Failing Well

This week I am rereading a book I blew through several years ago as a book club I participate in is reading it this month. The topic of failure came up and it got my mind to really dwelling on that topic, something I am not too comfortable with if I am honest.  

You see I prefer succeeding, and don’t we all right? Failing at something, whether big or small, can chip away at ourselves. At our reputations. Our egos. Our mattering. Our perceived failures, or outright ones for that matter, should be bringing us in closer to God. To chipping away at the veneer of who we’ve built ourselves to be instead of who He designed and created us to be. 

Here’s the bigger thing, we all are a bunch of failures. (Encouraging right?) 

Paul tells us exactly that in Romans. We have all sinned and fallen immensely short of God’s glory. It’s staggering how big of failures we are when it comes to getting God’s glory. We can never meet His perfect way, and we display that failure every single day. (I really am not writing an uplifting post huh?) 

But God (my favorite two words in the Bible) gave us faith through Jesus Christ, right smack dab in the middle of our failures so we could see that He meets us right there in them. He recognizes we fall short and comes right out after us, just like the prodigal son’s father. And so now we look at failure as a means for grace, for God to display His patience with me, for learning on my part. 

 “It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.” (P.28)

Just like the author of the book I am reading, I too am learning that I would rather fail at the stuff that matters than succeed at the stuff that doesn’t.

Dry Ground and a River

We are in a bit of a drought here in middle Tennessee, and across the South in general, this year. We are close to four inches below where we typically are for this time of year, and you can see the markers of it. Dry, cracked ground…hard soil…plants succumbing to the changing season with sighs of thirst.

I was thinking on this as I read a portion of Joshua recently. The children of Israel were again to cross a river to get to the Promised Land. They were the children of the ones who did the initial crossing out of Egypt with Moses as their leader. Now they listen to Joshua, the main ordained as the leader of Israel into the Promised Land. They didn’t cross by boat, or shear might.

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No, God led them through, with specific plans. It wasn’t on dry land that He showed up, proving once more that He was with them in this journey. While we don’t see much hesitancy here from the people as we do the first go ’round with Moses, I cannot help but think they are calling to mind the stories they’d heard from the prior crossing.

Even when we recall past faithfulness on God’s part, it’s hard to not desire the dry ground to walk on. It’s easier to walk on dry ground, what we believe to be sure footing and stability. We are able to see it for ourselves and know the path before us. But here God is, calling us to the river once more, to walk through the physical representation of Living Water for our lives to reach the Promised Land. He calls us to obediently walk through that water with Him, knowing His strength in it is far more than anything we can accomplish on dry ground.

Because let’s be honest, dry ground is good for nothing. You can’t till it, it doesn’t bear fruit, it’s not fertile and it most definitely will not take seed. But we go after dry ground, we long for it rather than the trust of the river…crossing the unknown with our only surety being that the Living Water is with us, flowing around us.

The more I am called to cross over waters the more I am seeing He is taking me through them to the land He promised. While dry ground may bring stability for a season, the damage of the drought will far outweigh the fears silenced in obedience.

Mossy Trees, Creation, and Tuesdays

Recently I have been enamored with the bigness of the world, of everything around me. One of my absolute favorite things is to look up under a tree, sometimes catching the sun peaking through the leaves and branches. I caught myself yesterday just standing on this beautiful plantation enveloped in the absolute bigness of this world. I probably looked crazy standing with eyes closed underneath hanging moss breathing deep, but honestly the older I get the more I really don’t care the perceptions of strangers. Their dialogue on my life isn’t affecting me breathing in the goodness of the creation before me. 

It’s the created reveling in the Creator’s work. 

No other part of creation, from His Hands, were created to enjoy this creation, to look at it with eyes of wonder and joy, to be content in giving Him the glory for all that is. When we look at Genesis 1:31 we see this same affirmation by God, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (HCSB, emphasis mine) Even as I type Bryan and Katie Torwalt are filling the still of my room with the words “let us experience the glory of Your goodness,” (from Holy Spirit, which makes me weep with joy) and that is a prayer worth singing out each and every day.

My hangup comes though when I want that bigness in every moment, grandeur and flooding visions of beauty and praise. Often the bigness of His creation is brought small in my life. It’s in the glimpse from a rear view, the quick word of encouragement, the found note from a memory long ago, or even the breath filling deep in a moment when the world may be coming in quick and hard. 

I sometimes forego the creation joy to push for the grander reveling, big moments held out for instead of sitting in the beauty of a Tuesday as Emily P. Freeman writes about so perfectly in Simply Tuesday. The small matters, the quiet stillness of a moment or a task completed is worthy of acknowledgement and we alone are created for that. The small leads and grows us day in and day out, walking us to the big to cherish and know of the Creator deeper. We run after big, wanting that in everything and every day when the small is with us in the moment.

Honestly it’s like saying we want Christ in His table-turning, miracle-performing  rather than the whispers of the Holy Spirit in moments. Both worthy and things worth desiring, but y’all we get both. We get the big and the small alike. It’s our choice to see the small as a means of revelry and praising. The bigness of creation is brought small by the Creator each day, it’s our choice as the created to recognize it for the very good that it is before us. 

