Self-Confidence

If you post nothing but positivity and perfection on social media, you make everyone else feel bad.  While everyone also believes that there is absolutely no way your life is that perfect.

You’re just faking it.

You shouldn’t brag about your accomplishments.

But you shouldn’t have low self-esteem.

Do this.

Don’t do that.

Act this way.

Don’t be absurd.

Why are you being like that?

Just be real.

Oh, but not that real.

Share your feelings.

But only if they’re positive.

But be real.

Admit your struggles.

But don’t talk bad about yourself.

Have self-confidence.

But be humble about it.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Because it certainly does to me.  There is such a fine line between self-confidence and self-deprecation that it’s truly a wonder if any of us have a small measure of mental health.

After a lifetime of never feeling like I was good enough, or smart enough, or just plain enough…I finally feel like I’m maybe, almost making a little bit of progress.  Not to say that this isn’t a daily struggle.  Because it is.

But…

I know that I do not need to settle for anything less that I deserve.  And when I say that, I mean…I’m smart, I’m capable, I’m strong, I’m stubborn, I’m funny, I’m kind, I’m a million different things.

And when I say that I shouldn’t settle for anything less than what I deserve, I will not settle for anything less than someone or something that sees who I truly am, and isn’t fearful of that.  I will not surround myself with people who choose to put me down instead of lift me up.

We often get so focused on what other people think of us, and how other people make us feel about ourselves that we lose sight of what is truly important.

God.

Not only who God is to us…Father, Creator, Friend, Strength…but also who we are to God…loved child.

We.  Are.  Loved.

Daily, we are surrounded by so much love, it can be overwhelming, it can seem false, but it is never unfailing.

Never.

Do you need to read that again?

Because God’s love for you never fails.

No matter what you’ve done.  No matter how unloving you have acted.  God’s love for you has never failed.

It seems incredible, doesn’t it?  That someone loves us without any type of condition laid upon us.

Yet, it’s the truth.

So…

How can that truth help us navigate the tricky path that I laid out above?

Let’s talk about the word humble.  The act of “being humble” does not mean self-deprecating.

To be self-deprecating means to put yourself down.  To say that you are less valuable that you actually are.

But to be humble means to have knowledge and confidence in who you are, and knowing that all you are, all you have, is because of God.

Does that solve a lot of problems?

Well, yes.

I will.  Maybe not instantly.  But it will definitely solve a lot of problems.  And it will help you build a more firm foundation to navigate the rest of the challenges that life throws your way.

So now that we have the easy answer out of the way…what does this really look like?  How do we begin to implement this in our lives?

It isn’t easy.

It isn’t fast.

But it is so worth it.

God didn’t create worthless pieces of junk.

So maybe one of the things that you need to do is take some time to really look at yourself, and who you are, and the things that you offer to the world around you.  Write out a list of all of the good things that you are if you need to.  Turn it into a poster and hang it on your wall if you need to.  Whatever you need to do to remind yourself of your value.

Read your Bible.  I cannot stress this enough.  You must spend time reading, studying and understanding God’s words to truly understand who He is.  I can sit here and type until my fingers bleed about who God is.  But until you actually get into a relationship with Him, you won’t really know Him.

Now…can the Bible be complex, and overwhelming?  Absolutely.  It can be terrifying.

But it’s ok to be afraid, and still move forward and do it.

I promise you, it will be worth it.

Maybe take it slow if you need to.  Get help when you need it.  Ask questions.  Just, please, make sure you’re asking for help from people who have some understanding of the Bible.

Once you have taken those 2 steps, something will naturally happen.  You start to take a look at what you’re doing, who you’re surrounding yourself with, and you really start to take a look inward about whether you need to make any changes in your life.

And guess what?

Those negative voices that have surrounded you in the past, the voices that have tried to bring you down…once you stand up for yourself, and have confidence in yourself, those negative voices tend to weed themselves out.

Not always (unfortunately) so you may need to make some drastic changes to your social scene.

But you won’t be sorry for it.

My friend, you are loved.  You are amazing.  Now go have an amazing day!!!

Why? So That…

I had an interesting experience this week.

I interviewed for a job.

Not to change jobs, but more to add something to my already rather full plate.  But even though my plate is already quite full, when an opportunity comes up that has been on my mind for quite some time, I would be foolish not to go for it.

