Thursday, June 21, 2018

When the Head meets the Heart...

Having had a breakthrough last week that culminated on Sunday, I'm finding I'm not fighting myself - not fighting my life or circumstances emotionally, but operating in those boundaries and being productive. I am losing perfectionism in the process. It's not completely gone, but I'm not attacking myself. I'm feeling the urgency without the overwhelming powerless feeling. And I knew it was coming - that I would stop fighting myself so much because I realized a month ago that was what I was doing, but I didn't know the level of peace I would feel.

The past couple of days, I have felt something new and old at the same time. I have felt equal to everyone I was interacting with - I wasn't comparing seasons of life, I wasn't thinking that I am not "equal" just because my life looks different. I wasn't thinking that I'm "the help" or that I'm "less than" - I was just thinking "I'm me" - no subtext, no running conversation of life stages in my head, no judgment about my messy basement, no comment on my financial reality, no comparison that I'm not married but that I have a lot of degrees, no back and forth. I felt like my time was MY time, valuable and useful and for what's important to God's plan for me. It's not the time that I should spend worrying how I should be like so many people I know, so many people I love. It wasn't so comparison-y as I make it sound - it was a depression over not being where I had thought I'd be. The catch is, I have no idea if I would be happy where I'd think either. And that should tell you to strive for peace where you are. We lie a lot to ourselves how we think things should be.

But do you know? The knowledge part of my brain knows that stuff wasn't true anyway. The knowledge part of my brain knows that God has a plan specifically for me - there are good works for me to do that He wrote into reality before the foundation of the earth. I know that we are equally depraved. I know that all have sinned. I know that I am not under wrath or under punishment. I know that my single life isn't some sort of punishment nor is married life a reward. It is the life I have been given and God is to be praised because I live in the most blessed time, in one of the most blessed places. I do not suffer like other believers and that is a thought I refuse to leave me. I will remember where God placed me.

But now, I have finally come to believe what I know... God is writing it on my heart as His Spirit leads me to lay all my thoughts down before Him. Being completely honest with God - not giving what I think "should" be how I should think or "should" be how I feel, and approaching God with the depth of the ugliness I can currently own (there are always untouched places, dark, that we don't even want to or can't own just yet), I feel like He heals me when I can be real. The minute I pretend, though, I can't get down to the work of it... it takes admitting what I can't or won't admit. And I finally was able to do what was bothering me for so long because I was so tired of it. In quitting depression, it was like I could really see the mess for what it is, but also that it is not a consuming crisis. I could also see how little steps aren't painful because the emotional fighting I have been doing has stopped. I'm not ruled by those emotions, so I am able to do the little at a time to keep making small, but meaningful steps.

I'm still lost as to what to pursue after I leave teaching. I found out some disappointing news today, but I'm not spiraling. My mind is working and I believe God will meet me again at the right time with the map I need to get to the next stop. In the meantime, I will continue to sing His praises because I never would have escaped my own mind. I feel like I can finally believe what I'm being told in the word and fight against the lies that I've believed for a long time.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Sinister Selfishness of Depression: What God Is Teaching Me

I want to preface this post with a caveat: this is what God is teaching ME about MY depressive state and moods. Depression is complex in that it can be brought on from many sources and not usually just one. That being said, I am sharing what I am being convicted of in the hopes that someone in my similar position may find hope and freedom. I pray against anyone who may feel condemnation because that is not what God has for anyone who is in Christ Jesus.

I have been working through depression lately because life is just not what I hoped for. Add to this that I don't know what I hoped life would be, so there is this often despairing feeling I find myself deep in. It is a real feeling and real tears have been cried in earnest.

But God convicted me of something even this week about it. Depression is making me ineffectual as a believer, as a friend, as a person. That is exactly what Satan wants. Rather than fighting it, I just keep talking about depression. I think most of us have heard the term "broken record" - the broken for me is sure there. Just like music lyrics, just like a phone number I rehearse, just like anything I practice, I become good at being and talking about depression. Constantly. And I'm tired of being good at it and tired of talking about it because my life is not depression. My life is Erin and it is hidden in Christ, in the folds of mercy, redeemed forever, sanctified daily. It is not perpetual grief about what life looks like now nor the real hurts of the past and present. Depression is not my life. I need to stop rehearsing it over and over, bringing it up over and over.

