That Question…

“So where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is actually one of my least favourite first date questions ever. I can see why a person would ask that and props to him for wanting to know about what is going on in my head in regards to my future but I always find myself squirming and trying to decide how honestly I should answer such a question. I have a bit of a reckless impulse to say “married to you, carrying our third child, living in a giant house on a large body of water, and finally being able to pursue a full time writing career.” But that kind of answer would pretty much erase any hope of a second date and would probably end the date right then and there. So I tend to hold my cards close and yammer out some words about not knowing the future and hopefully being married and published and …. vague stuff.

I feel like as a single woman in my mid thirties, I am at a standstill when it comes to a 5 year plan. There is something I very much hope and pray happens in the next 5 years but I am also quite aware that my search for a “lifetime emergency contact” might not come to anything and I could very much be in the same position then as I am now. And so I’m left trying to figure out what kind of a 5 year plan do I need to have. I don’t want to be paralyzed in waiting for something that might not happen and I also don’t want to be so busy that I don’t recognize it if it does but it’s important for me to set some goals and have some sort of plan, whether that involves another person or not.

And so I think about my 5 year plan, I think about my goals and what the picture perfect ideal scenario would look like and I think about what the opposite of that might be and I grapple with setting a plan that works regardless of my relationship status. And then it gets quite simple. Of course there are some financial goals, fitness goals, writing goals, etc but at the end of the day I want to be serving God in the right place and the right way. I want to be part of a caring community and I want to be growing in my faith and love for his people. It’s not about the checklist or stocks portfolio, it’s about being willing and available to be used by God this year, next year, 5 years, 10 years from now and so on.

So next time I get asked about my 5 year plan, I won’t shirk away from the question but boldly give a new answer that really does embody my goals and desires for the next 5 years…

Advertisements

Vibes Schmibes

I have a friend who is into vibes. Really into those vibes. She sends happy vibes, positive vibes, affirming vibes, shining vibes into the universe all the time. She sends them my way (I kind of wonder how that is actually done) and she instructs her social media followers to send similar vibes in all sorts of different directions. Her world is a vibey place.

 

Along with that she is all about speaking things into the universe. She believes that when we speak positively and throw things out into the great unknown, the universe will hear us and bless us. The universe is just waiting for us to name and claim things and once we let the universe know that we really want good and happy things— they will happen. It’s magic!

 

Now, I know that this happy positive vibey universe engaging philosophy is a weak kind of “religion” and I know that blessings are from God and not from the universe and it doesn’t matter how much we implore mother nature for sunshine, God controls everything… but what about the power of positive thinking?

 

You see– it’s been a weird year for me and it’s been a year where at times I have not been feeling very positive or deliriously happy or able to hold onto the belief that good things are comin my way. I spent a lot of time fighting for the ability to be okay. Some days that was easier than other days.

 

BUT THEN — I suddenly felt like things were changing. Dark clouds were clearing. I was feeling happier, lighter, healthier. And the thing is– it wasn’t because of all the vibes people were sending me, it was because God was teaching me some big things. It wasn’t about my flinging the dreams into the universe, it was about me trusting God completely and me finding joy in the act of doing so. It was about me finally being able to truly and fully believe that God is good and God is for me. That’s what filled me up and that’s what made me smile and that’s what gave me true joy. So yes, the world is right when it recognizes that seemingly positive people seem to attract good things but it’s dead wrong when it comes to understanding why. So I will never send positive vibes your way, but I will pray that whatever you’re going through, you will be able to “consider it all joy” as you trust in our great God to bring you through whatever it is you’re facing in the days ahead.

Two Become One.. but not like that.

I have kept a journal for ages, since I was about 9 years old I think. While during some stages of life I was more diligent about writing in it, I’ve always had one on the go. I remember in high school someone introduced me to the idea of a Prayer Journal and I thought that sounded appealing too. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t want to give up my personal journal and combine it with the prayer one so I have had two on the go for many, many years.

If I examine my reasons for this.. well back in the day I wanted to write in my personal one about .. well “personal” things. It was mostly about boys and friendships and the daily dramas I was going through. I didn’t want to mix that up with God stuff because, sometimes I liked boys that I didn’t want to pray about and sometimes I had very ungodly and mean feelings about people in my life. So I felt like I had this double life of journals going on. I also had the far-fetched idea that I was going to be a famous writer and when I died and my journals were published, I preferred that the public read about my ever-so-exciting life of being unable to decide between two boys and musings about my humdrum life instead of see my inconsistent prayer life. Ridiculous.. on so many levels!

So this kept up for a very long time. I would write prayers to God in my devotional journal and then I would pick up my other one and scribble out anxious thoughts about men, jobs, friendships, etc. Recently, I have been writing way more in my prayer journal and it’s started to turn into a personal journal too.

One of my consistent spiritual struggles has been trying not to balance on the fence.. keeping one foot on either side and I think the separate journals is a very tangible depiction of that. I am now “all in” but my journals were not.

SO… today I started a new journal. Just one. A journal where I can record my life and talk to God about it at the same time. Imagine. I’m pretty excited because not only is it quite pretty, but I finally am at the point where I can see how I need to be transparent and open with God about all the areas of my life. I am hoping that this will be a good thing and I can’t wait to see what ends up being written on the pages.  It’s one life… so one journal.