As I applied, I put it all in God’s hands.  Truth be told, from the moment that this particular position came to mind, I have left it in God’s hands.  Because, even though this would be a really cool thing, I know that if it isn’t in God’s plan for my life, then it will not happen.  And I will be ok with that.

To be honest, knowing that I’m doing my part to be willing, and leaving the rest up to God has given me a sense of ease and peace throughout the entire process.

So here’s the deal:

I suck at interviews.

Seriously.

Historically, I just have not been capable of presenting myself in the best way possible.  I get nervous, and even more awkward than normal.  And it’s just a flop.

I walk away feeling dejected, because deep down, I know that I just blew it.

So, to say that a great deal of prayer happened before this interview is an understatement.

My prayers basically went something like this:

God, give me the words.

And guess what?

He did!

But that’s not even close to the best part.  Because, I walked away from the interview knowing that I wasn’t the best candidate.  Not that I wouldn’t be amazing.  But I know that I am not the best candidate that they are interviewing.  I’m far from the most qualified.  I don’t have the experience.

There is a 99.99% chance that I will not be getting this job.

But I walked out of that interview with a huge amount of satisfaction about my part of the interview.

And we’re finally closing in on why this was such an amazing experience…I promise.

The person who interviewed me is someone I have known nearly my entire life.  She was one of my teachers growing up.  And I have worked with her, and for her now for almost 3 years.  But even with such a long history, she didn’t know me all that well.

She laughed at the fact that she asks everyone the same questions, to keep the playing field even.  She asked me to tell her about myself.  And as soon as I started talking about myself, and some of the things that I did after high school, her jaw hit the floor.  So in asking the question that she felt foolish asking, she found out a lot more about me.  In a really good way.  She didn’t realize that I had moved half way across the country.  Or why I made the decision to move back home.

She definitely didn’t realize that one of my most memorable moments growing up came during one of her classes.

But here is the really cool thing…

We talked about my motivation for applying for this job.

Which led to my motivation for doing many of the things that I do.

And that specific motivation has been on my mind a lot lately.

Why do I do the things that I do?

What is the outcome that I hope to get from doing the thing that I do?

To the point where I have written the following on my desk calendar at school:

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I did this so every single time I look at this, my own personal motivations come to mind.

Why?

Well it certainly isn’t money.  As I stated in my interview, if money were my greatest motivation, I would go down the street and work at McDonald’s because I would make more money.

Would a larger salary be nice?  Yes, yes it would.  To add a little more cushion to bank account.  So I wouldn’t have to rely on my parents for some help and support.  Yes, that would be fantastic.

But I do love my job.

So what is my motivation?  Besides the fact that this is where God has placed me for right now.

The “why” that I bring to work every day, the “why” that I take with me to youth group every week, is that I want to be able to give the kiddos that I work with something that I didn’t have growing up.

Yes, I had amazing parents.  I had youth group.  I had people that care about me.

What I didn’t have was the self-confidence in myself.  Nor did I have a firm understanding of who God was.  Or who I was to God.

So that…

So what is my expected outcome?  What is my goal?  What purpose could I possibly have in doing the things that I do?

I want these kids to be able to stand firm in their faith.  I want them to turn to God when times get tough.  Not to turn their back on their faith when life gets real, and things get hard.

I made bad, really stupid mistakes growing up.  I made bad, really stupid mistakes as an adult, too.

I want better for the people around me.  So they don’t go through the same struggles that I went through.

Because I truly believe that even though used the free will that God gave me to not just turn my back on Him and run away.  I lashed out.  I swore up and down countless times that there couldn’t possibly be a God.

I was dumb.  I was selfish.

Even though I did a lot of things that God isn’t thrilled about, I believe that He can turn all of those mistakes around, and use all of them for something positive.

And it isn’t just that he can use all of those stupid mistakes.

He is using them.

 

I’m Not OK…

…but I will be.

This has basically been my theme for the past couple of days.

At the moment, I feel a great deal of stress, because there is just a lot on my plate right now.

Ok, and some of that stress is because I’m worrying about something that I just absolutely cannot do one thing to change the situation.  And though I am working to let go of the worry there, stuff is still happening.  A crisis point is coming.  And I know I will have to help pick up the pieces.