I need to breathe that God is on His throne and that I have good works stored up for me to do. So long as I continue in a pattern of focus on what my life is and isn't, constantly refocusing on that, I will never be of use to anyone, not even myself. And that is exactly what Satan wants. If there is anything I do not want for my life, it is his victory over my ineffectual wallowing. God has put it in me to fight it - to fight for joy in my life and to stick it to an enemy that will stop at NOTHING to kill, steal, and destroy the good God has allowed me to have. I won't be an easy conquest in self-pity and demotivation. I will not be lifeless on the front of great need before me because I'm consumed with inadequacy. I refuse to let depression just happen and not confront it with REALITY. The truth is, every minute I focus on what I am not, what I have not, what I have lost, the trouble I have found, what I regret, what I wish, is a minute I don't focus on loving someone else who needs it. It is a minute I don't spend on checking up on a friend. It is a minute I don't spend calling a family member. It is a minute ineffectual. It's even a minute I didn't use to solve my own problem.

Well, people, I am done. I'm done with bad minutes. I'm done with the perpetual grief. I know that life comes in seasons, some long, some short, some exquisite, some excruciating, some quiet, some loud. I can survive them because God is vastly bigger than seasons, never-changing, ever present, always glorious, unceasingly gracious. I can do it. I am still mopping up the mess in my mind - the plans, the hopes, the hurts, but I am done with the constant cloud - the dreading of the coming day - the frustration with my faults. I was reminded today that I can plan all that I want, but anything undertaken without God's counsel, without His consideration is total vanity. He must be my first consultation and my ultimate consolation as I walk this daily life. I am exchanging Jesus daily for depression, constantly reminded that I must start my day with the Lord, learning (reading the Bible) and dependent upon Him (praying), acknowledging that without anything else, I fall prey to myself. That's the only way I'm going to get through it or accomplish anything because that is how much integrity I lack in following through on my own plans. And I am done with the hopelessness and embracing the authority God has given me in Christ.

This has been a process and it is by no means complete. But I want to share some transitional steps that have helped me arrive at the place where God is helping me see great, dramatic victory over my tendency to be ruled by my emotions:

1. The change started with thankfulness. When I started to go on a downward spiral, I began to work on thanking God for every big and small blessing in my life - those things I take for granted as an American in the most comfortable place on earth: hot water, a running car, the availability of groceries, the luxury of entertainment, air conditioning! It may seem stupid, but it puts what life looks like for the rest of the world vs mine in great perspective and helps to shut up the complaining of my heart over what is truly minor.

2. Crying when I gotta cry. There are zero points for being stoic. None. I can attest that for every tear I held back as a child, I cried three fold in my twenties and continue to. I do it before the Lord and I let it happen. And then I work it out in prayer to get to a point of peace. I don't let it stay there. I get reconciled in my heart and I move forward what I can do.

3. I stopped running. I left my over-planning and I started just doing one thing to make something done - one phone call, one load of laundry, one room, one dish! The power of one has helped me get out of the all or nothing funk and I can enjoy small movements in the right direction. The "power of process" when I want to have it ALL finished is what I am working to embrace more of now. God is helping me to see that tiny steps of progress toward a task outweigh all-or-nothing hopes that overwhelm me into inaction. Slowing my thoughts to daily, small things that lead to big process is HARD for me. But what's harder is the drift in life to where things get so out of control and coming to terms without how it got there. I am like a child in this phase, but I can recognize this as my greatest area of weakness and God's mercy is overwhelming me with patience for myself and willingness to fight my penchant for 100% perfection in theory over 90% completion in actuality. Overcoming lingering depression is so key to this fight because my emotions are so powerful over my pragmatic living - meaning, if I don't "feel" something, I struggle greatly in "making myself" do it. I don't want this. I want to master those emotions and push through. And that is why the power of one effort means so much to me - it means that I CAN fight - small, but mighty in the face of a negative mindset.

My prayer in sharing all of this is that it might give some inspiration to those with similar struggles. I have come to find that for myself, my emotions have way too much authority over my effectiveness. Until I master them, they master me. I want to have more integrity with myself than letting myself plan and fail. But for that, I have to fight. Now's the time.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Does Everyone Have a Dream?

What is your dream?

