disdain it. I labeled it simply to get out of owning the fact I was uncomfortable with the wrestling, with the work of it, the tension and the change of schedule.

I kept being asked about my book, my writing, how it was going, by dear friends who were checking in on my life but I felt I had to label as a season of no writing. A season of quiet and contemplation. When in reality, I was quite willing to let this portion of my life die. I was putting down my writing life for no good reason, a calling I had so passionately from God years ago simply because it got hard. I was wrestling with realities and words, with stories and sharing, with being personal and very raw with my own life and struggles.

I had labeled it “just a season” as my excuse and hearing the words “Hang in there…” started to really make my stomach and my eyes roll. Because I knew it was all a label to me, for me and my giving up, my own death of a part of me. This part was who I was made to be, and what I was made to do in some form. It was a part of my life, and not a season.

Why stay here until we die? (2 Kings 7)

Those words were exactly what I had chosen for myself. Sitting outside the city gate in the midst of a famine as a leper of my own making. Staying in that season til I die, til that part of me was good and dead. In reading those words of 2 Kings I found myself leaning back into the very time God has called me to be in. A time of writing, a life of writing in fact. A life of living out the hard and pressing through it knowing that I am living it. For so many months I’d chosen death, the stench of it surrounding my life in a way I hadn’t clearly noticed, making this season one of despising and struggle rather than joy and searching.

Maybe you’re in a season of life, where you just can’t stand it being called a season. Because it’s not, it is a defining portion of your life from here on out. It’s more than a chapter, it’s the very plotline of your character development. What you are living, dealing with today, is the very thing making your day tomorrow, your month and your years. It is you. Just yet, you need to not hear the words “Hang in there” and instead, get up and live it. Live the hard. Live the difficult. Live out the strain and the stress, the chaos of it all. But live it. Don’t resign yourself to staying in it and dying. Don’t wallow in the death of it because that too will become what you live. You will be the walking dead of your life.

Today it’s being real that I just gave up for a bit. That I defiantly attempted to die at the gate instead of going to see about life.