Even when it means stopping in the midst, eyes closed, allowing Creator to meet with me the created under a mossy tree in the middle of Mississippi. 

Contented with Milkshakes

Last Saturday I had my first ever Chick-Fil-A milkshake. What have I been doing with my life before this? Y’all have been holding out on me on this. As I inhaled that delightful concoction all too quickly, I began to think on contentment.

Gorgeous day, time spent doing a hobby I love, and a really good milkshake. I felt content.

As I am learning though, I realize contentment isn’t found in the things of life-circumstances and offerings of this world. While those things I was enjoying are in fact good, I can’t run back to those to provide me contentment day in and day out. They would ultimately provide me with obesity, diabetes and probably a jobless existence taking photos of flowers.

Looking around me this week I saw contentment being sought in so many things that hold no value or worth, things that are mere distractions from the godly contentment found in pursuing God’s will. Sadly I saw people resting their contentment in another human being and what they could give them (trust me I have been there and still work through that). I have to admit this week my contentment was lacking due to a busy workload-so here I am confessing that I was trusting in my job for contentment that it can never bring. Some choose alcohol, others choose food. Some seek out that contentment in their families or friends, which are good things but will let us down if we seek after just that for our contentment.

When we place things that this world offers (or tells us that we have to have) as necessities in our lives beyond what God provides, we usurp His will with our own pursuit of contentment, our own will. Don’t get me wrong here, we can still enjoy the things of this world. But when godliness and contentment depend upon our environment or circumstances, both will always be shaky, never finding stability.

Paul speaks to this as he addresses the Philippians in his letter to them. His contentment came from the acceptance of God’s will in his life and pursuing the desire to see God’s character reproduced in him. He wrote this from a perspective of having walked through so many seasons of life and change. He found that contentment never rested in his circumstances but in His will lived out in Paul’s life. Just a couple of verses later is a verse often quoted in relation to sports or hard times but I think it points back to contentment.

Walk with me here in this thought. I don’t think Paul was referencing doing just any old thing as long as Christ’s strength was in him. In context of these verses, it affirms Paul’s truth of faith, that contentment is accomplished in Christ’s strength, not in our own. In every situation, in every need The secret of contentment he alludes to is found in verse 13.

I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.

Yet we wield that verse too many times to work in our own wills for our own definition of contentment rather than that which Christ can best work in us. We struggle and fight against circumstances that we just don’t like simply due to our selfish nature (preaching to myself here y’all) but when we stop, seeking His strength in the hungry moments, in the wanting moments, in the situations and circumstances, we find contentment lies within His will for us.

When I seek out the things which I believe will bring contentment to my life, I find they are fleeting and asked to be pursued over and over again. However when I live in His will, seeking His strength, contentment is lasting and real. It’s the acceptance that His will is good for my life.

So will I be content with fleeting moments of pursuit of my own will or accepting His will as good? Milkshakes pass away, but contentment in Him is eternal.

#SingleAwarenessDay

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This weekend is Valentine’s Day. For many singles I know this is a hard time, a reminder of the singleness and loneliness that are often coupled together. As I type this, I too am single this go-round of February 14th. While I shared a little over on Single Roots this week about approaching the Hallmark holiday, I thought I’d deep dive into my thoughts a bit more here.

Here’s the thing y’all, as I don’t want to sugar coat this. It has taken many years of singleness on this blasted holiday to realize something, just because my marital status says single it most assuredly does not mean I am alone.

I know many who bemoan this holiday and have had some ask me about how to navigate it better, or even addressing their singleness at all in such a way that it’s not all they dwell upon. I can’t say I haven’t been there, or that I won’t be there again, because it has taken 34 years of life for me to get to this wisdom of singleness isn’t the banner determining my life, nor my happiness. Some days it utterly just bites that I am single-like today, when I am sick and would love some cough syrup, or on gorgeous days when I want to take someone hiking with me. I found out that when I let that sink in and latch ahold of my heart though I get focused in on the “lack thereof” in my life rather than the overflowing abundance of it.

Singleness isn’t a definition of my life, or some box to place me in. It shouldn’t be yours either. Because it is not a synonym for alone. Yes I am single, no I am not alone. My life is filled, and more than I deserve, with family, friends and people whom I haven’t met yet that just pour so much into me. They are my story, just as God designed my life to be as it is at this moment, He is working through them to fill my life with so much good that I am never alone.

There are times when loneliness likes to lie to me and tell me that I am alone based simply upon a situation or lack of significant other. But let me tell you, all my others are significant in my life-from the Sara(h)s I share weekly prayer and wisdom texts with, to the sweet friend who sent me a card and gift this week, to my parents who still send me Valentine’s, to the coworkers who make me laugh uncontrollably at the most ridiculous situations, and the friends I get to g-chat with weekly.

For a time I dwelt in the loneliness based upon geography and lack of person in my life, but I found that I was choosing to see the people in my life as than significant, less than loved in my life. I was telling myself (and ultimately them as well) that they  just weren’t enough for me, and even so far as telling God He wasn’t working good out for me by not giving me a boyfriend/spouse.

