Category Archives: personal growth

The Lost Wallet: Pursuing God

43157226_10215898189221025_4163176722738446336_o.jpgNo offense to my dad or my pastor, but I have a new favorite preacher. This Wednesday I had the privilege of listening to my son preach at his youth group. As a parent there is nothing better than watching your child live for God and hunger to share his faith with others. This wasn’t J’s first sermon, but it was our first time hearing him. With a few under his belt he didn’t think we would make him nervous any more.

With his permission I want to share with you what he taught on Wednesday.

One day last year, while at school, Jacob reached into his pocket at lunch and realized that he didn’t have his wallet. Logically, he began retracing his steps. He asked his teacher if it was found in the classroom. He dug through every nook and cranny of his car. When he got home he looked all over the house. No wallet. We all know this feeling, don’t we? The only thing Jacob could think about all day is where his wallet was.

On the second day, J filed a report at school. In the report he had to list the contents of the missing wallet. It held his driver’s license, school IDs, a (frozen) debit card, his library card, and a whopping $12 in cash. As he put it, “twelve dollars is just twelve dollars, and a couple pieces of replaceable plastic,” yet the perceived value of IDs, bank access, and a little cash stayed on his mind. Like a pebble in his shoe, he just couldn’t think about anything else.

Jacob challenged his youth group to think about God the way we think about a lost wallet. If our faith was on the forefront of our thoughts every day, how amazing would our relationship with God be!?! And God is so much infinitely more valuable than a couple pieces of plastic and some cash. He is worth our pursuit!

  • God commands us to seek after Him – See Deuteronomy 6:5-9
  • Pursuing God will help you overcome temptation. – See Matthew 4:1-11
  • Staying close to God makes it easier to see the things he wants to show us. – See Proverbs 3:5-6

Jacob eventually found his wallet. It was in his backpack, crammed into the pages of his calculus book. When he found it, he rejoiced; he cheered and ran around the room! Finding his missing wallet brought so much joy and a sense that all was restored in his world. Imagine how much greater we’ll feel when we find closeness with God!

God is not a Sunday only God. He’s not an Easter and Christmas God. He’s not a Wednesday night youth service or bible camp God. He is an every day, every hour, every minute, there for you God who wants to have that kind of intimate relationship with you!

The pursuit of God is never in vain. Consider Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Go after Him, He’s waiting for you!

 

Run Your Race

I am NOT a runner. I used to make jokes about it, like calling Proverbs 28:1 (“A fool runs when no one is chasing him”) my “life verse,” or saying that if you ever see me running you should run too, because it means that something bad is chasing me. But my husband is a runner (3 marathons and counting, #ProudWife), and now so is our son. So as I recovered from knee surgery and started making progress on my personal fitness journey, I had a nagging thought that I wanted to know if I could run.

The short answer is no. The long answer starts with “well, kind of…” Back in February, in a burst of carb- and coffee-fueled enthusiasm, I registered for my first 5k. Then I jumped on a treadmill and told it to do a 5k. I took 54 minutes. So I set a goal to finish my first race in 45 minutes, and started training. I started a couch to 5k program and got sick with a nasty and lingering cold. Then we did some traveling. Then the weather turned full-on winter again. But I had paid for this race and committed to doing it, and I was going to do it come hell or high snowbanks…

In a last-minute attempt to derail we had a little “adventure” finding parking on race day. My husband hadn’t brought his wallet along, and after he dropped us off near the starting line, we realized that he was going to need me to pay for parking. My son and I walked well over a mile to where my husband was, paid for and found a parking spot, and walked back to the start line with only moments to spare. It was tense. I was more than a little crabby about walking a 5k before the race even began. You see, I had worked for this. I had trained in spite of everything. I studied the race map. I carefully planned my outfit. I created a custom playlist for the race. I had visualized myself crossing the finish line in under 45 minutes as I tried to fall asleep each night.

I was stubborn.

My sweet, contrite husband, experienced runner and veteran of many many races turned to me and said, “Do you want me to stay with you?”

Insert record scratch sound

Stay with me? No way. My training prepared me to do this at my pace, not at his pace. And even though I’m sure he would have dialed back to my level, I would have been so self-conscious the entire time. I would have pushed myself too hard in the beginning and run out of steam before the end. I would have spent every step agonizing over what my husband thought of my form when I ran and my lack of stamina when I walked (I’m still speed walking over half of my “runs”). The only way this was going to work was if I could lose myself in my music and do this my way. So I thanked him for his thoughtful offer but suggested that it would be best if we each ran our own race.

That’s a familiar phrase – run your own race. I always thought it meant that we should do what is set before us and not get caught up in comparison and trying to do what God intended others to do. But running the 5k, I realized that trying to run someone else’s race doesn’t just mess with you, it messes with them as well!

Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. 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.”

  • Throw off those unexpected setbacks. The enemy wants you to fail. You will face challenges. But hold true. Stay firm. Persevere.
  • Stay in your lane. Don’t get in the way of the person God called to a certain role, and don’t get caught up comparing your role to anothers’. He needs us all, but He doesn’t need us tripping each other (or ourselves) up!
  • Fix your eyes on the goal, not the other runners.

At about mile two of my 5k, I was passed by the tuba section of the University marching band, instruments and all. At about 2 and a half miles I passed a toddler in a Spiderman costume (passing a toddler is obviously not the story here, the story is that he stayed in front of me for most of the race!). I rounded the corner and headed into the final stretch, crossing the finish line in 45 minutes and 6 seconds. My husband was at the finish line, waiting with his camera ready.

I threw off the setbacks. I ran my own race. I finished strong. And though I still don’t consider myself a runner, I’ve registered for a few more opportunities to get that time under 45 minutes…

20180408_080516

 

The Trouble With Motivation

Ugh. Motivation. Why do you come and go? Why is it so easy to workout (eat healthy, work hard at my job, clean house, write blog posts, keep learning, etc.) some days, and other days I’d rather have my teeth drilled? I know you feel this way, too. The internet is full of motivational images and articles designed to keep us doing what we should. Yet some days the cat posters just aren’t enough…

I recently read (listened to on audio book) You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. Full disclosure: I don’t feel great recommending this book. And no, it’s not because there’s a minor swear word in the title. Badass happens to be one of my favorite words. The reason I can’t fully endorse this book is because of Sincero’s messed up version of spirituality.

Early in the book she encourages her readers to get over their aversion to the notion of faith and just embrace it, because the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can tap in to the power of it. I thought that was great. A snarky, badass-talking, self-help book that actually embraces faith? Yay! And then I heard her definition of faith. Whomp-whomp.

Sincero has a very New Age version of spirituality. Basically throughout the book she promotes the idea that there is this life force energy in the world, and the sooner you can get on the same wavelength, the sooner you can tap into its power. The main problem with this philosophy is that it reduces God to a cosmic keg of warm feelings, flowing cash, and good parking spaces, and teaches that all we have to do is tap into that keg and it will be at our disposal. In other words, it strips God of his sovereignty and puts us in the driver’s seat.

The reason I mention the book to you at all is because there was one part that has literally changed my life. In one chapter, Sincero talks about the things we say to or about ourselves that hold us back. For example, I have long said that I don’t run, and that I have bad knees. Sincero points out that we start saying these things because they come from a point of truth and they serve us in some way. I really do have trouble with my knees, and saying that served to protect me by excusing me from doing things that would put strain on them. But it also held me back. Because I firmly believed that my knees were, are, and always will be “bad,” I never thought I could get fit, or start running, or lose weight long-term.

Following the advice in Sincero’s book, I made a list of these things I say about myself. I considered each one and what purpose it originally served. I took the cheesy, self-help step of thanking those thoughts for serving me in some way, and then I re-wrote them in a more empowering way. So “I don’t run,” and “I have bad knees,” became “I am a fit chick, and I’m getting stronger every day.” The next step is to start embracing that new mantra not just as what I do, but who I am, and to let that new identity guide my behavior.

Now instead of seeing myself as a fat woman with bad knees who thinks runners are crazy, I see myself as a fit chick who reads about nutrition, tries new exercises, and is getting closer every day to having the strong body that matches my fitness-focused mind. It’s a matter of making choices from a point of power and opportunity instead of a place of failure and shame. And it’s working. I can say no to junk because I’m a fit chick and “we” don’t do that, instead of saying no in front of people because I’m fat and then eating junk when I’m alone. I even ran/walked a 5k this month!

I can’t wait to apply this mindset to other areas of my life, as well.
I’m a writer/blogger, and I have good things to say.
I’m a historian who adds value to the community.
I’m an advocate for the hungry, and I have the skills and resources to make a difference.

In what areas of your life do you lack motivation? What half-truths do you tell yourself that hold you back? What empowering identity can you take on instead? Leave a comment!

Filling up on Cotton Candy

Last week we went on the mother of all road trips. We were away from home for six days, and four of those days we spent driving at least 11 hours per day. The other two days we spent on a college visit and playing tourist in Seattle. It was exhausting, and I still feel off my schedule and behind on everything after four days back at home.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’ve been revamping my eating and exercise habits lately. But eating healthy and getting enough exercise when you’re sitting in the car all day, feasting on gas station snacks and fast food meals, is nearly impossible. One thing I noticed during this trip is that the more junk food was available to me, the less and less it satisfied me. At home, eating a clean diet and getting regular exercise, a rest day feels restful, and a treat is, well, a real treat. But a steady supply of laziness and junk stops satisfying.

