Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where Are You Headed?

If you could fast forward to yourself in ten years, would you like who you'd become? Would you be surprised at what your life was like or what YOU were like?

These are the questions I started asking myself when I read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It's a fiction novel about a 39-year-old woman, Alice, who suffers a head injury and thinks she is 29 again. When she wakens from her injury, she is completely confused. She doesn't know her own children. She has separated from her husband, who she remembers being desperately in love with. She is estranged from her best friend, distant from her sister, and the mom at school who throws champagne parties. Although she doesn't remember any of it, she realizes that she hates the person she has become. She is distant, selfish, bitter and thoughtless. 

So I thought, where I am I headed? If I were to fast forward ten years, would I like myself? It is so easy to change. It happens almost imperceptibly. We start one little selfish habit. We hold one little grudge. We cheat a few dollars on our taxes, and then a few more. We lie to our spouse once and then end up having to keep bigger and bigger secrets to hide the truth. Imagine how such little things can have a profound change on you in just a few years. You might become unrecognizable to yourself. 

How do we stop that from happening? Two things that I think are the most important are prayer and self-examination. I try to do some serious self-examination at least every few months and I find that it is really helpful. Without trying to impress anyone, I realize unhealthy attitudes and actions that I have adopted. The Bible talks a lot about self-examination too.

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Lamentations 3:40

Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. "Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Ezekiel 18:27-28

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! "You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes." Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! Haggai 1:5-7

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galations 5:22-23

Self-examination is no good if we don't turn to God to ask Him HOW to live. And if we aren't honest about ourselves, self-examination with do no good, so let's turn to Him and live!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Choose Your Habits

I've been reading (hey, there's a surprise-- isn't that how my blog posts usually start out?) Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It's a pretty interesting book, although I don't like it as much as her others (The Happiness Project and Happier at Home). 

The whole book is about habits and the gist of it is to learn to form positive habits to improve our lives. I like this book because I'm all about habits and I'm also all about improving my daily life. However, for someone who doesn't love habits, the book may seem a little over the top. I even thought it seemed a little over the top. BUT I did like her point that she focuses on making habits so that she has more time to spend on important things, like relationships. Some people, like myself, just need structure to function.

The thing I learned the most from this book was the idea that not everyone responds to expectations the same way. Duh, right? But seriously, it explained a lot to me. First off, she explains that there are two types of expectations: outer and inner. Outer expectations are what people expect you to get done, like at work, rules, etc. Inner expectations are ones that we place on ourselves (goals, resolutions). I have never understood why my husband doesn't feel the same need to be making resolutions and goals for himself and for his life. Now I begin to understand. 

She puts it into four groups: upholders (who meet outer and inner expectations), questioners (who only meet expectations they feel are justified), obligers (who meet outer expectations but struggle to meet their own), and rebels (who resist all expectations). It makes so much sense! For the most part, I am an upholder. I follow rules, even rules that I think are silly. I love making goals for myself and achieving them. I have an extreme personality in that sense. On the other hand, Daniel told me that he would classify himself as a rebel. I'm not quite sure if that's true, but he definitely questions expectations, breaks rules he doesn't believe in, and doesn't like to make goals for himself. Not super exciting information, maybe, but I think it helps me understand my husband a little bit better. He doesn't follow rules blindly like me, but he does follow ones that he feels are important. One "type" isn't necessarily better or worse, it just comes down to how we tick. Maybe it will help you to understand people you are close to better, too.

I want to leave you with one last thought from the book:

I like this quote because, hello-- it's true, but also because it's often overlooked. We create a bad habit when we are tired or lazy. We do it a few times and then it sticks. Or, when we skip a good habit a few times, *poof* it's gone. It's a reminder to carefully make our habits, for so quickly they will define us. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Best Way to Care

I read this quote for the first time the other day and it really struck a chord with me. I spend so much time worrying about the people who are close to me. I worry that they are taking the wrong path or making mistakes. I worry when they won't listen to advice that others give them. Really, I am a chronic worrier. When you care about someone, it's hard not to (at least for me!)

It's so much easier to have perspective on what is the best thing for a person when you are not the person. However, I'm not God, so it's also extremely easy for me to be wrong. That's what's so great about this little reminder. We can encourage people to change, we can tell them that we are worried about them, but in the end, the best thing we can do for them is pray. If we are praying for them, we know that, unlike human advice, God really will do what is best for them. 

