The Mysterious Ways God Works

I have had an absolutely weird, surreal week.

As adults, my brother and I have little in common, other than our shared DNA.  To be honest, we are alike, but we are drastically different.  We have different interests.  We have very different personalities.  And for the last 8 years or so, we haven’t had much of a relationship, at all.

I am a firm believer that no matter what connection you have with someone, like being family, you do not have to keep them close in your life if they aren’t healthy for you.

For a long time, this was my brother.

Whether he realized it or not, something shifted in how he perceived me, and he started out just being cold or rude.  This came to a head at a family dinner, where my entire family, and his now ex-wife’s family were all in attendance.  He got drunk, and started yelling at me, and calling me stupid.

I was done.

My parents continued to urge me to try to work on things between us.  And I tried for a really long time.  I did.  I put all of the effort into it.

I got little to no response.  And it certainly didn’t get any better.

Holiday’s were awkward.

And I finally realized something huge.  I wasn’t the one that broke our relationship, so I couldn’t be the one to mend our relationship.

A year ago, he announced that he and his wife were getting a divorce.  So I once again tried.  I didn’t get much of a response.

But he did at least ask our parents about me sometimes.

I finally got over myself, and decided to go with my parents for a visit, something I had not done in 7 years.

And, though still awkward, things were getting marginally better.

He actually asked if I would be able to take a day off work to spend a long weekend with he and my parents in December for Christmas.  And because he was the one that actually asked, I did.

We have yet, even to this day, to discuss what has separated us.  But, for now, I’m letting that sit off to the side, and just try to be there for him.  Mentally, at this point, he isn’t capable of having those kinds of conversations yet.

But then, we’re getting to how God can just work in mysterious ways.  Ways that I don’t always agree with.  But I put a great deal of faith and trust in how God is making all of these things work, and I’m rolling with it.

So…get this.

He fell and broke his knee (patella).  Broke it badly enough that he needed surgery.

Initially, my dad planned to fly in to take care of him.  But he would need to fly back pronto, because they had appointments that needed to happen.  Being the fantastic daughter I am, I offered to fly to Florida to hang out with my mom while he went to take care of my brother.  He then told me he would rather I go to take care of my brother, and he stay where he is.

So, that’s a firm no on me going to Florida.

Drat.

I did tell my dad, however, that if needed I would go take care of my brother.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and we find out what day surgery is scheduled for.  Which makes it even worse for my parents schedule.  And my brother calls me.

We talk.  We talk about whether or not I would even be able to take time off work.  Which, thanks to a “family first” attitude with the school I work at, it was no problem.

So I agreed to go take my brother to have surgery, and hang out and take care of him for a few days.

I briefly thought that I had lost my mind.  Which, realistically, is possible.

But at the same time, he IS still my brother.  And I might not like him all the time, but I do still love him.

I didn’t really sleep well after agreeing to go.  And my nerves were so bad that I thought I really might vomit.

So I get that God works in mysterious ways and all, but THIS???  This is absurd.

Right?

But I went.

And it’s still rather awkward between he and I.  We literally had not spent ANY time alone, without our parents for some type of buffer, in many, MANY years.  But we managed.  We actually talked.  He finally got over trying to be a good host, and actually let me help him.  And we acquired some funny stories along the way.

Ok, one of them he totally doesn’t know about because I didn’t want him to worry.

You know how I told you that in some ways, we are alike?  Well, being a klutz is one of those things we have in common.  Last fall, he was making salsa, and sliced the palm of his hand open.  Last Monday, I sliced my palm open while un-packaging my new flatware.

We compared – though they are on opposite hands, they are identical scars.

The story gets better, don’t worry…

So…Thursday.  Surgery day.

He, obviously, cannot eat anything.  So I ordered take-out from the restaurant down the street.  I was walking across the parking lot to pick up my food, and I trip.  And I fall.  And I bust the cut open on my hand, and I knew I had done some damage to my knees.  I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body, I thought I was going to pass out.

I texted my dad, and told him.  But I also told him I wouldn’t be telling my brother about it.  I didn’t want to worry him any more than he already was.

Both knees are pretty torn up, road rash, bruises.  They’re pretty.  But fortunately, the damage ends there.

