Rough Road Ahead

A few weeks back as we were traveling home from vacation, I saw a road sign stating “Rough Road.” Now, we were in South Carolina so that’s pretty much all of their roads. (Not sorry Palmetto peeps, because your roads are the worst, and that’s saying something from this Nashville gal) As we bumped along a bit I took a mental note of that sign, thinking more about it in response to life than to the physical conditions of the road.

Two years ago today, I was fired from my job with no explanation or reason as to why. Thinking back on some still fresh memories of that day and subsequent days, the road ahead that picture of the “Rough Road” sign came to mind once again. Because I started wondering if we’d appreciate knowing that a rough road was ahead in our lives.

If we could be warned of rough patches on the road of life ahead, would we want to know?

Would it make it any easier to bear? To live through and be on that road, knowing it was coming? I’ll be honest and say that no, it wouldn’t. In fact the knowledge of impending bumpiness makes it harder in many ways. We start to work in our means, (we do that anyways alot of the times) but we try to control the situation, the consequences or the people involved. The warning allows for preparation yes, but preparation on whose part? And what does that prep look like in our lives?

When rough roads approach us in life, do we grip the wheel and just endure it while we are on it, or do we lean in to see if there’s a change of course needed, or if we need to pull off and rest a bit in how we’ve been traveling that road? A rough road gives us the ability to see what’s lying underneath where we’ve been trodding, revealing to us what we are made of and on what/who we are relying. The signal of a rough road gives us false senses of reliance upon ourselves to avoid it or be able to get through it quickly.

Would I have wanted the warning of being fired? I have to say now, two years later, that while a warning of what lies ahead would be nice, I know that in it all I found that I was more trusting of God, not knowing how the road would wind and move, but I had to trust that it would move me more towards Him than anywhere else.

It was a rough road, and one that required healing, provision and trust beyond what I could muster up for myself alone. A rough road ahead doesn’t so much need a warning sign as it does a belief that the rough road is a part of our journey home.

That Post-Resurrection Life

Last week I posted alot about Holy Week, culminating in Resurrection Sunday. We make much of this day in Christianity as it’s the day Christ arose from the grave to pronounce victory for all over death and sin. We no longer have to worry about the bondage of sin, but instead we live lives of freedom found in Christ.

Easter is a celebratory time, and rightfully so.  We celebrate and live into that which we could not do, ever, knowing He is our Redeemer.

But here’s the thing, as I walked through this week and all the post-Holy Week living. I dug into Acts a bit, even as Christ ascended and the disciples are now left with much-including the Holy Spirit with them and in them.

I looked at Peter, Silas, and the others who were witness to Christ’s workings. As Pentecost came, so did God’s Presence in the Holy Spirit upon them. Not preaching the gospel, but speaking praises of His wondrous works. They weren’t witnessing to all those who had gathered around as the rushing wind drew them in, nope. They were giving praise, speaking it from words they had never spoken before thanks to the gifting of the Holy Spirit.

So that got me thinking, as I walked through this week post-Resurrection Sunday, when all the candy went on sale, the joyous nature of what’s coming had ebbed, and the very felt Presence may be waning for you. Maybe it doesn’t feel like much of a celebration now, in the week after. That praises continue to pour forth out of mouths which now face death, doubts, frustrations, worries and this post-Resurrection life in the day to day.

Do we grow used to the Resurrection the other 364 days a year?

That was the question posed on Sunday by David Hannah. One that has struck me over and over again this week, as I live out life in Christ and through Him. Am I living a “used to the Resurrection” life every other day but Easter Sunday? What does it even look like to live a Resurrected Life?

Well it means we aren’t beholden to the death that sin promises anymore. We aren’t buried under the weight of the world’s stresses, cries and defeats. We are alive in Him who defeated the grave and gave us life abundant. We aren’t bound to identities in anything but in Him.