What a wonderful reminder. I don't need to worry. I don't need to fear. Those loved ones aren't in my hands, they are in God's. He has it under control so I don't need to try to control a situation that I can't.

If you have been struggling with a similar situation, I hope this will give you comfort and remind you to take it to God in prayer! Have a wonderful weekend. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Run Your Race with Raisins

My husband gave the talk at church yesterday and I was so proud of him. He talked about how our lives following Christ are like a race. This race isn't a short one. It's a long run, a marathon, an 100 miler. You have to be prepared for the long haul. When you set out on this run, you can't sprint. You won't make it. You need to have endurance, to be able to meet the challenges along the path and get over them. And it always helps to have a buddy running alongside. 

The apostle Paul uses this analogy several times in scripture. 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Do you see? Athletes are a great analogy for believers because serious athletes show us what is like to be totally committed. Their entire lives are driven by getting the prize and being the best at their sport. Paul reminds us that with this same passion we need to pursue God. 

And now you may be wondering, what the heck do raisins have to do with all this? Well maybe nothing. But when I do long-distance runs, I always take a little baggie of raisins with me and a small water bottle that slips over my thumb. This keeps me energized and hydrated so that I can continue. Anyhow, the point is that just like a long distance run, our life following Christ needs something to keep you going. Daniel used the example of the ten virgins, five of whom were able to keep their lamps lit because they brought enough oil, and five of whom were not prepared.

my water bottle and raisins!
So what are your raisins? The obvious one is reading God's word daily. We need to listen to what God has to say! Other raisins can be going to church and our weekly Bible study. These will help us to stay encouraged (and encourage others). Then, of course, there is prayer. And don't forget that other raisins can be things like having close friends who are believers or spending time meditating on your faith.

Pick up  your Bible, fill your baggie with raisins, and run the good race! Happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bloom Where You Are

I just finished reading Living Well, Spending Less (a great read, I highly recommend it) and I started writing a book review to share with you. Then I remembered how I can't write book reviews to save my life and I stopped. But I did want to share one of my favorite ideas in the book, which is to "bloom where you are." I love this. Notice it says where you are, not bloom in a few years or bloom when you get where you want to be. 

I'm willing to bet we've all heard the concept, we get the concept, and in theory, we believe the concept. But do we really live it??

Bloom Where You Are

Try asking yourself: What can I do to cherish where I am now? What is depriving me of joy?

When I honestly seek the answers to these questions, I find out several things about myself.  I find that most of the things that deprive me of joy do so because I allow them to do so. 

For example, of course the death of a loved one is going to make me unhappy, but most of the things that steal my joy aren't deaths. They are things like jealousy, discontent, selfishness, unkindness, and all other host of icky things. I don't have control over who dies (thank God!), but I do have control over whether I choose to allow these other feelings into my life. 

I also find that there is a lot that I can do to cherish where I am in this moment. In this moment, I am not in my forever home, I'm in a small, old apartment. In this moment, I am not making money and I still haven't graduated from school. In this moment, I don't have time to do all the things I want to do. In this moment, I live too far from my family. In this moment, I never get to go on exotic vacations. 

BUT. In this moment, I have a home that I truly do LOVE. In this moment, I have the opportunity to go to school so that I can do something that I really, really like. In this moment, I have a wonderful family. In this moment, I have a hope given by a God who is so loving it's sometimes hard to fathom. 
Sometimes I find myself longing for the day when I can be in a house, my own house, where I don't have to hold back because I know I will be moving on soon. Riding my bike down a few streets in Sacramento by my apartment reminded me of all the people who don't have what I have. They don't have exotic vacations, and they may never. They may never know what is like to be completely full and warm, to make money doing something you love, and to have someone you love share a life with you. 

However, it's not comparing how much I have to what others have that makes me content. It's learning to live in this life, embracing the goodness of it. Whether I have food or not, whether I have home or not, whether I have love or not. I think it's okay to dream about the future, as long as the dreams aren't just full of all the "stuff" we want that's going to make us happy. And we need to be careful that those dreams don't cause us to be discontent with where we are at the moment. Because once we get to the "end" of that particular dream, we'll realize that it didn't make us any happier. 

So, bloom where you are. Take stock of what you have and be thankful. Take root and grow! (...and, have we had enough plant analogies?)