The Royal Family and Control

Confession moment: I adore the British royal family. I like reading about them, watching films and documentaries on them. Maybe it’s the fascination with their structure and history that I just don’t see with our democratic structure here in the US. Or that I love the British in general.

I watched the news of Princess Kate’s third pregnancy announcement yesterday excitedly. Yay for other people having babies! I noticed on one news outlet’s coverage of the announcement they had the succession to the throne mapped out. With this announcement, Prince Harry (William’s brother, second son to Prince Charles) has now slid to sixth in line for the throne.

Something he has no control over-his birth order and the pregnancies of his sister in law- dictate what he will be able to do with his future. I can’t imagine that or what his desires might be, or how he is able to rectify that how dynamic.

I thought on that more as I read further into King David’s life in the Old Testament. He’d already incurred his own sons trying to overthrow his rule. Now as he lay on his deathbed word comes that his 4th son (one that in the natural succession line would take the throne) has decided to thwart his father’s-and God’s-plan for Solomon to assume the throne. He meets in secret with those who aren’t loyal to his father and then publicly sacrifices offerings to name himself the new king.

My thoughts went directly to questioning Abinojah and his crafty nature. He had no control over his father’s proclamation, or God’s larger plan. So instead of acquiescing to the plans he takes them into his own hands to manipulate and control. Then I saw a lot of myself in him…desiring to control his own life and what he felt was his. His life, his plan, his control.

Oof.

How hard is it to accept God’s plan when it’s not what you would’ve made for yourself? How difficult is it to rectify your desires and plans with God’s? What do we sacrifice in order to live within the authority of God Himself in every area of our life?

I know for me I’d much rather have the control and say so, being able to pursue the desires I deem worthy and good. But that’s not what God plans for us most of the time.  He wants good for us, but not on our terms and in our ways. It’s a life of bowing in submission to the throne, to the rule and authority of God Himself and how that looks in our life…and not in anyone else’s. It means realizing we cannot control which a Sovereign God controls.

It means that sometimes we are sixth in line to succeed and we must relinquish any idea that we can control that.

The Fort and the Legacy

The Saturday adventuring continued this weekend, as I went “home” to Knoxville. Having lived there for 12 years through college, grad school and post-grad life it became my home. It’s always good to go back and see how it’s changed, and some of the things that stay the same, visit family and friends, and enjoy it as a little respite from life. Next week I will celebrate five great years in Nashville, and this week two years in my own home (hooray!) so I thought it was right to get back to Knoxville where these big plans of life all started.

My sister and I decided to jaunt out to James White Fort in honor of Statehood Day on June 1, celebrating 220 years. While ridiculously hot (hi June in the South) it was really cool to see the juxtaposition of the oldest building in the state against the backdrop of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, downtown, and the Tennessee River.

 

It was a great weekend filled with time well spent thinking on the legacy we are leaving now for people to see two hundred years from now. What are we building in our lives, our homes, the people around us that leaves a lasting imprint like this? What will people read about and discover about us centuries into the future?

What If?

I sat there in a movie theater with a friend not really knowing what to say. We were at a screening and had decided to use the time to talk about some heart issues we both had been experiencing as of late. She looked at me with such fear and pain in her voice asking “But what if this is it?”

I looked at her and shared that I too had asked that same question, with longing, fear and pain. What if this is it for me?

She looked with such honesty, seeking an answer as if I held some secret. Me, another single female with a job and a mortgage. Me the woman seven years older, and supposedly wiser, yet still single.

What-ifOh my heart hurt, and friends, it still does…because this What If plagues us in some very quiet times-no matter our marital status. It whispers ever so softly that it echoes out into every corner and crevice of our lives. We begin to wonder what if this happens? what if that doesn’t? What if? What if? What if?

Those two words will slither and crawl throughout our lives when we are at our most vulnerable, when we aren’t on guard or we just aren’t prepared. I remember not too long ago my “What if?” snuck up and sucker punched me hard. I had to pull over because I had started to sob. It was speaking fears and doubts I had left unchecked and running loose. It was the reality of no control that I chose to carry with me as if I could control it. Oh that illusion of control will mess you up friends if you aren’t careful. You’ll think you’ve checked off this on your timeline of life and not its time to for that….when in actuality we are on God’s timing and that may mean you don’t get that, or not right now but when He believes you are ready.

I wish I could tell you that it’s easy to answer the what if of my friend, or of my own life. But it’s not. It’s difficult because the what if is a lie. It’s a lie of comparison. It’s a lie that our story has to be like that person or those people. It’s a lie that tells us that we can control it and we are in command. We aren’t.

