Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the tag “joy”

Whack-A-Mole Living

This blog has been about six months in the making. It began percolating last fall. The Women’s Bible study I teach fueled it further. The tipping point was a couple of weeks ago.

A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a good friend. We were talking about some serious stuff…struggles, sins, victories…it was an incredibly real and raw conversation. She, too, is getting her physical health under control. She said what I have thought, said, and written many times over the past nine months, “It seems as I get one area of my life under control, three other areas that need attention pop up.”

I call this Whack-a-Mole freedom. You know the game at a carnival or Dave and Busters where you have a mallet and you have to hit the mole in the head? And once you hit one mole, two more pop up and pretty soon those stupid moles are popping up everywhere! And by the time the game is over, you are exhausted.

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Everybody is fighitng some “mole” in their life. This game frustrates me. I am not coordinated enough

That is exactly how many of us view following Jesus. This is how I have felt for years. We are constantly trying to fix ourselves, to make ourselves presentable to God and to the world.

It is similar to pulling weeds. We pull one out and notice five more that need to be pulled instead of focusing on the beautiful rose bush that is in full bloom with vibrant reds and a fragrance no perfume could ever match. We focus on our stuff instead of the really beautiful work Jesus is doing in and through us as we simply follow Him.

 

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My mom’s rose bush. It is over 30 years old and survived many weeds and transplants. Still blooming beautifully.

 

We try to be better, to do better, look better and it is simply EXHAUSTING.

I have been discouraged, exhausted, frustrated, and angry all in the name of trying to be and do better. And we Christians know how to spiritualize it. We call it becoming holy. Or constantly remind ourselves that we are Jesus’ representatives in the world. The pressure can be overwhelming.

But when do we enjoy Jesus? And the abundant life He called us too? When do we live with joy and peace? When do we stop worrying whether we are good enough? One of my favorite books, How People Grow by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend says, “Imagine that: Doing good, enjoying good, and not even thinking that we were “good”. Instead of being concerned with “Am I good enough?” we just lived and experienced life?” God simply wanted us to live life, not worry about whether we were good enough. Not worry about whether we were enough. I am tired of not being enough. Sin screwed that up for us, but Jesus fixed it. That’s the beauty of the cross.

I am not saying we do not have to continue to grow. I am the most introspective person you will meet. One of my life mottos is, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” I am on a quest to be physically and financially fit by 50. I have to address some demons in my closet. But I’m not doing it for someone else…to get their acceptance, respect, affection. I am doing it because I want to live this life fully, with joy and peace. And these areas will hinder me.  Jesus shows us how to live like that. Free. Unhindered. Arms wide open. Soaking up and enjoying every moment.

When do we stop trying to fix ourselves?

When do we stop trying harder?

When do we stop always looking at what’s wrong with us and start looking at what’s right with us?

When do we stop looking at the weeds and gaze at the beautiful rose?

 

What if I simply enjoyed my relationship with Jesus?

What if I stopped worrying about whether I was good enough and just accept Jesus’ love, acceptance, and forgiveness?

What if I simply relaxed and stopped trying to improve every part of my life, every second of the day?

What if I simply learned to appreciate and love who God has made me to be?

Weeds need to be pulled. Moles need to be whacked on the head. I get it. But we don’t have to go looking for them. When they come our way, God will show us. And we deal with it. And in the meantime, we simply enjoy our relationship with Jesus and His people. Jesus really did mean it when He said that He came to give us abundant life.

I have realized that I will never, ever have it all together here on Earth. No one will. Striving for perfection kills. I am 47 years old. I love Jesus. I have made some horrific mistakes and committed some heinous sins. I am tired of trying to whack the guilt down. I am tired of trying to fix myself. I am tired of thinking that I am too much. I am tired of toning down my personality and who God made me. I am forgiven and I choose and am choosing to enjoy my relationship with Jesus and the people in my life. I am choosing not to punish myself by closing myself off to certain areas of life because I feel like I don’t deserve it.

I choose freedom. I choose life. I choose love. I choose Jesus. I choose to follow Him wherever He leads.

 

Living Better, Not Bitter

I had a moment Mother’s Day weekend. I went to put flowers on my mom’s grave. After I put the flowers in the vase, I sat on a bench under the dogwood tree which sits close to the family plot. It was a beautiful spring day. The wind was gently blowing and the smell of the dogwood blossoms were heavenly. I could see the ducks swimming in the pond and the covered bridge off in the distance.

Sitting on the bench

Sitting on the bench

As I sat there, I thought about my mom passing away so young. She was 46 (the age I am now). I thought of my grandma dying 16 months later. I thought of all the things I had lost represented in the grave stones laying at my feet. I reflected on how tough life really was growing up and all the things I lost at such a young age – security, innocence, confidence, self-esteem (my childhood was not for the faint of heart). I most often view my childhood with rose-colored glasses and forget about how painful parts of it were. I am and always will be an optimistic realist.