 

 

Being Happy

When I was younger (OK maybe only a couple months ago), I would lie awake in my bed at night and wonder if I could be happy. I would go over all of the things happening in my life and look for the one thing or maybe two things that were getting in the way of my happiness. I would pretty much always find something; a friend acting strangely, an approaching science test, an upcoming meeting or presentation, an illness.. and then I would look forward to that thing being done with or resolved because then I could be really and truly happy.

Almost two years ago, I was recovering from a breakup and starting to feel like myself again. I can remember distinctly thinking.. “Give me a couple more weeks and then I can be totally happy”. Everything was going really well in my life and the bruises on my heart were starting to heal up nicely. I figured that I was on the brink of being able to be happy again. But then, I found out that my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness and so the idea of being able to be really happy quickly faded away. I remember thinking: This is it. I will never be truly happy again. How dramatic!
Anyway, miraculously, my father is recovering brilliantly, the stresses in my life seem to be at a bit of a low, life is pretty good except for… well there is always an except for. And that’s what I’ve learned. As long as I’m living on this planet, there will something less-than-ideal going on. Because we are humans. Because we have bodies. Because we are living on this planet with other complicated humans. Because we need to grow. Because we need to stay in constant communication with God. The list goes on…
I’ve also been really tuned into the fact that I don’t need everything to be going perfectly well to be happy. Because it’s not the little fleeting emotion of happy that I’m after, it’s the much more powerful JOY that is the goal, the command. It seems like over and over I’m confronted with the idea that we are called to rejoice in all of our circumstances, to be joyful, to seek joy. Realizing that I don’t need everything to be going well to be able to find complete joy in life, in God, has been a bit of a wake up for me.
And so now when I go to bed, instead of looking for the one thing that is blocking my happiness, I’ll focus on the things that bring me joy.. the One who brings me joy. It works out much better this way.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)

Little Thoughts in the Morning

While reading Psalm 84 this morning a few verses really stood out to me . “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself” (3a). It struck me that in God’s courts, kingdom, presence there is a sense of belonging that cannot be found anywhere else. It’s an experience that we as Christians are blessed to have. Living overseas can be oh-so-lonely sometimes and even though I have some excellent friends, it’s hard when they just don’t “get” that whole christian side of me. When I go to church and sit in the pew and listen to some familiar song or hear people speak about God’s goodness, it gives me a sense of finally being home. I’m surrounded by people who may or may not talk to me but they believe what I believe or something like that.. and it’s a huge comfort. We are not meant to be lonely or alone in our faith and I love that God provides a way for us to have company in this journey.

It’s hard to fit into this world and it’s difficult to find our place sometimes. It’s easy to be lonely in a crowd or feel out of place but with God, it’s so different. We belong with Him, we have a place with Him, even the sparrow.

 

 

 

On a Rainy Easter Monday

I have been thinking about relationships a lot lately. Relationships with family and friends and… boys. I have been thinking about how easy it is to wreck these relationships and how difficult it is sometimes to see past the humanity of our family, friends and… boys and be able to love and accept these people anyway.

I have been thinking about how we hurt each other by accident or on purpose and how deep down we are all very selfish. I have been thinking about how for me, it’s difficult to talk out or fight out certain difficult issues that arise. It’s hard for me to believe that if I fight with someone, they will come back. I’m not quite sure where this idea comes from but while I can talk a tough game, I hate conflict.

I know that God is our perfect Father, Jesus is our brother and our friend forever. I know that the Holy Spirit is always with me, urging me and prodding me and guiding me through my daily life. I know this but it tends to not sink in as much as it should.

What differs our relationship with God from our other relationships in life is that He is perfect, He can be completely trusted-all the time, He is not a sinful human being.

I have had times in my life where I neglect God, where I squeeze in time with Him to ease my conscience and not because I really want to. I can go for a while without consulting Him and often my prayers can become filled with asking Him for things instead of worshipping Him and enjoying Him. What friend would put up with that?

I continue to appreciate the fact that even when I drift away a little, He welcomes me back and helps me get back on track. I can’t think of a person I know who would be okay with me saying: “I’m sorry I have been neglecting you, help me to start loving you more because right now it’s really hard.” Yet God does. He forgives my humanity, my weakness, my selfishness and He helps me move past it.

I know that as Christians we often compare our relationship with God to relationships we have in the world but it is so much more than that. It is so much better than that. We can’t hide from Him, He sees our ugliness and loves us anyway. That’s a pretty incredible thing.

And so on this Easter Monday, I am thankful for many things particularly that God made it so that we can be in a relationship with Him through His son Jesus. Incredible!

 

 

Be Still and Know

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

One of the most beautiful phrases ever written. The simplicity of the words yet the immense power of the meaning makes it something that I can have running through my mind all day long. Lately, it seems that I do better with small phrases and concepts than anything else.
Sometimes, most times, when we face things that unsettle us, things that we can’t fix because they are locked in the past or hidden in the future, things that have no ready solution, things that we are dealing with because that is where God has us today, that is all we can do. Very seldom is life about grand heroics and brave and complex proclamations. Sometimes the greatest wisdom, the greatest advice is found in the simplest of statements.
***
When thoughts of the past creep up and haunt me, bringing with them past guilt and anxiety and the wonderings based on wishing that we could in fact repeat the past:
Be still and know.
When the busyness of the present causes me to spiral into a ball of stress and unhealthy distraction, making me appallingly self-centred, self-focused, confused and tired:
Be still and know.
When the idea of the future has the power to cause me fear and trembling, when it frightens me and destroys any feelings of hope and peace:
Be still and know.
It’s simple. It’s perfect. It’s a command.
Be still and know.