I don't know what mine is. I am quite stuck. Thankfully, serving in church helps me love on others to glorious distraction, but frankly, I cannot conceive of what my dream is or was. My parents would tell you I wanted to be everything under the sun. I loved learning and school up until 8th grade when academia had finally burned me. But amidst all of the learning, I cannot drudge it up. Practicality has virtually neutered my creativity, and my penchant for the creative has killed my motivation to embrace complete practicality. I feel like a living paradox. And it really grieves me as I drift further into a career of public service that feels like it's out to crush both me and those whom I serve. I can't keep living like this.

I also feel as though I can talk myself out of every idea. Making sure I'm not in love with a romanticized notion of something is very hard to sift through - do I like ALL of the idea or just my imagined story of what I think it will be? I have some of the entrepreneurial spirit of my maternal grandmother in thinking big and even taking steps but the hesitative caution of my dad in knowing exactly how good I am at failing and the unpredictability of life. I am at a loss.

I have little, small goals. But I find without a big dream in the long run, I have no drive. I was not like this as a child - I was not so heartsick and sad. What takes the light out of us? I'm desperately trying to answer this question for me. I think I'll heal if I do and find the drive that was lost to me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Better Friend

I struggle with balancing the scale in my life. I'm not speaking of balancing work and home life, but balancing the actions of others and my own response. We could boil it down and give it some cheap name like "tit for tat," but to simplify it like that is to be dismissive of the enormous amount of emotional math my brain goes through to reconcile things. It is mental and emotional exercise to reconcile things that happen, things that happen to me, my emotions, and my response to anything based on those emotions - the most complicated math always involves people.

In my quest for maintaining equal in my head, I often lose my heart in the mental math of things that happen. It is hard for me to function when things are unequal in my perception, which is why I try to balance the scale... which is why I struggle to push my heart into a disadvantage - to where I'm willingly in pain for the sake of other(s). I'm finding that God is shoving me out of my attempts to balance things.

I feel grief keenly - it just doesn't leave me - and I'm actively trying to embrace grief as a rather incessant reality and find Jesus and joy in it. It is hard to field the notion that your sorrows won't be resolved this side of the cross - that there are irrevocable actions here on earth. I practice reassurance with my students and with people who are prone to panic that "it is fixable" - that is a mostly-true statement in the reality where and when I live; most things are fixable. But we all wade into the deep end sometimes and lose precious things to the sea. I have lost some precious things and figuring out how to live with that without really losing myself to the sadness is work that my heart is navigating constantly.

I truly believe that God has given me insight and discernment through this in pushing through hardship - knowing what hardship really means. Consequently, I am facing what it really means to love when life becomes adversarial - when we become adversarial people. What does it really mean to bear with one another? What does it really mean to love your enemy? Or someone who became your enemy? What does it mean to forgive really? What does it mean to forgive selfishness? What does it mean to forgive deception? Dishonesty? Disloyalty? Adultery? Theft? Ridicule? Rejection? Pride? Anger?

I mean, if I believe this stuff that Jesus says - that I am to obey what He tells me to do, love others more than myself - I have massive amounts of self to die to... it means I knowingly allow myself to endure pain for the chief end of demonstrating I believe what I say - that I am to live the Gospel out for others so they might know it too. Others suffer in prisons and forgive, I probably should have the fortitude of the Holy Spirit to endure those things that don't threaten my physical being. That's not to say that it's easy, but I live in a land where leaving any commitment, a promise, a marriage, a bond is more convenient than ever. Removing yourself from any circumstance in America, in my American culture, is more a matter of mind than, well, matter. It's a hard decision sure, but most often, we have the means to make it happen and the means to minimize our pain in doing so.

But is this giving up? I ask myself this constantly. If a situation is terribly abusive, likely not. But that's not what I mean.  Surely parents know well what "not giving up" is. They know that you don't give up on your kids - you stop enabling, you stop coddling, but you don't ever give up - that love is too on fire, too strong to give up on your child. Isn't that what God the Father lives? He is the longest suffering of any of us. If I have any goodness, God's own goodness is unfathomably greater than mine. If I have love for someone, God's love is immeasurably deeper than mine. What does that say of Christ then? Of what He did for His brothers and sisters, His earthly father, His earthly mother? And if I am called to be like Him? As He forgives each who left him to bear the cross to the point of crucifixion without solace? As He, who has done no wrong, dying for those who will glory in wrongdoing until God continually sanctifies them?