But as I sat there I could not dwell on all I had lost. I was so full of gratitude for all I have been given. For my life. My amazingly big, beautiful, messy, hard, wonderful, adventure-filled life. I love Jesus and the path He has set for me and the countless ways in which He has blessed me and the many ways in which He has delivered me.

I am the sum of all I have been through. The good and the bad and the ugly. I have chosen to not become bitter but better and to allow the adversity and loss to work in my life to produce good; to produce avenues in which God’s goodness can shine forth. I am reminded of one of my favorite songs by Rich Mullins “Home”:

What I’d have settled for you’ve blown so far away

What you brought me to I thought I could not reach

And I came so close to giving up

But you never did give up on me.

Life is so much more than I ever thought it could be. Are there still areas of my life in need of healing? Of course. Are there still things I want to see happen? Prayers to be answered? Dreams to be fulfilled? Yes! Yes! Yes! But everything I thought I wanted in the past – He has so done above and beyond. And the things He did not allow, I can now see why and I thank Him for saying “no”.

I end with the prayer I wrote in my journal after reflecting on all of this:

Thank you, Jesus, for this wonderful, full life you have given me. I will always choose to focus on what I have, not on what I don’t have. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, amazing friends and family…I get to share the love and goodness of my God…You Jesus! Thank you for allowing me to appreciate the smell of lilacs and birds chirping  and the sunshine as well as the rain.  Thank you that I really can dance in the rain…and embrace all things that come my way…the good and the bad and the ugly. Amen.

Twirling in a hail storm :)

Twirling in a hail storm 🙂

“We Did it!” (Thoughts on a life well-lived)

Last Sunday during worship – there was a moment – a moment in which an appreciation – an overwhelming appreciation washed over me- an awareness of how blessed I am, on how good life is, on how good God has been to me…how faithful He has been to me. I just stopped singing and savored the moment. I so wanted to be able to push the pause button and just stop the clock from ticking even if it were just for a minute. It was one of those rare moments when one feels FULLY alive.

Life is not perfect. Life has not always been easy. There have been deep hurts and tough challenges. But in this season, there is so much joy in the journey. And there is within me a knowing that this is how it is supposed to be in every season of my life…joy in the journey.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a bookmark that someone had given me quite awhile ago. I had never fully read it. There was a line that stuck out to me. And it annoyed me. It said:

There are women of wit and wisdom who —

through strength and courage —

MAKE IT THROUGH

Isaiah 44:20 says,

He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

What ashes have I been feeding on? What insecurities, unhealthy coping mechanisms, what lies have I been feeding on? What lie is in my right hand that I have not recognized as such? One of the lies that I have believed and so have many other Christians is that we just need to “make it through”. We are just sitting here, biding our time, managing our sin until our real life begins when we die and go to heaven. Not really enjoying life or making the most of it. Passively watching life go by. Limping through life, nursing old wounds. Bruce Springsteen really was right when he sang “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

We were created for so much more! To live an abundant life. A life full of joy, peace, and righteousness. Jesus has made this possible for me! What is an abundant life? It is not being rich (though God can bless that way). It is not attaining the “American Dream”. In fact, the older I get and the more I study Scripture, the more I see how opposite the Kingdom of God and the American Dream are to one another. Most other Christians living outside of America live in poverty but have rich lives marked by joy and peace even in the midst of suffering.

An abundant life is a life that follows Jesus. Wherever He may lead. Whatever it may cost. Loving people. Standing up for what is right. Showing compassion. Putting others before ourselves. Living a life of gratitude. Being wonder-struck by the many ways He blesses our lives.

I say all of this to say this:

When I have breathed my last – I don’t want to have just “Made it through” – God forbid, I just make it through life. I want to finish well – to finish with energy – to finish strong.

At the end of my life

  • I do not want to say “I made it”
  • I do not want to say “We made it”
  • I do not want to say “I did it”

I want to cross that finish line with Jesus and say:

“We did it!” 

Jesus and me and the people He gave to me to run the race with because no one runs the race by themselves…and to think you can is to have a lie in your right hand. We were meant to serve Jesus in community.

We did the stuff.

We did what God purposed for us to do – no matter how difficult or hard the task.

We did it with joy.

We did it with grace.

We did it with peace.

We did it with faithfulness.

We did it with humility.

We did it with power.

I think that moment I had last Sunday…of overhwhelming gratitude and feeling fully alive….can happen more often. I must not choose to just “make it through” but to live life full throttle, arms opened wide, embracing every opportunity and taking risks as I follow Jesus. And when I have closed my eyes for the last time on this earth and opened them for the first time in Heaven may I hear Jesus say “Well done, my good and faithful servant…WE DID IT!!!”

 

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