Ugh, it’s hard to admit that but it’s true. If I can’t be truthful about my own struggles in it, why should I tell you all how to handle it?

So I felt it was timely that Shauna Niequist (hey girlcrush) would share this thought today: “You are significant with or without a significant other.” So true, and something I think we all need to hear and pull into close today and this weekend. We are significant, no matter our marital status. We are significant to one another and to God Himself. Just as you are significant, so are others in your orbit. Acknowledge that goodness He has brought you this weekend (and even beyond y’all).

If you hear it no where else, you matter to me. You took time to read and be a part of this community I am trying to grow out of obedience. Thank you. You matter. You are significant. You are loved.

Lingering

I have been doing a study of Genesis as the new year started. As a Christian now for 16 years I worried that the stories would bore me after reading them so often. Oddly enough, I find the more I read the Word the more things I discover about God, Who He is and what He does in our lives.

If you’ve read Genesis then you’ve probably heard about Lot’s wife in the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We know the fire and destruction reigns down upon the cities that found no redeeming people in them.We know Lot’s wife turned back for a glimpse of the cities she had called home. Then she was dust…turned into a pillar of salt. Simply for turning back.

We know all of that already…but the thing I have missed before now is the lingering of Lot within the city and also just outside, when he bargains with the angels in where they are to run to prior to the destruction. Eventually after multiple instances of “hurry Lot” they had to physically pull him and his family from the cities because “the Lord was merciful to him.”

They gave him warnings when they didn’t have to.

They saved him from a maddening crowd when they didn’t have to.

They saved his family from destruction when they didn’t have to.

Yet he lingered. He even bargained to stay close by and not leave the valley. At first Lot had set up his camp, upon breaking with Abraham, just outside of Sodom and not in it. But over time Lot found his way to residing within the city-a city condemned to depravity and immorality. It’s a slow move into sin, it’s never a full-fledged cannonball straight into it. The even bigger issue is when deliverance is sent…and we linger.

We hem around what has been pointed out to us, for deliverance out of it, and instead choose to continue in it. It is what we have come to know and dwell in, even when it threatens to destroy us. God shows us mercy, providing a way out yet we cannot fathom life being upset by the removal of ourselves from this thing-idol, pride, lies, greed, etc.

What will we do?

How will we function?

All I have known is this way, this place, this situation.

Much like Lot we linger even when we have warnings of impending destruction, even with the knowledge that what we are in is bad for us. God always provides a way out because He has to deal with sin, even when we don’t. He cannot ignore it and He cannot push it aside.

So why do we linger in it, neglecting the warning signs and choosing to even look back in longing for what we know is our downfall?

Because we are fallen. We don’t see the good He is doing in us through this. We simply believe the lie from the Garden itself, that He wants to keep us from something good. We make it about ourselves, and how we are shorted of something rather than the immensity of all that we get in Him, with Him, in Him.

We get God.

Yet we linger in the valley longing for less.

Not Interested

Today was the day. I had an extra pass to a movie screening this week as the opening to see if he wanted to go out. I thought if I finally saw him I would just ask. It has to do with this whole “do something you’ve never done before” idea I am carrying with me this year.

My interest in this guy goes back to April of last year. I met him at a service event and we chatted. But after that I couldn’t bring myself to really strike up a conversation with him…On a whim over the summer I thought I’d facebook message him, kinda joking that it was easier that way…no response. So life moves on and we get to November when I let it slip to a friend of his that I think he’s cute…seriously, am I in middle school? What has gotten in to me? (That’s what I asked myself all through December as I weighed my words and how very immature I was being about this interest in a guy I did not even know)

So here we are today. Yes, today, I think I am just going to do it. When I am met with nothing short of uninterest. That’s truly the only way to describe. Did I ask him? No, because I was greeted with a mumbled “hi” and staring at a phone.


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Why did I share all this with you all? Simply so I can share that it’s okay if he’s not interested. It doesn’t mean he’s the worst person in the world, or that he doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged. It simply means that he’s not that into me as I had been with him.

That’s okay.

It’s a kick to the ego and pride a bit, and I think we could all say that hurts. Here’s the thing, life goes on. I am not balled up in the floor worrying over what it is about me that he’s not into. I am going to keep being the me that I am growing into, that God is molding and making.

I do hope there’s a point where I can be friends with this guy because he seems like a cool guy, who serves and is interesting. It doesn’t mean I close off having any friendship with him or paint him as some horrible person. But I also don’t allow it to be a reflection of myself. There just wasn’t an interest there.

I think we have become a female population that believes if a guy isn’t interested that we must overhaul all that we are in order for him to want to be with us. Ladies, no. Fellas, I seriously love ya but you gotta stop finding these molds of perfection too. They simply aren’t real. They lead to alot of pain, for all of us.

The  next time there’s an interest there, go for it. And if it’s not reciprocated, if he doesn’t call after that first date, or you don’t get a like back, remember it’s okay. It’s not about who you are (unless you are a hoarder of all things cat, and then maybe it’s a little about you). It’s not the end of all things though. It’s a part of who you are becoming and how you respond to it that speaks volumes, not if he’s not into you.