On the way home I found myself standing in a truck stop in Montana, looking for a snack to tide me over so we could keep moving without a lunch break. I looked at the candy and chips, but nothing appealed to me. I looked at the beverages, but I just didn’t want another soda (or the ensuing potty break it would necessitate). I could have anything I wanted, and I just didn’t want any of it.

Since we’ve gotten home I have felt the same way about my behavior. I have so much that I need to do to get caught up – laundry, grocery shopping, getting back to the gym, etc., but as soon as I get a spare minute, I waste it playing games on my phone, drawing/coloring, or reading. The whole thing came to a head yesterday when I was praying about what to post this week. I confessed to the Lord that I just felt sluggish and out of touch with writing and with His heart. As soon as I confessed that, I began thinking of the ways I’ve wasted time lately. No wonder I’m unsatisfied, I’ve been filling up on cotton candy.

I’m not saying that you should strictly schedule every second of your day full of practical and efficient busyness. Down time and rest are imperative, and hobbies are wonderful and fulfilling. But it’s just like the treats I ate on the road. When it’s truly a treat, it’s fun and special. When you fill your life with fluff and junk, it stops satisfying.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Rest when you need rest. Engage in hobbies that allow you to have a creative outlet, physical exercise, or just a good laugh. But don’t fill up on the cotton candy. Fill your days with things that bring glory to God and bless others so your treats can be a treat.

(re)defining need

“But mom, I need new shoes!”

“I can’t afford to buy fair trade. Sometimes you just need some new earrings, and I can’t afford to drop that kind of money every time.”

“The miles are really adding up on my car; I need to get a new one soon.”

Need. Four little letters. A simple concept, but one that is so misunderstood.

The simple and straightforward dictionary definition of the verb “need” is “to require.” Synonyms include “necessitate,” and “emergency.” Neither the definition nor the synonyms include “latest fashion,” “entertainment,” or even “comfort.”

One of God’s great promises, shared all throughout the Bible, is that he will provide for all our needs. Consider Philippians 4:19, “for God will supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory.”

Another example is found in the Old Testament. When the children of Israel were wandering in the dessert for 40 years, they couldn’t grow crops (although the way they wandered you kind of wonder if they could have planted fields and harvested them on the next loop, because they undoubtedly crossed the same territory over and over in their wanderings. But, you know, dessert isn’t really self-sustaining anyway. I digress…). A whole nation of people on the move for 40 years go through a lot of food, and I don’t think they wandered past a Wal-Mart. Their only hope was God’s miraculous provision.

Exodus 16:16-29
This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer (one day’s supply) for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” 

Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”

Sitting here in 21st Century America, with a kitchen full of food, clean water on tap, and even a bit of savings for retirement, it’s easy to shake our heads and even facepalm at the Israelites. What part of ONE OMER don’t you understand!?! You wake up every single morning to a miracle you can see with your own eyes. How can you have so little faith!?!

I know how. Every morning I wake up to the miracle of another sunrise, the blessing of a job, good health, and a loving family. Yet I, like most of you, try to control the future. I hoard and save, I withhold when I should give. I buy until I get used to so much stuff that I think I can’t make do with less. I pay so little for all my crap that I don’t bother maintaining or repairing things when I can more easily toss things out and buy new stuff.

In her book, Made to Crave, Lysa TerKeurst argues that we were created to rely on God, made to live in a constant state of reliance. But the easier life has gotten, the further we have pulled away from faith in the God who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

As a Midwestern ENTJ of German and Scandinavian descent, I am so all about responsibility and control. The idea that I was made to live in a constant state of reliance on God stresses me out. I wanna drive, here! It’s not that I think I know better than God. It’s not that I think He can’t provide for me. I think my fear, my scarcity mentality, comes from the belief that I am capable of so much that I just want to save God the bother, let Him spend his time on things we humans can’t control while I handle my own credit card debt, heating bills, and retirement planning. I just don’t want to be a burden.

You see? I’m just like the Israelites. God says “live within your means” (Proverbs 22:7), and I say “put it on my Visa!” God says “don’t be a glutton” (Proverbs 23:21), I say “let’s get a pizza!” God says “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38), and I say, “I can’t because then I couldn’t do this other thing that makes me happy.”

Around and around the Israelites and I go, hearing the commands, observing the miracles, and then trying to do things our own way. It makes me wonder how much time we spend wandering in the wilderness instead of enjoying the Promised Land that God has for us!