The Good Things

I think I found the good things this weekend. 

Y’know…

*Picking tomatoes from the field. And broccoli, and basil, and peppers. And having the entire car smell like basil on the ride home.

*Playing in the corn rows until drip—drip—-DOWNPOUR! And screaming and running for the porch!

*Spending an hour or two shooting the breeze…until deciding we definitely need some ice cream with hot fudge to round out the evening.

*A revolving door of family comings & goings.

*Devotions to start off the morning.

*A continually full coffee pot all day long.

*Giggling until three in the morning.

*And taking a Sunday afternoon nap to make up for it!

*Trying to take a self-portrait of me + boyfriend (80 million times)

*Taking note of what color the street light in town is from the window–very important, of course.

And I tell you what, I didn’t once think I missed my computer, or my cell phone, or my quiet space (ok, there was that time that I was trying to nap that that revolving door kept revolving). I didn’t miss my Twitter, my GoogleReader, my hot water pressure (ummm….maybe that last one).  But my point is this: The priorities felt right this weekend. The ground felt firm beneath me. The days felt meaningful and relaxing, too. The time felt well-spent, even while watching the news and giving the dog some good pettin’. It felt fulfilling, in a way that, oftentimes, my own little life doesn’t. And that was wonderful to soak up, and to remind me that the simple life–well-lived, deeply rooted in family & faith, is the best life. 

CV and Works

A curriculum vitae (CV) is pretty standard in my line of work. It’s a resume, essentially, for the more academic sort of world. And last night I was mulling over a conversation with my boyfriend, and for some reason, the CV popped into my head.

A CV lists your accomplishments, right? It lists every honor, award, cool thing, charitable thing, and impressive thing you’ve ever done, at least professionally.

And I thought to myself, Is that how I’m living with God? Working on my CV constantly, hoping that I can list every award, honor, cool or charitable or impressive thing I’ve ever done, and, at the end, show it to God and see if it gets me into heaven? It is so tempting to live that way, isn’t it? That’s how the world works.

What really got me is that if truth be known, I bet a lot of people’s CV are “fudged”, you know? Oh, that sounds impressive, let me put it on there, even though it really wasn’t. Let’s see, I volunteered for 5 minutes, but they won’t know the difference when I put it there. I was supposed to be at that conference all week, but I was only there one day–who is going to know? sorta stuff. Do I do that with God? There, God, I gave my $5 to the youth group camping trip, are ya happy? sorta stuff.

Remember:

“You were bought at a price. Do not become slaves to men.” ~1 Corin. 7:23


“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” ~Romans 3:27, 28
Because, while yes, works are a part of the outpouring of our hearts and faith, we are not justified by works. And when we try to show God our CV, he shakes his head. It makes him sad, you see, because when we decide we need works, we are putting ourselves under the law, thereby NEGATING THE EFFECTS OF THE CROSS.
I’ve had this thought before, and discussed it a few times, but I felt I needed to write it down in light of my new CV illustration from last night, lol. I mean, can you imagine? We are shunning the cross when we try to work out our faith with works.
But don’t forget I mentioned that works are the outpouring of faith and justification. Works are the outpouring of our hearts when our hearts get and match up with the heart of God. 
Lord, show me Your heart. 

Rejection

Grab some chocolate, girl. But the GOOD stuff, none of that drug-store junk, cause we’re gonna need it to read below. I have LOVED Vosges Haut Chocolate since my friend in high school (high school…so long ago…I’m getting old) told me it was her aunt who ran the amazing chocolate shop in Chicago. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen out of touch with that friend (facebook, you’ve failed me and my chocolate-loving ways). Anyway, on my recent trip to Colorado, I flew through Chicago, and was thrilled to find the most gorgeous little Vosges store in my terminal. Of course I bought a few treats. Now….read on….

Lately my life seems to be a bit of a lesson in rejection. Well, maybe not my life in general, but my work-life has been a lesson in rejection. Suddenly, I’ve become a cold-caller. {shudder} If you’ve ever had to cold-call, you know what I mean. The “we’re not interested, hang up” is the norm. They won’t even let you say your name. It’s rather discouraging. Or you do get to talk to someone, and they let you say your whole schpiel (made up how to spell that word), and then say the “we’re not interested.” Harsh blow.