Surely then, the chasm between me and those who have sinned against me is a might smaller than the chasm that once stood between me and God. Greater were my offenses against Holy God than those who did offend me from where I stood. Yet He continually teaches me kindly, not with the punishment I am surely due (for certainly, we have ALL felt anger against those whom we have born, helped, nurtured, when they turn their weapons of sin on us). In light of what I know, I have immense pressure to let my love overlook sin, even unacknowledged sin, and be kind and loving in any rebuke I undertake to give. I'm hard-pressed to caption any betrayal or lie perpetrated against me as worse than what I am guilty of toward the Lord.

I'm being reminded over and over again, through tears, through ache, to call upon the Lord to do what I cannot and be whom He always is: be The Better Friend. Do I really love my friends? Do I really love my family? Do I really love those who position themselves as enemies against me and mine? Do I really mean it? It is the worst struggle - the lack of reciprocation - that my brain mathematically contends with on the human level. But within the context of God's scale to mine, there will never be reciprocation for the Lord; He is my beginning and my end. My debt can only grow because God is the source of any good I do. He must be both Author and Perfecter, I do nothing of my own good-making.

So lately, all of the impossible that I feel led to:
Ask for forgiveness though my offense may not be "greater" so that my pride continues to die; be the first to forgive; be fast to forgive; be patient if my forgiveness isn't asked (as God does His work and patiently waits for us); be the mature believer, reserving anger for appropriate times and seeing God's work as paced differently in the lives of others, even though I may be wounded in the waiting; trust God to work in those whom He has called at the speed which pleases Him; be the mature believer who does not take offense deeply into heart but patiently waits in kindness to offer grace and speak truth in love; give thanks for all the good I still have in this life; always be willing to hear my offender if they reach out as a check on my hardness of heart and self-righteous pride; be quick to listen; resist the evil one who thrives on suspicion, lies, deception, and pride; fight for peace and unity without compromising truth nor conviction; acknowledge the Lord in all my ways; allow others to lean into and lean on me; be a minister of reconciliation.

As Christ must increase, I must decrease. My grief may never be truly acknowledged, past, present, future, but still He bids me: be the better friend. Though it cost me much and I do it with tears, may I obey with joy.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Poor Casting Call: The Theater of Life

The last time I wrote a blog was in March of last year. And I felt it narcissistic. But I am coming back. I enjoy writing and putting thoughts out there. It helps me work through things and maybe even get feedback on how others have overcome similar things. Rather than talk about all that happened last year, I'll do that at the end and rather, tackle the idea I'm having with the title here.

A while ago, I wrote about how I felt like maybe I was wanting things I thought I was supposed to want - not actually tapping into where I want my life direction to go. That murmur has morphed into a notion I had tonight as I wrote in my journal (yeah I wrote a lot there before even getting here).

The idea? Did I poorly cast myself in my own life?

I'm reading Jon Acuff's book Quitter, which I have owned for longer than I care to admit and just started reading because I'm buying Kindle books at a shameful pace. He is fabulously entertaining and freeing. He has made me re-approach how I am trying to find my dream career/job. The problem is, I couldn't even decide as a kid. There are definitely things I'm good at (like saying something that lands me in hot water) and things that I am bad at (caring about fashion and dressing myself well). But when he posed the question, borrowed from Simon Sinek "What is your WHY?" All I have is the answers and church answers I "should" say. It's like I have so cloaked over what is really in me with Christianese speak that I have fogged up the mirror on stuff that isn't sinful - I need to see it so I can go somewhere.

As I was writing to myself, I was painfully and embarrassingly reminded that I see myself in some sort of movie of myself as I view my life... some sort of romanticized moments and murmurs coming of age tripe that feels like a performance in my head. It's as though I'm trying to figure out how it should be looking without actually living at it. And I'll tell you, I fill my time with parts both good and wasteful, but some link is missing somewhere... and I think it's where my deep grief about how things just don't go how you hope lurks. At the higher elevations of my life, there is happy and there is bubbly, but in that wonderful forest and wilderness is a cavern, and inky, black sadness rises like a poisonous gas and takes out some of the trees and plants and goodness in that forest. I'm desperate to try to choke it off, but it's DEEP in there - beneath who I THINK I am.