This literally was an HOUR before we had to leave for the hospital.

I slapped some bandaids on my knees, and away we went.

EVERYTHING IS FINE!

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but someone with a broken patella, in a full leg splint, needs some help getting in and out of a wheelchair.  And with some laser guided precision, every single time he had to get up or down, he smacked my knees.

Still didn’t tell him what happened.

It turns out, surgery went great.  They were able to just remove some of the shattered bone, so he doesn’t have hardware in his knee (lucky guy).  I impressed his Orthopedic Surgeon with my vast medical knowledge.  Not because I’m in healthcare, but because I’m klutzy, and I have a lot of experience.

It was a very long day in the hospital.  And he spent the night.

But he realized that my experience and knowledge of having broken bones, and sitting around while other people have surgery, can actually come in handy.

He was able to come home the following morning.  And things were still going well.

I left after a couple of days.  He can physically get around just fine, fine enough, at least.  And I helped get things situated for him while I was there.  He relied on me to help him.

And, let’s just say, the whole helping him having surgery led to a greater sibling bond (because you have to do some weird, helpful things) that neither of us was really prepared for.  And we’ll probably never discuss ever again.

But here’s my big take away…

God works in mysterious ways.  In ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.  He works for people who don’t even believe in Him (like my brother).

I knew that many, MANY people were praying for our situation.  And throughout the past week, I have felt that prayer go with me each and every step of the way.

Life rarely goes the way that we think it should.  And bad things happen all the time.  But God truly does have a plan for our lives.  Though it often takes far longer and down paths we never expected to take, God can bring us through anything.

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.

 

Self-Care

Have you ever paused a moment, and realized that even though you know what you need to do, you’re not doing it?

I’m rather annoyed with myself, because that’s exactly where I am right now.

I have willingly accepted taking on much more stress and responsibility.  Because I’m removing it from someone else’s shoulders, temporarily.  Because they need the break.  They deserve the break.

So, I figure for 3 months, I can handle some extra responsibility.

Except, I made a fatal flaw.

I failed to mentally and emotionally prepare to handle all of this additional stress.  And I allowed the stress to overwhelm me.

How incredibly easy does this happen to all of us?  We allow the external forces in our lives take over, and we, quite literally, lose our dadgum minds.  We don’t allow the stress to be managed in a healthy and appropriate way, and we get sick (which I did) and grumpy (that definitely happened).

And then, inevitably, we end up wallowing in self-pity.

Ok, maybe I wasn’t so much wallowing in self-pity so much as I let the grumpiness seep through every aspect of my life.  I let that take over, and I just had a bad attitude about, well, lots of things.  I had a bad attitude at God.  God, why am I going through this? God, why do I feel like this? God, why aren’t things just working out how they are supposed to? God, why don’t people just do the things they’re supposed to do?

Basically, the long list of questions I was asking God, and having a bad attitude toward was really my own fault.  Because…I didn’t do the thing I knew I was supposed to do.

SAID that I had all of my trust in God.

But what I really meant is that God is totally in charge, but I’m still going to worry about it, and tell God how I want Him to handle my problem.

Ok, so now that I know all of that, and I have realized all of that…I can move forward.

First, I can now channel some of the stress that I am feeling into a more positive way.

Second, I can change my attitude.

I got smacked in the face the other day while reading my Bible.  The words took a running jump off the page and smacked me in the face.  This thing made me realize that I was screwing up in a major way.

I stopped praising and thanking God for the things in my life.

I was still talking to God…about everything.  But my attitude toward Him while we were talking just stunk.  I had a great deal of stinkin’ thinkin’ going on.  And I was whining and complaining to God about all of the things in my life.  And while I said I was grateful and thankful…my attitude clearly showed that I was not.

Now, though I am not 100% cured of my negative Nancy-ness…I’m getting there.  Though the stress and the worry are still there, the burden upon my shoulders is much less.

I have even started thinking that I am grateful for the stress.  Because God has placed me in a position to be able to help.  This thing right now, it’s a blessing.

I know, without a doubt, I will one day look back and say I’m glad I did this.  I’m glad I got to spend the time doing this.

I.  Am.  Grateful.

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.

New Year, New Fret

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t because historically, most resolutions fail.