But yet we choose the mourning cloths and embalmed rags of a life we once knew instead of the resurrected one in which we have with Christ, in His redemption. So maybe we need that reminder that praises come forth even when we may still be wondering, when we may still doubt and have fears…when Christ has told us explicitly of things to come and yet He also gave us life anew.

Control Freak

Inherently we all like control, over something or someone. There’s a pull from within, at our very core, that seeks out control in our lives. You find those who say there is nothing in this life to control and then on the other end of the spectrum, those that say if you want anything in this life you have to gain control. We all fall along that spectrum somewhere, in some part of our lives (or even in all parts for many). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has some links to issues of control and managing of one’s life. Perfection is achieved through control, right?

For many of us, including me, control manifests out of a fear of the unknown. It also comes out of a desire for a certain, favorable outcome. Both, when pushed to the brink, have such negative effects on our lives and our relationships. We grasp and strain harder against the unknown factors, and fear whispering in our ear, to gain that one thing we want to come out right, that one relationship we want to work. We grip and hold tightly, we manage and micro-manage. We grow frustrated and confused, ultimately laying flat in exhaustion simply from pursuing after the things which we never had control of to begin with.

Recently I was reminded by a friend that we really have no control over things or people, the circumstances or what we are given to deal with. We simply can choose our response to them. We can choose our attitude and our effort in those things, and that is it.

At least I am finally coming to see that.

It took me quite a while, and much thrashing about with myself, to arrive at this place though. To figure out that the only thing I should and can control is my attitude and the effort I give to life, to relationships, to my work, to God. I have control over that entirely, regardless of others, their reactions, their own issues of control or other circumstances.

I don’t know where you are today, in what situations you find yourself in at work, in your marriage or lack thereof, in your relationships or with God. But I hope you are able to gain control over your attitude and your effort instead of trying to do that with others or situations. Because it’s fruitless, only causing harm and a ripple effect on all those you come into contact with (and possibly those you don’t). It’s a work, and a long work in progress at that. But let’s stop grasping for control outside of ourselves and instead gain it from within.

Three times I have sat down to write.

Three times I have erased everything I have written.

Delete.

That’s what I would like to do on things. Just delete them. So they would stop popping up as a reminder. Attempting to bring regret or doubt.

So I have this tonight. A few words on a screen because we cannot delete life. Experiences. Situations and Circumstances. People and Places.

We often wish we could. We think we have the power to do just that. We can find various things and various means to delete it. But they ease back in or pop back up.

Instead we have this life to fight for. To grasp and build off of, or fall victim to. We get that choice. Why not put new words to a blank screen? Why not process and adjust, allowing for editing but pushing ‘publish’ on life today?

Defining Success

Twelve years. Twelve years ago next week (in fact my last day of work for 2014) I graduated from the University of Tennessee with my Bachelor’s degree. That moment defined success for me up until that point in my 21 years. I think that defines success for many people, most of which are aiming to get to the degree whether it be a traditional college age person or that non-traditional person-single mom, vet, retiree.

Seven years ago in May, success looked like accepting a full time job with a Master’s degree, in a profession I could not have fathomed five years prior ever working in.

Five years ago I started writing which was a success in and of itself for me.

Last year I had my first published piece which provided a new sense of success…

…and just six months ago (today!) I closed on my very first home, adding a new definition of success.

 

Success comes in different seasons of life in various forms, sizes and shapes. I heard a great quote last month where the artist said, “Don’t assume all people want the same type of success.” I believe that is so very true. Success for you in your life may look very different for me in mine, and it may not even be in my sphere of reality to be quite honest.

That’s the joy about our lives, and the freedom we have in them to make choices on decisions with the guidance and wisdom brought forth through diving influence and discernment. We get to write our very own definition of success because it is determined by our very own hearts. Those hearts which are in tune with the Spirit within and guided by the same Triune God are the same ones which beat for desires He gives to those who come before Him.