So, I have been wrestling. And the thought occurred to me - I am a poorly cast actor in my life. I'm playing to "shoulds" a lot and it is making me have these depression episodes where I am LOST because, well, emotionally I cannot reconcile myself to this role that I am not. The reality is that I am not in a life movie... I'm in a life. And I have no clue who I'm playing to because, much as I love and enjoy people, deep down, I am not really wanting to be included in things or accepted in others - I'm actually really okay by myself. I think what some folks are doing is cool and think "why can't we be buddies," but truly, I don't think we would jive as the type of every day friend I would want. I'm not opposed, but I'm okay with it "not working." It has come down to me asking myself, but do I really want to be friends? And I don't. And that knowledge has me wondering, where else do I think I "should" want something where, actually, I don't know?

I stand at this weird precipice where I can get off easily and go about the acting gig and fruitlessly trying to make myself into who I am not and stuff God knows I know is making my life unnecessarily mopey, or I can do the work of figuring out the answer to these questions using some hardcore honesty and ignoring the church answer that is in my head. I want the Jesus truth in my life, redeemed authenticity, not the "blurb" statements of piety. I just hope I know where to start.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Battles in Planning

I have not written a blog post in almost exactly 3 years. It feels like a narcissistic hobby, but I wanted to write a post today in the hopes that I help someone who has felt hopeless as a planner like myself.

Let me launch first by saying that I am a terrible, awful planner. I am a wonderful maker of to-do lists, and thoughts swim through my head all the time. I am terrible at "confronting" my day. It's hard to articulate the "why" of how I dread each day in the morning - nothing particularly bad will or is going to happen, but it's as though I cannot let go of today because I have some hatred for tomorrow. I'm not suicidal. I just feel like I don't know what I'm looking forward to.

This got me to thinking - Why do I dread tomorrows? I go and do fun things and I enjoy my life at many moments, but it's like while one part of life is humming along happily, there is a low-level current dread of existing under it. So I began the process of working through the answer to the question of Why do I dread tomorrow? Why am I not looking forward to another day?

A few things about me - I am a messy person and it has gotten worse (only recently better through this process); I have a million ideas and I can't pick one I like best; I feel melancholic and ecstatic many moments at a time - I can go from one to the other instantaneously, one is not harder to move to or from than the other; I feel like my life is both radically out of control and sometimes manageable and sufficiently in control (I let go of the "perfectly" in control thought long ago). I'm a born again Christian. I struggle with making choices vs. things just happening and being stuck where I am. I'm conflicted because mercies are new every morning and instead, I dread every morning. I'm conflicted because my hope is in Christ but I feel hopeless. I don't know what I'm working toward - while I try to bring God glory, how am I to do that when I don't know my life's work?

When it started...
Earlier, at the end of January, early February, the stuck-ness was really clawing at me. I was struggling with purpose and direction (and still am), and plain lack of discipline because I was struggling with what the point of it was. I'm single, I don't have people over because I almost don't know how to do it, and I'm floating around out in the lake of life, aimless. Who cares about me? Does it matter? And I began praying about those isolating thoughts and notions, and I decided to ask around. I asked my pastor and my successful friend Erick for books on purpose, motivation, and discipline. The thing was, I had already bought critically acclaimed books I hadn't touched. My pastor gave me a lot of his time, though. We chatted about the melancholy and the tendency toward it verses the overpowering-soaking in it. And we prayed. I'm convinced the prayer laid the groundwork for learning to take place because I felt like I had made the first steps in articulating what I have struggled with since high school - what am I supposed to do? How do I change my thinking, my approach, my attack to get ahead from being behind? Am I chasing an illusion?

Getting around to it...
February was a blur of grading and vacation, but I had to accomplish two things before a deadline: clean my desk at school and clean my house before vacation. I was determined to be done in my classroom by the time school was out on the Friday before break, and knowing me, it was not likely to happen. Then it was the house after that. Somehow, by God's grace, I got the classroom done by 4 pm, a record for me. I have never been done that early - it was a milestone that I undertook from Wednesday to Friday. It was great leaving a clean, tidy (from the inside out - filing cabinet, cabinet, and desk innards were organized) that I know I would return to. It was then on to the house.