In an epic way.

So I don’t make them.

I also believe that if I am going to try to improve myself, I don’t need the turn of a calendar page to make that decision.

But as the end of 2019 approached, I had an overwhelming sense of unease.  And I couldn’t really quite put my finger on it for a long time.

Until I did.

And then I wish I hadn’t.

The fear, the trepidation, the unease was because I was worried that 2020 still will not be the year that things happen for the better.  That I still won’t find that perfect guy God has all picked out for me.  That I won’t make some huge breakthrough on what it is God wants me to do with my life.  That I won’t feel like a success, yet again.

The answer to all of this, that I am still finding it difficult to accept is that no matter what this year brings, God will get me through.

Deep down, I know that I will be just fine, and that even if all of those things do not end up happening this year, God’s perfect plan for my life will still be playing out.

I know that.  Of course I know that.

But the longing for all of those things is still there.

So, of course, God has to tap me on the shoulder as I’m reading my Bible this morning.

“Ahem, *cough, cough* this is for you, my dear.”

I was reading Psalms 37.  And in Psalms 37, David, yet again, perfectly describes the anguish that we, as humans, often feel.  And then he directly follows it up with what we, as Christians should do.

“Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.”
Psalms 37:34

Basically, there is a huge amount of wisdom in Psalms 37.  How we shouldn’t look at what evil people (people doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason) who end up succeeding, temporarily, with envy.  Not to look at them and wish that we had their successes.  Because in the end, their successes will be revealed to be ultimate failures, as they don’t get to share in the eternal prize of Heaven.

It’s difficult to do.

Because we know that their success is a result of evil things.  Evil intent.  Evil purpose.  And often, those people don’t care who they run over to accomplish their goals.  But the results of some of those evil things look oh so tempting.

I get it.

But we must keep our eye on the true prize.  The prize that gets us eternity in Heaven with our Father.

And until then, keep relying on His strength, guidance, mercy, grace.

And hope in the Lord, and keep His ways.

Dear Tom Hanks,

As a long time fan of basically anything that has Tom Hanks associated with it, I appreciate how he has made the world a far brighter place.

tom hanks hello GIF

And I’m not talking about his acting, directing, or producing skills.

Nope.  Not at all.

Those things help.

I was far too young when I first watched Big (though I still absolutely loved it).  And Turner and Hooch will hold a special place in my heart.  Though Cheese the dog is banned from ever watching the movie.  And then as I got older, the movies just kept getting better and better and better.  Where he and Meg Ryan had a continued love affair through Sleepless in Seattle to You’ve Got Mail.  And then let’s just not even go in depth and my love and appreciate for the uber nerd (from one nerd to another) with how focused and meticulous any war movie ends up being.  Band of Brothers was the first movie(ish) thing that made me ugly cry.  And continues to do so to this day.

think tom hanks GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

So basically, I will just willingly throw all of my money at anything that has Tom Hanks involved.

ready tom hanks GIF

But do you know much about the man (the myth, the legend)?

Tom Hanks is notoriously kind and generous.  From a seemingly infinite set of stories of fans that have met him.  Or people who he has worked with.  Kind and generous are always paramount.

He recently read a series of tweets where he commented on how kind and generous other people had been.  Highlighting that there is, in fact, kindness in our cruel world.

Because, in our world, in our country, in our communities, in our schools, we have a problem.  We have a problem of the heart.  Yes, you can blame it on guns, or violence, or the Democrats, or the Republicans.  You can blame it on the fact that I love the color pink, but you don’t.  On the fact that I believe something that you don’t.  And because we have different beliefs, I have to hate you, because you’re different.

What all of that boils down to is one thing.  One thing only.

The heart.

At some point in history, and everyone is probably going to have a different opinion on this.  And because everyone is going to have a different opinion on this, I’m not going to pinpoint one specific thing.  Because that isn’t the point here.  What is the point is that at some point in our history we decided that hate was going to win.

Ok, maybe it was less of a cognitive decision and more of a we knuckle under because the overwhelming amount of hate that was being thrown in our direction could only be combated with even more hatred.

Right?

Wrong.

That isn’t going to solve anything.  That’s going to exponentially make matters much worse.