You aren’t.

Neither am I.

So that night, after sharing that hard conversation with no answers with my friend, I began to wrestle once more with the what ifs? that were circling my own heart and mind. Then very clearly I realized that I had laid down that struggle before of my future but I hadn’t let go of my present. I was still wrangling it with both hands, herding here and there like wild cats. Yet God stood there all the while waiting for me to relinquish and rest. To allow Him His work and me to trust. I go before Him, even in the moments since, seeking to give my present and my future back over to Him when I try to pull it back.

It’s not mine.

Those questions? Well they are a lie that is used as a weapon to distract, manipulate and take us from His truth. And that’s when I cling to His word that tells me exactly where I am if I just keep faith and remember it’s not about me.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

1 Peter 5:6-10

Confidence Booster

For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee;  regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

Philippians 3:3-6 (HCSB)

I like to skim part of these verses above. In the midst of reading Philippians, I looking at Paul’s brag list of his lineage, education and training…and I get a little jealous. If you are like me you start sizing him up against yourself and find you are left wanting.

Here’s the rub though…Paul isn’t writing this for bragging rights. Quite the contrary. Here he is, in jail nonetheless, telling us that if we boast in confidence, he’s got us beat. But if we focus in on that we miss it, tightly woven in just before as he’s talking about his life before Christ, that we should not be putting confidence in the flesh.

Our flesh.
Our own strength. Our own might. Our own individual selves.

None of it. Not a single bit of it should we find or place confidence in within ourselves. The foundation that is built isn’t by our means, or our ways, or in our timing or in our strength. What’s more, our future does not lie in embracing our past.

We aren’t who we were when we are in Christ. We are new. We are being re-newed each day with mercies given by Him. We cannot boast in that. I cannot be confident that I will get my to-do list done each day, but I can be confident that my God is and will be right beside throughout the day.

I can boast that nothing is ever done in my own strength, as much as I try to wrestle it from Him. I know that the ministry I work in, the paycheck I receive and the people I encounter each day are all a part of His plan-not something I have concocted.

If I choose to live in the confidence of my own self, I see a person who tries and fails way too often, who pursues the wrong things, gets distracted by the inherently good things, and someone who desires after more. But His more for me is in no comparison because as Paul continues on in Philippians any of the stuff that I gain in my own self, through my own means, is a loss when it comes to Christ.

When it comes to comparing the two, there isn’t even a consideration because everything I thought was worth striving for when I was far from Him is dingy, ugly and worthless when I see life lived in and through Him. So rather than boasting in myself, who sometimes succeeded in selfish pursuits but found a life fully lived out in Christ was far more adventurous and plentiful. Because He shifts my past to where I am not grasping it for my future. Instead He gives me a new hope, a boasting in His truth, and a foundation that is firm in love and mercy.

That. Him…He is exactly where my confidence lies. I don’t want a righteousness of my own making as it will never come to fruition, lead to only further anguish and self-seeking while giving a false hope that I am able to do it. So I boast in Him. That it not be of me, but of Him.

Recently I was headed down a main road that leads to my workplace when I happened to see my almost two years ago ex-boyfriend. He was dropping off a delivery near my office building and I immediately was thinking of how to avoid him seeing me.

Then I wondered why. He was near my place of work, in fact directly across the street from my office. I broke up with him almost two years ago. I was simply headed back to the building after going to the County Clerk’s office. This was a by-chance moment that had completely caught me off guard.

But yet we find ourselves, us singles, in these moments sometimes and have to remind ourselves that this is most certainly our past and not our future. We have to forgive ourselves and the other person to in some instances, and remember the peace we have now rather than the issues that may trigger from seeing them.

For me I had to remind myself that forgiveness was given, and it still has to be given on those days when I remember what happened and what was said. It’s not about reliving the past but about learning from it, and that includes learning about myself and the relationship I chose to be an active part of for months. It’s choosing to forgive when the doubt creeps in or the loudness of unforgiveness wants to crowd out everything else.

It’s funny how those reminders find themselves weaving into our lives so unexpectedly. I used to believe it was a bit of temptation and torture. Now I view it as an opportunity to pursue grace, mercy and forgiveness again. To let it guide my heart and remind me that I am not living in a past tense, but a future present. So I can face the past, the good and bad, having learned about who I am. Thus allowing me to be a better me for the present life and continue to work on the future of who I desire to be.