Do you ever get to the point when you just have a lot going on, and it seems like all of the stress and weight that you have been managing to carry, suddenly weighs twice as much?

I hit that point yesterday morning.

I feel like the burden that I’m carrying is all my own.  I have no one else to share this with.  Not really.

And with that stress, I went down the rabbit hole of feeling like I am terribly alone in the world.  I have wonderful parents.  And I have wonderful friends.

But then I also got to thinking about something else.  The last time I hugged someone was when I hugged my parents as I was leaving Florida.  On December 27.

Ok, I have students (one in particular) that want to hug me.  But, uh, no thank you.

I struggle, sometimes (often), with sharing some of these feelings with my friends.  Not that I’m ashamed of those feelings.  But I worry that their response will be one of pity.  That they would hug me, just because I’m feeling sorry for myself.  And not just, well, because.

Maybe the reason that happens shouldn’t matter.  But to me, it does.

Though, I don’t have any life altering insight at this point, I know one thing for certain.  No matter how difficult it is for me to wait, to experience the waiting, the impatience, the fear, the grief – all of it – no matter how difficult that is, I’m not giving up on God.

I may want to sometimes.

I may (definitely do) struggle with having a decent attitude while I’m waiting.

But I trust God to have a perfect plan for all of this.

I have hope that God will answer all of this in His own perfect timing.

And I have faith that all of this truly is for a purpose.

Until then, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I keep adding one more prayer on top of another.

It’s all I can do.

Thank You God!

Last night, I did some Christmas shopping.  In an actual brick and mortar store.

Already, not my favorite thing to do.

One of the stores was Walmart.

Double down on not my favorite thing to do.

But it was necessary, as this weekend will start the tour de Christmas celebrations with my family.

As I’m leaving Walmart, a car tried to merge into my lane, and almost took my front bumper off in the process.

And then, closer to home, a buck decided he needed to cross the road right in front of me.

And then a mile further down the road, a raccoon needed to cross the road right in front of me.

The last time I hit a raccoon, my front bumper split into two pieces, while the raccoon survived.

It was at this point that I desperately wished I had just stayed home.  I could have had on my sweatpants, and been curled up watching TV.  And I would have avoided all of those near misses.

But I said a little prayer thanking God for keeping me safe in each situation, despite the frustration I felt.  And God took that moment to tap me on the shoulder, reminding me that my drive home is basically a perfect metaphor for life.  As we navigate life, obstacles will continue to jump in our path.  Sometimes we manage to slam on the brakes in just enough time to avoid hitting the obstacle.  Sometimes we don’t.

But if we stay locked safely in our homes, avoiding all of the obstacles, we really aren’t living life, now are we?

So I took a deep breath, and I once again thanked God for keeping me safe, on the drive home, and in my day to day life.  And I thanked Him for opening my eyes to the realization He gave me.

How Long Am I Supposed to Wait?

Persist: continue firmly or obstinately in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.

Persevere, continue, carry on, go on, keep at it, keep on, keep going, keep it up, not give up, be persistent, be determined, see/follow something through, show determination, press on/ahead, plod on, plow on, stay with something, not take no for an answer

The Israelite’s wandered in the desert for 40 years.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac to be born.

Lazarus was dead for 4 days before Jesus healed him.  

David waited over 20 years before he became king.

Job waited months to be restored.

Jonah was in the belly of a whale for 3 days.

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Waiting is hard.

I will be the first one to admit that to you.  I am kind of a patient person.  But then again, I’m really not.  I can wait.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated (to say the least) while I’m waiting.

I know that I should wait on God.  But that doesn’t mean I like waiting on God.

The Bible gives us many incredible examples of folks who waited, and waited, and waited for God to answer their prayers.  The above stories are just a few of the more popular or familiar stories.  There are many, many, MANY more examples.

In all of these stories, we know how the story ends.  We know the conclusion.  We know how God redeemed everyone in these stories.  How he fulfilled the prayers.  Yes, we know that they waited for what probably seemed like an eternity.  But we also know how they turned out.

What we do not always get a clear, full picture of is what it was like for everyone while they waited.  If there is an exception, I would say it was Job.  But nonetheless, I’m sticking by my statement that the waiting period, the anguish and heartache and fear that everyone experienced during the waiting really isn’t truly laid out.