And in other ways in my life, too, I’m sticking my neck out. You know the old saying, “A turtle only makes progress by sticking it’s neck out”? Well, they don’t say that sometimes when you stick your neck out, you move at a turtle’s pace. Yeah, yeah, I know, the turtle wins the race, but watching the rabbits run in circles around you is dizzying in the meantime.


So how to handle rejection?


* Take a deep breath. No, seriously: like, right now, take a deep breath. Feels better already, doesn’t it?

Then, tell yourself this: God has a purpose and a plan for me. And those are perfect purposes and perfect plans. He will get me where He wants me, and He doesn’t reject me.


* Don’t give up. Get right back on the horse. I psyche myself out when making cold-calls between the calls, so as soon as I hang up the phone, I pick it up again and keep on going. But if you need to step away for a bit, that’s fine too. Go for a walk or enjoy a sunset.

*Set realistic, small goals for your next steps, then up the ante. Five calls in the next half hour. Or, write three new cover letters today. Or, send out four more poems to editors this week. Or, better yet, make your realistic, small goal this: do not give in to fear for the next hour. Until lunch time. Today. Tomorrow. This week.

* Remember that now is not forever. It may feel like this is the worst thing ever. Well, you know what? Yes, cold-calling sucks. Rejection sucks. Especially when it isn’t warranted or isn’t coming from something you initiated (been there). But what is happening to you now is not going to last forever. Remember how I said earlier that life changes? Life is fluid. Things come and go. This will end, or dissipate, or lead you on to much better things.

* You are not determined by what other people think of you. You are not your boss’ opinion. You are not your students’ opinion. You are not that fancy-blogger’s opinion. You are not what others label you, unless you let yourself be that person.

* There are many ways to be happy. Okay, so maybe a door of happiness closed. I’m really, really sorry to hear that. But there are so many different versions of happy, as a dear best friend taught me.

* Be thankful and Praise God. There is so much left to be thankful for, I promise. Take a cricitally-grateful eye to your life. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Probably. But you know what I mean–scrutinize your life and find every little thing you can be grateful for–even if it’s (as I read somewhere) that you are horribly ill, but hey, guess what, your elbows don’t hurt. Nor does your earlobe. The skies are always blue above the clouds (don’t check my science on that one, I kinda made it up).

And if you are truly being unfairly rejected? Sleep on it. Don’t react out of fear, anger, or hurt. Write your response on paper, and let it sit for awhile. Take out any emotional phrasing. State your case and let it speak for itself. Pray and trust God.

You want to know a secret? Sometimes God closes doors. These new-fangled spiritualist types want to tell you that you can have ANYTHING and that God wants to give you EVERYTHING. I’ve been hearing a lot about that lately, it seems. Well, I’m not so sure about that. Our God gives and takes away. But never outside of that perfect plan and will. Yes, there is evil in this world, and it will affect you. But God still has your back.

Priority Shift

{beautiful, beautiful flowers from my boyfriend, that we picked out at the farmer’s market}

Life is a fluid thing. A fluid, almost-always-out-of-reach, grass-is-always-green-somewhere-else thing.
Normal changes too often for my liking, sometimes. For a home-body, safety-zone girl like me, that’s a bitter truth to swallow. I find beauty in the routine. What’s funny is…I wasn’t always that way. I used to be the first one to jump in the pool, the first one to try the new thing. I’ve just gotten into a routine of routine
So when my routine changes and my priorities shift, it feels….strange and uncomfortable. You know, it’s like, when you’ve been sitting for too long and you stand up too fast and everything spins and is blurry for a bit, and there’s this strange weight pushing you back down again? And the new normal feels like giving something up. I hate giving things up. 
In high school my routine was simple: homework, ballet, and baking. That was it. In college, homework, chapel, and trips to the dollar store or the waffle house or home to do laundry. Now, it’s work, and being alone most of the time. I’ve grown accustomed to the time alone. I’m never lonely, as I have plenty of ideas and thoughts and projects to keep me busy. (But the not speaking until I get to work thing, now that’s a strange one) Even on a more daily basis, some weeks I’m in a routine of an ice cream on the way home from work, or an iced coffee on the way to work. And these have all been good for a time. But would I want to go back to high school routine? Nah. Ice cream every single day? Nah.
My boss’ boss said the other day to me (well, us, as a collective): Your time and energy demands are about to change. And that stuck with me the past few weeks. A new routine is coming my way. And there will be that strange chair-getting-up phenomenon. And I will still rebel against change (even good change) in my stubbornness, and will bemoan the loss of my current (super-totally-comfy/lazy) routine. 
But when whatever-this-change-is is established at the new routine…well, I think I’ll be quite happy. Quite happy, indeed.