But somewhere along the line, we decided that if someone was going to be evil and ugly to me, we would respond in kind.

Dear friends, there is a solution to this awful situation that we are ensconced in.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely yes.

Yes!

Be a little bit more like Tom Hanks.

Do you want to stop school shootings?  Do you want to stop domestic violence?  Do you want to stop the social media based civil war that this country is in the middle of?

Fix the heart issue.

If you fix the heart issue, all of the other issues just cease to exist.  Because instead of spewing negativity and hatred towards one another, we send out love and generosity and kindness and open mindedness.

Does this mean that we all need to agree on, well, everything?

Absolutely not.

But guess what?

THAT’S OK!

Because we don’t have to agree on every single thing to be kind to one another.

It’s as simple as that.

Be.  Kind.

Always.

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.

Dream vs. Reality

I have hugely wild, huge and ambitious dreams of what I want to accomplish in my life.  And some days, I feel as though I’m failing miserably.

But, am I really failing miserably?

Many of these dreams are things that I truly feel God has put in my heart to do.  And I pray every single day for God’s guidance in my life on what I’m supposed to do.  And day after day after day after day, here I am, just trudging along.

I feel as though I’m not making any progress on those dreams.  And in the things I am doing to work towards some of those dreams, well some of those things I feel aren’t making any progress.

Currently, I have a job that I don’t honestly feel reaches my full potential.  I am a Teacher’s Aide.  I’m the low man on the totem pole.  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that my job is important.  And I do feel like I am making a difference in the lives of the students I work with.  I know that I do different, more complex things than many other people with my job title.  And I honestly do feel like this is where God has called me to be right now.  Yet there are times that I want more.  For a couple of reasons.

I am looked down upon by some of my colleagues.  Not that any of them would every blatantly say that.  But it’s in the little things that I experience that tells me they value my worth less than other certified teachers.  For example, yesterday, one of the other teachers went all the way around me to ask for a key to my room, so she could use my room when she needed.  She didn’t ask if that was ok with me.  She went all the way around me.  And then, when she did have the opportunity to discuss it with me, well, she didn’t.

But, beyond that, I feel like God has put things on my heart to want more out of life.  More than what I’m currently doing.

I’m just not so sure of what that is.

But…

Perhaps all of these things are preparing me for something else.

If I turn to the Bible, what does it tell me to do?  Be humble.  Be a servant.  Love God.  Love people.

Humble.

This one is tough.  Because I have always struggled with my self-worth.  But if I have low self-esteem, am I really just being humble?  Well…no.

Low self-esteem basically means I feel I have absolutely no value in the world.  I am worthless.

Being humble means I recognize that I can do great things, but not because I am super awesome and amazing.  No, no.  I can do these great things because God has given me these gifts, talents, abilities, strengths, etc.  Knowing that someone far greater than I is in charge, and the one that really has those talents and abilities.  That is being humble.

Servant.

Jesus tells many parables about how the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  How we should strive to serve others.  To help others when we can.

Have you watched the show New Amsterdam?  If you haven’t, as soon as you’re finished reading this, go watch all of the episodes.  My DVR is full of TV shows and movies that I rarely have time to watch because I’m too busy doing other things in life.  But this show, this is one I love to watch.  The main character is the head of a public hospital in New York City, and his entire world is filled by one question.  “How can I help?”

Each show revolves around some new challenge that must be faced, and no matter what is going on in his own personal world, the offer to help others is always forefront in his life.

I know that the show is fiction (though based loosely in reality).  But even fiction can help us grow as humans.

How can I help?

This phrase changed my life.

When I go to school, my main role is to help others.  Other teachers.  Administration.  Students.  How can I help you?  What can I help you do to be successful?  Even on the farm, I take the same approach.

I get a little salty about some of the things I end up doing.  Because I do want to do more.  And sometimes I feel like I am not only being held back from doing greater things, I feel like I’m being pushed down.

One of my bucket list items is to help during harvest by running the combine all by myself.

I have barely been able to convince my dad to let me cut the last little strip of beans, while he watches over every single move I make.