Let those moments serve as a reminder for you too. That you are not your past, unless you haven’t learned from it. You are in your present and allow whatever you may harbor to be set out and forgiven. Push through the pain and allow peace to fill you now, instead of regret and bitterness. No matter what has happened to us, we have the choice of how it affects us now.

Running Thoughts

IMG_3593I am not a runner. In fact, I despise it with everything in me. I have since I was younger. This coming from a woman who played both basketball and tennis, both of which involved quite a bit of running, especially in off-season and training. Many friends run, though. I live in a town known for it’s runners, it’s races and it’s trails. I even went so far as to do a 5K a couple of years ago with my friend Hanna (thank you by the way for that!), but it was more of a walking thing for us since it was the Color Run.

So I am not sure why but long about mid-April I took up running, intermittently mind you, while I tried different workouts in my normal cycle. Over the month of May I took on the challenge of logging 30 running miles in 30 days, and I am happy to brag that I finished that up three days early! That’s a huge thing for me because honestly as you’ve ascertained already I hate running. I used to joke that I would only do it if being chased.

Slowly over this last month it’s become more of a release for me, and a time where I can clear out some thoughts and often get re-focused on my life. Saturday morning I woke up at my normal workweek time (because that’s what inevitably happens on Saturdays, without an alarm) and decided to get in a run before it became unbearably hot and/or poured rain. While I am writing this it’s on downpour three of today and hence why I am not currently running. IMG_4131

I have been, for the last month, focused on the next step in front of me when I run. One foot in front of the other. Just keep it moving, even when my pace is an ungodly number…just take that next step. And so as I was on lap two in my normal run route I happened to look up, and look around. I caught this and honestly I had to stop and just take the photo.

In running, much like life, I tend to focus on the things right in front of me without much pausing. Without stopping or taking a moment to look around at where I am at, often finding I get in a place because I was too focused on the step rather than the path. As I continued on running I kept thinking on this thought, and how I don’t focus much when I run on the target ahead until I am right on it. Instead of pushing myself through, even praying through it, I just get that next step in.

While focusing on where and how we plant our feet is good, it can lead us to a habit of not focusing on the end goal, where we are striving to be. As I continued on my run Saturday morning I found I was very present and pushing to the distance rather than the step and debating on going another mile instead of focusing on the step in front of me. It allowed me to see that I can push farther when I am not as present-focused but future-minded.

While I am still not sold on this whole running bit, I am finding it is giving me new perspective on what I am capable of when I put my mind on the things ahead instead of what’s currently in front of me.

There and Then

I think God has a genuine sense of humor. I truly do.

This week I commented to my Graduate Assistant that I was feeling put together again, back in organizing mode and giving due attention to the things that needed it. It’s been a season of triage and rushing. As I made the statement, closing a binder to replace on the shelf, several binders fell from the shelf. Then I dropped my pen, which was open, and commenced to writing down the front of my dress. The topping on the cake was then getting hand sanitizer shooting up like a fountain onto my desk and papers. To which we both agreed that God just laughs at us when we make statements like that.

In the humor though is real love and attention to our lives. Last month, and for many before that, a focus shift occurred where I was looking ahead to the next thing. Which in and of itself is not a bad thing. Much like I talked about in a post last month, “by now” started to creep in. It went beyond marital status though. Soon I felt hurried and rushed to be addressing the next thing and not relishing the now.

“God laughs when we make plans” has been something I have seen throughout life, but never more have I seen it come true than in recent weeks and months. When we become preoccupied with the plans ahead we begin to regret and bypass the now. We speed through lists, through meetings, through people in order to get to next thing quickest.

I cannot help but be reminded of two of my favorite passages when I get too far ahead. They are so oft quoted that I wonder if they become cliche and fettered about only in times of suffering or trial. Whatever your usage of them, Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 55:8,9 are reminders that we are living in the now based upon the plans and ways of a Creative and Thoughtful God. Yes we can plan, but we should not be so focused on the then that we never see the now.

Throughout Scripture He reminds us of stillness, of waiting, that we always have Him with us, and yet we cannot help but focus on future planning. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing until it becomes the only thing we can focus on. Sometimes the journey towards that future is just a beautiful as what is awaiting you. In fact, the deeper I dig into my journey I am seeing that the end result is merely a by-product or side effect to the present I am choosing to live. It’s a life built on His love and sacrifice, but also overseen by His design.

If I am not trusting in that, I have a much graver future ahead. After all He journeys with me so why not enjoy the company I am in now, knowing the only guaranteed future is one spent eternally with Him anyways?