The house was a mess. I was so hectic for so long, that it had not had a good, deep cleaning since November. There was trash and dirty dishes and an entire Kohl's worth of dirty laundry. It also needed to be scrubbed - literally. I have dogs, and the dirt, dust, and mud left an orange-gray tinge to literally everything - the way a fire leaves soot everywhere. Time to buckle up. I tossed, I washed, I scrubbed, I wiped, I swept, I mopped, I vacuumed, I moved rugs and mountains, I did everything I had left undone for months. Mom was going to stay and, as I have Latina Mama Syndrome (LMS), you better believe it had to be spotless. And it was. Except the couches, which Latina Mama handled graciously while I was gone. She also cleaned the microwave which was my favorite part.

I ached so badly after those two days, I spent the rest of my break in Orlando wrapped in pain - feet, spine, it was intense. But I felt accomplished. I did not realize that these were called "small wins" until reading a book I picked up months ago via Kindle. It was time for a change, and this book opened my eyes.

Flickering light bulbs...
Small wins are tiny victories that have chain-reactive properties - they set you off onto a path of change upon which you can build, accepting both large and small victories as progress, taking failure and setback in stride. Small wins must be small - the book I'm reading (The Power of Habit) talks about how big, radical changes hardly stick. It is usually one small victory that acts as a catalyst to others. In reading the book, I have found what I'm doing wrong in planning and goal-setting, but more than that - it opened my eyes to my stuck-ness. It has to do with some bits of approach and some bits of execution.

The book illuminated what Ben Franklin already seemed to do inherently: change small habits rather than radically alter life. If you read Franklin's writings, he talked about keeping track of habits. So little of what he did was radically changing life. Every time I have tried to plan and change my life, it has involved some idea of radically changing things - it doesn't stick with me. And forever, I have thought this was something up with me. Wrong. It fails most of us. The book speaks about keystone habits. Something similar had happened to me when God healed me of social anxiety in 2009 - a lie I believed died that day. Like a domino, that experience touched off other events. I was healed of emotions and thoughts and underlying patterns of behavior that flowed out of the well that lie was. It was poisonous water I kept dipping into. With it gone, my entire personality changed.

And here was this book, this month, this year, telling me that this is a thing with habits.

Working through the book, my brain started connecting. In theology, there is this idea of unbelief - we don't get emotionally and spiritually better because we are steeped in unbelief (this is not in reference to physiological issues, though I believe those can be healed, but not because we do/don't believe it can happen). That was anxiety for me. I didn't believe that I could work through anxiety without knowing the historical issues and experiences and narratives I wrote in my dumb head that caused me to fret so much. And I prayed for God to heal that unbelief - He did, revealing a lie I believed at the core of my being. Feeling it die like a weed that withers, thoughts in my head changed, undercurrents of worry melted, and I knew I had become different in a literal instant.

Fast forward to 2017, March. I am in the heat of grad school, county endorsement assignments, grading, teaching, and drowning. I need to read something that may give me hope. And this book illuminates why my attempts to change fail - I don't believe I can.  The book is called The Power of Habit but for me, it should be called the power of belief.

What if, like unbelief that leads me to stunted growth in my faith is akin to my belief I cannot change? For a while I had known that there was a dysfunction in my faith about choice, happening, and change. I have had more faith in sin and shortcoming than God's ability to overcome it. I have believed every effort to be in my own strength, therefore abdicating success before I even began an attempt. It did not occur to me that I should consider believing in my ability to change was not faith in myself, but trusting that God would be there to help me stop sin because I am already one with Christ. This book illuminated that it has been a form of unbelief in Christ's indwelling strength that I can change. For a long time, I was convinced that God's got to do it and in some Hollywood way I thought it would look like.

It reminded me of Jesus, whom was anticipated as the coming Messiah, but was not the form the Israelites hoped for. They were looking for a warrior king that would make a physical kingdom. They could not fathom the humble King whose aim and joy is so much greater - restored relationship with the Living God. It was out of left field.