But what my role typically ends up being is the gopher.  Meaning…I do all of the little jobs, that, though vitally important to the operation of the farm, really kind of stink in doing sometimes.  I take a wagon out to the field.  I make a trip looking for engine oil because there’s an oil leak.  I make parts runs.  I go put drops in my grandma’s ears because she has a Dr. appointment in a couple of days.

I get the minuscule tasks that really don’t seem all that important.  And it’s easier for my mom to be the one to run the combine because she’s been doing it for years and years and years.  Not that I can’t learn how to do it.  Not that I’m incapable of doing it.  I just don’t know how.

I do know that value is found in those small little tasks.  As I said, they are vitally important.  Because, if I hadn’t gone to retrieve the oil, we would have been shut down for hours.

So I get it.  Those tasks are important.

But I still want more.

But maybe putting in my time, learning the value in those smaller jobs, whether on the farm, or at school, maybe one of these days, they will all lead to bigger and better things.  Maybe these things are preparing me for something much bigger.

Or maybe I won’t get to experience all of those great things myself.  But my role in life as the servant doing these things is part of a much larger plan for something else.

Only God knows.

I know that no matter how salty I get about things, this is where I am supposed to be right now.

Love God.

This one shouldn’t be difficult.  And in the overall, big picture of my life, it isn’t.  But, like any relationship, we have our moments.

Some days, I really don’t understand why I am in the places that God has me in.

But I trust in God’s big plan for my life.

Love People.

Other people make this a challenge sometimes.  Sometimes, I may not be all that easy to love myself.  But the best marketing plan any Christian can do is to love other people.  No matter what.  No matter who they are.  No matter what they have done.  You love other people.

So…here I am.  Trudging along in another day.  I’m not where I want to be in so many areas of my life right now.  But I trust with my whole heart that I am where God needs me to be.

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.

Ok, God…I Get It

“What comes out of your mouth is an overflow of what is in your heart.”
-Jeff Michael

“It is because of the hurt we have experienced that we are capable of showing great love towards others.”
-Me

I have a name that has been mispronounced so many times, I’m not even sure I pronounce it correctly any more.  Honestly, it shouldn’t be that difficult to pronounce.  But clearly it is.

As a result, I intentionally make sure I try to pronounce other people’s names correctly.

I have a digestive system that is high maintenance.  Which often leads to feeling left out.

As a result, when I know someone else has issues, I make the appropriate accommodations, and make them something they can have.

I have a birthday that is difficult to celebrate.

As a result, I try to make sure I am joyous over other people’s birthday.

I have been having a long talk with God this morning, because I feel the hurt this week.  I feel the hurt today.  I feel the hurt right now.

But in life, hurt will happen.  We will be both the recipients and the deliverers of the hurts.  I’m not perfect.  I know that I have hurt people in the past.  Not that I’m a horrible person and purposefully hurt other people.  But I’m human.  And it happens.

And when that hurt happens, we have to choices.  Two polar opposite choices we can make.

1. We can let that hurt and hatred settle in our hearts, lash out at others, and try to make others hurt as badly as we do.

OR…

2. We can let that hurt and hatred settle in our hearts, and try to make sure no one else ever has to feel that way ever again.

Both choices define you.

I can’t say that I am grateful to have gone through the things that I have.  But I also know that experiencing and surviving some of the things that I have have defined my character.  It was a conscious choice to choose the God path in my life, and realize that the only way to combat hate is with great love towards others.  The only way to combat violence is with great love towards others.

When asked about what the greatest of the commandments were, Jesus answered quite simply “Love God, and love other people.”

He didn’t say to love them when they loved you.

He didn’t say to love them only when they were worthy.

He didn’t say to love them only when they agree with you.

He didn’t say to love them only when they were the same race as you, the same gender as you, the same belief system as you.

He just said to love them.

Love them all.

Love them fiercely.

Love them without condition.

Just love them all.

You may be struggling today.  You may feel like no one cares.  Like you’re no one special.  Like you’re the only one that feels this way.

You’re not.

Read that again.

You.  Are.  Not.

You ARE special.

You ARE loved.

Want to know what you are not?

You are NOT alone.

Take a deep breath.  Take a step forward.  Then take another step forward.  Use the hurt you feel.  Use it for good.

Because the benefits you receive from that will change your world.  Change it for the better.