Most Days

TRUTH: Most days, we’re all just trying to get through the day. 

 (disclaimer: this is gonna be long, but stick with my two-fold thought here)

Some of us ate burnt toast for breakfast and spend the whole day giving in to that bitterness. Some of us have just suffered some greatly unfair injustice and we are battling the entire day, fighting back tooth and nail at anyone who crosses our path. Some of us have spent the night awake, sobbing, at what the world has taken from us….and we spend the entire day taking from others to fill our emptiness. Some of us have just realized what it means to be utterly alone, utterly terrified, utterly exhausted, utterly disappointed, utterly at rock bottom.

So I urge you, myself included: Be humble. Be patient. Be a servant of the world, like Jesus was, metaphorically ‘washing the feet’ of those you meet. All those you meet. Burnt-toast-taking-from-you-utterly-exhasuted people included (and yes, sometimes we are all of those combined). You are that person some days. I am that person some days.

And when you are, how about instead: Fight against the bitterness. Fight against the fighting. Fight against the taking. Let that light of Jesus Christ shine in you, so that the world knows we’re different. We are different. We must be different. It hurts sometimes, I know. And others will criticize. How can you be so chipper in the face of this? It seems wrong to be so happy when something so terrible happened. God convicted me of that myself not too long ago. But the peace of God passes all understanding.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 

That first verse there is my favorite Bible verse. Rejoice in the Lord always! Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything…in every situation…with thanksgiving…and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds. I think my earthly mind was just blown. That sounds way too difficult, not gonna lie. But look: the heart is the wellspring of life, the Bible tells us.

23 Above all else, guard your heart,
   for everything you do flows from it. 
or, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23

Wow! He will do that for us, He will guard our hearts if we pray to Him with thanksgiving. He will protect our hearts and minds with His peace that passes all understanding. He will protect our very lives….everything that we do.
Trust me, all of this goes against my nature. Ohhhhh, how some of this goes against my nature! When I’m mad or sad or upset, I want to either be mad and upset totally alone, wallowing…I’m a really good wallower (word?). Or I want the whole world to be as mad or sad as I am. It only seems fair! It seems justifiable to feel that way; natural, even. I’m also really good at passing judgement. Oops. Fail. But here’s the thing: God is a God of different, a God of mercy, and a God of supernatural.

So then.
What’s that burning rubber smell? Anyone else getting that?
That, my dear friends, is the rubber meeting the road.

Life is Short Eat Your Greens First

I’m a dessert girl. My life motto is, “Life is short, eat dessert first.” Well, not my life motto per se, but at least my motto when it comes to, well…dessert.
So often my God has another idea. A better idea, I’m loathe to admit. God says, “Eat those greens, girl.”
“Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” ~Proverbs 24:27
There see, He just said, “Eat those greens, girl,” basically. Waiting is difficult. Waiting when you have something wonderful in front of you {that proverbial house or a piece of chocolate cheesecake} is even more difficult. We must be faithful to our God. We must be patient, steady, trusting. We must be willing to do the hard heart-work God asks us to do. He calls us to prepare our fields, to eat our greens, to grow up.
  
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” ~Psalm 127:1 
If you eat the greens, the dessert tastes sweeter. And being a dessert girl, I’m all for that.

This catchy song goes so well with this….