We know that they struggled.  We know that in their impatience for God to answer their prayers that they did some stupid things.  Abraham and Sarah got impatient, and tried to answer their prayers in their own way, by Abraham having a child with Sarah’s servant.  And the Israelite folks worshiped other idols, and tried to make their own way in a lot of different areas.  Job remained faithful in his claim, despite his friends urging to do otherwise, that he hadn’t committed any great sin.

There are lessons to be learned here.

Huge, important lessons.

First of all, waiting is hard.  Yes, absolutely, part of the lessons that we learn from all of the stories about waiting in the Bible is that waiting is hard.  It is difficult.  It is challenging.  It is a struggle.  I often feel like we don’t accurately understand from the writing in the Bible just how difficult the waiting is for the folks in the Bible.  If everyone accurately described the day to day struggles during their waiting period, the Bible would easily be 17 times longer than it already is.

Because of that, the magnanimity of the time of waiting truly isn’t felt.

As a result, there will be times during our own waiting periods that we will struggle.  And we will feel like there is no end to whatever suffering or struggle or difficulty or challenge that we are facing.

And sometimes, just sometimes, knowing that eventually there will be a conclusion to our waiting period isn’t all that much of a comfort.  Because in our human-ness, we don’t want our suffering to end someday.  We want it to end RIGHT NOW!!!

Second of all, don’t do stupid things while you’re in your waiting period.  This one should be a pretty clear lesson from the Bible.  In our impatience, we want to solve our issues on our own, because we feel like God is just taking way too much time.  So we then compound the bad-ness of the situation by trying to do things our own way.

Yes, we make things worse.

Instead of being patient, and letting God’s plan play out how He intends it to be played out.  We screw things up, and try to force our own plans to happen, and we just make things worse.  So very, very much worse.

Friends, I know how difficult it is to wait on God’s timing.  But if one thing has been made clear to me lately is that we should never give up.

I truly believe that if God has put something on your heart, or put you in the middle of a challenging situation, He has planned a way out of it for you.  He already has all of the little details worked out.

We just need to trust in His plan, trust in the purpose for his plan.

We must persist.

Let’s unpack the passage from the notes in my Bible pictured above.

“To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions.”

There are times in the Bible where we are commanded to “pray without ceasing.”  I get that.  And there are certainly times where a prayer vigil is called for.  But I also believe that while we are called to pray without ceasing, that doesn’t mean that we stop doing everything else in life.  “Painfully long prayer sessions” doesn’t sound like something that glorifies God.  At all.

“Always praying means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live for him day by day, believing he will answer.”

Keeping our requests constantly before God can be a method of praising God.  We trust in His plan.  We honor His plan.  We have faith in his plan for our lives.

“When we live by faith, we are not to give up.”

Dory-white.jpg Years ago, we were introduced to Dory.  The awesome, and hysterical, yet forgetful character in Finding Nemo, who always reminds us to “just keep swimming.”  Over and over again, we are to persist, just keep going, because we trust in His plan.  We will not give up on His plan.  Because we have faith.

 

“God may delay in answering, but his delays always have good reasons.”

Unfortunately, for us, God doesn’t answer our prayers by following our timeline.  Yes, we wish he would sometimes.  But there is absolutely no instance where our time frame would supersede God’s timeline.  There may be times of coincidence, and it just so happens that God’s plan for our life, and His plan for our life are the same thing.  But I promise you, it was God’s plan for it to happen that caused whatever it is to happen.

“As we persist in prayer we grow in character, faith and hope.”

When we choose to live in faith, and trust in God’s plan, trust in God’s timing (even if we don’t always like it) we grow stronger.  We grow more faithful.  We life in hope.  And we can find joy in the waiting.  In fact, we should choose to live joyfully during the waiting time.  Even though it’s difficult to do sometimes.  When we choose to live in the joy of waiting, we find more joy along the way.

Dear friend, I feel the pain you may be feeling during the waiting times God gives to us.  I feel the struggle, the impatience.  The desperation in wanting this to end.  I get it.

It can suck.

But persist.  Don’t give up.  Keep moving forward.  Keep trusting God.  Because there is not one instant that God’s plan for our life won’t turn out to be the absolute best thing for us.