Here I am, reading a secular book that God used to show me that I am NOT powerless, but that believing I can change is empowering because Christ has enabled me to do it. I have not believed that He has given me power by the blood to change - that we are one when I repented and accepted Him as Savior. The issue is that I have believed every attempt or desire to change has arisen through my human effort and flesh, which I have believed would fail, in which case, I have failed. Every single time. What God is showing me is that, like St. Patrick, Christ before me and Christ behind me, Christ within me and Christ is with me. I am one with Christ, and with that, there is authority I NOW have over myself to change and I ought to believe that it WILL happen by vehicle of my Christ empowered and sustaining effort. It does NOT need to be a fight against myself because I NOW BELIEVE that I can change. I no longer hold that a belief in my ability to change is an idolatry because God has put it right in its place: I MUST believe in the power of CHRIST to work change in and through me. Believing that I can change can be divorced from the idea that change is due to faith I must have in myself. Faith in myself would be idolatry, but it doesn't mean that I can't change, it means I have faith in the authority Christ has given me over my choices. THAT has changed my life, and come in a package I never expected, like Jesus himself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Joy in Singletown USA

I thought I'd wrote about something that I'm enjoying lately - single life (sans dating). I say sans dating only because so often people love their single life for the opportunity to go out with so many people. I'd like to differentiate myself from those folks. While I'm trying to Dave Ramsey my financial life (his name is best used as a verb), I'm finding myself renewed in my enjoyment of being single.

I'm writing this in hopes to encourage ladies out there. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to be married one day, but I find grace constantly pressing on me to just love this time with the Lord and on my own. I simply cannot pity myself or feel terrible that I'm not in the same life stage as so many others in my vicinity (and on Facebook). I have moments of the blues and sometimes people forget about you because, hey, you're a unicycle and there aren't kids in the picture and it's apparently weird for married people to pursue new relationships with a singular person (hence the rarity of hanging out with new, married friends - at least in my experience and in many I've observed). But despite that, I can't help but relish the freedom and independence I enjoy. Can't beat only having to agree with yourself about small things!

1) I recently adopted a puppy, who has brought me lots of joy…and sorrow as I leave him home when I head to work.

2) My money is free of permission slips. Can't beat managing your own money and not having to think of 2 or more people. Thankful that my cash doesn't go to things destroyed by a small army I created. Instead it buys awesome things like USB cords and anime. //sarcasm on that last one

3) Cooking - maybe I will. Maybe I won't. Don't have to. Often don't want to. Can I? Yes. But joining my friends for trivia at ye olde pub is worth way more fun than cooking and cleaning the mess up. No one expects me to do it and my skill at rationalizing a meal out is unthwarted by today's menfolk who expect both bread winning and bread baking.

4) Other people's kids are hilarious. I'm not the type to shy away from kids. My singleness isn't out of aversion to responsibility nor children (I find those singles ignorant and missing out). Besides being a teacher, I have so many stories from caring for other people's kids. What's great about other people's children is that you get to see what works and what doesn't. You get to see, "Hey, I want to know how they are getting their kids to be this way," etc. You get to laugh at the hilarious things they say. Or you get to experience your favorite classic movies with them who might be seeing them for the first time. You relive your childhood in a way that is hard when you are childless. Plus you earn a little extra gas cash for things like last minute trips to visit your buddy in Kentucky.

5) Graduate school is an opportunity to meet new people from all walks of educated life and actually spend some time with them since I'm virtually obligatory person free. I've learned not just from my classes but from engaging with other people in my program. The experience working with my professors has been one more of comradery and collaboration than parent-child. It's a glorious "we're all adults here" atmosphere. I feel more of an adult in this context than even at my job. There's something about connecting professionals looking to better themselves.

6) Sleeping alone is awesome. Okay there is awesomeness I am missing out on, sure. But being unconscious in a giant bed is still amazing when no one is snoring or stealing covers or sick. Granted, my dog can fulfill any one of those annoyances should I miss it. But sleep (and non-extra body heat) is definitely a perk people don't appreciate.

7) Chick flicks for me and no sharing the remote is joyous. I don't have to pretend to watch sports or endure Halo in the background. I also do not have to listen to Dora, who, like myself, is a very LOUD Latina, making declarative statements for 30 minutes. The Spanish-fluent squirrel is da bomb though. I watch Downtown without anyone whining about it and I don't even have barter!

8) Perhaps the greatest opportunity I have is the ability to serve at will and last minute. Because I don't have to check in, I'm able to drop what I'm doing to help out. There's so much satisfaction to be found in helping or accommodating others. It really blesses them and rewards me just in knowing I could be of use though I'm not constantly depended upon by people I call my own. In any case, I'm able to serve in many ways and free to be as busy or relaxed as I choose.

Just wanted to share these. I don't by any stretch imagine I would regret going on to the next stages, God willing, but rather enjoy what I have right now. If you haven't tried some of the above, I highly recommend them.