We try to make success fit into this box, which then gets conformed and fitted to apply to all. Success isn’t one-size fits all, just like we aren’t and the choices we make. What my success is defined as is shaped by my story, my experiences, my beliefs and ultimately my God. Don’t mistake it as my god either, contorting and distorting success into something to worship of your own making…

For many success may be getting out of bed each day, or not doing something that feeds an addiction…it may look like not saying the rumor you heard floating around at work or discovering a new way of doing business that brings accolades on your company. Success may mean a clean home or a dirty one…it may look like a meal on the table or on the go. Success may look like a promotion or a new job.

Success is never guaranteed but failure sure is, something I learned from Dave Barnes. He also said that it is worth staying in it in spite of the failure. We will face it in some form, but ultimately it’s how we respond that leads to the changing landscape of success for us as individuals, as families, as communities and as believers. It’s a daily journey with ourselves, with others and with God to define what success is in our lives. It’s not one goal set out at the beginning of each new year or each new season.

Our hearts and our lives are dependent upon us writing down what success means for us today.

So what is your definition of success today?

Mine? Sharing this with you all…

Trees of Change

I love the fall, especially in the South. No where else can you go and see the beauty that explodes from a season change quite like the South in the fall. It truly is stunning.

The other evening I went for a run in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. I could not help but notice how different the scenery looked, and just how varied each tree and plant seemed to be. I had to stop a couple of times to snag the photos below of those two trees specifically.

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The reason I was so struck by these two in particular was the way in which they were progressing in their change. They were in degrees of change, at different areas of their tree life. It was stunning to behold because I don’t think we, as people, take the beauty of change into account.

I think we look at either the whole entire tree of change, or see nothing at all. The degrees of change in both of those trees above was fascinating to capture.

I have felt that way alot recently, as I see marked changes in some areas of my life, but struggle with realizing it fully for the stunning picture it is depicting. I focus too much on the overall that I miss the top or underneath having change, because I am focused on the larger picture. Minute changes and adaptations are just as significant.

and just as beautiful…

Fall is a time to remind us of the change we experience throughout our year. I firmly believe it’s God’s way of reminding us of the beauty in change, in some things dying off in order to bring about newness in our lives in another season. It marks a time for us to be grateful for change while remembering the beauty it’s brought us throughout the year.

While change may not be dominating your life, glimpses of it are still worthy of our awe. After all, we are thankful for the beauty it brings even in the trees.

Life is Messy.

I love to paint. It is something I deeply enjoy and get lost in pretty easily. Am I good at it? Eh, not really. But I also don’t put the restraint of perfection and finished on anything I paint. When I bought my very first home back in June, I knew I wanted to paint the living room a different shade than it was at purchase. Painting a room required tedious attention to detail. Something I was not enjoying as much because I am used to the mess of painting…to broad strokes and flow.

I realized I take a view of life from the perspective of painting a room. That it has to be tedious and meticulous. Intense focus on every square inch to control the outcome. Instead I am realizing time and again that it’s more like the painting on a canvas for me…or that it should be. That I would be covered in various swipes and dots of paint. That it would bleed over the edges, and that it would most definitely not look like what I had envisioned when I started.

Because you know what the secret to this life is?

It is messy.

Yep. It is messy. It gets dirty. It goes off the edges and never looks like what we imagine it to be.

Something we don’t often embrace though is that it is okay to be messy. I’ll say it again in case you missed it.

MESSY IS OKAY.

We try so hard to control, to manage to finagle life into a neat package, just as we want it. Shockingly it is never how we want it to look. Because we are humans. With faults. With feelings. With fears. With intentions. With assumptions.

We (and I include myself in that) have to stop believing (and then attempting) to make it perfection with no mess, no fuss, no tension. Perfection is a myth that we have turned into a standard. It won’t be seen this side of heaven, and I am thankful for that. It allows me to see grace and mercy, and to show it to others as well.

When we step back, look at our hands covered in paint, it’s a beautiful masterpiece. It’s a message that could only have come through the mess. Embrace the messy today.  There’s a masterpiece and a message waiting to be discovered in it.