I could promise you that fact.

But even better, God promises us that fact.

I Went Wrong

I went wrong.

I fully admit that I went wrong.

But I definitely went wrong.

I grew up going to church.  Every Sunday. Every Wednesday.  I was in church. I was one of the (rare) non-Catholic, non-Lutheran “Church Kids” in town.  

Every summer I spent a week at church camp.

I was a good kid.

And I still went wrong.

I have known this for many years.  I have known that I willingly stepped away from God.  Claimed for many years that I didn’t even believe that God existed.  

But I never dared to ask myself why.

Why did I go wrong?

It’s a dangerous question.  And a painful question.  

Painful, because, I know without question, without any hesitation, that I was at fault.

I finally asked myself the question.  Sitting in church, listening to a sermon, the main topic of which currently escapes me.  But sitting there, I knew that I needed to answer that question. And I finally came up with two separate, yet connected, answers.

I was insecure of my identity in God.  And I was insecure in the identity of God.

First, my identity in God.  Who am I? Who does God want me to be?  Who does God need me to be? Growing up insecure in who I was made me feel unloved.  And it led me to look for love in places that I was absolutely never going to find it.  I know that now. But it led me down a path where I still hoped and dreamed I would find all of the things that I wanted in life.  But instead, that path took me further and further away from the things I wanted and needed.

Second, the identity of God.  Though I thought I knew who God was, in reality, I didn’t.  I thought that having a relationship with God would give me sunshine and puppy dogs and roses and life would be happy forever and ever more.  

Wow, how wrong could I be??? 

Yes, God is absolutely loving, caring, generous, gracious, merciful, and a whole lot of other adjectives.  He is absolutely all of those things. But that doesn’t mean that we will never struggle. That we will never experience hardship.  That we get a pass from all of the bad things that can and do happen in this world. It doesn’t work that way.

Of course, I thought it should work that way.  

But it doesn’t.

So when life got really hard, instead of turning to God, I turned away from God.  Because how could a God that claimed to love me let me go through all of this???  How dare God not give me everything that I wanted?  

It took a long time for me to get over myself.  It took many, MANY humbling experiences. Time, and time, and time again, I have been stubborn, and completely unworthy of God’s love.  

And guess what?  

God still loves me.  He does.  

I have given him a million reasons not to love me, yet he still does.  He still loves me.

How awesome is that?

And guess what?

Life still isn’t sunshine and puppy dogs and roses.  

I still struggle.

Bad things still happen.

But now, instead of turning away from God, I turn to God.  Because I know that I absolutely cannot get through this life without Him.  

Yes, I went wrong.  I went VERY wrong.  

And God didn’t take me back.  Because, that would mean that there was a time that God left me.  So no, God didn’t take me back.

He reminded me that He’s had me all along, whether I acknowledged that or not.

The Magic 8 Ball of Prayer

Does Brad like me?

Ask again later.

Will I be rich and famous?

As I see it, yes.

Will I pass my American Lit test today?

Outlook not so good.

Recently, I was reading in Leviticus, specifically the section where God was telling Moses exactly what the priests (Aaron and his sons) should wear when coming into the temple.  And if ever there were an elaborate outfit, this definitely fit the bill.  And then I got to the part about the Urim and Thummim.  And when I read the note in my Bible about it, I definitely wanted some Urim and Thummim.

These two objects were to be worn in the breastplate the priests wore.  And though the actual origination or purpose isn’t specifically known, but it is believed that these pieces were to receive answers from God.  That somehow either one piece was a yes, the other a no, or some combination of the pieces gave the specific answers.

Either way, these were used to receive direct, clear answers from God.

Kind of like the old Magic 8 Balls we played with as kids.  Where we could ask it the deepest, most secret questions of our hearts, and we would get some kind of answer, plain as day.

In life, in prayer life specifically, we rarely get such a clear answer to our prayers.  Especially not the answers that we are looking for, or the ones that we feel we so desperately need.

Not to say that God doesn’t give us a clear response, but it often looks much more different that we would hope or expect.  And sometimes, we have to look very hard to see and understand those answers.  And I will be the very first to admit that this can be frustrating sometimes.

But God does answer our prayers.

Sometimes, we just need to pray through to see, feel, and hear those answers.