Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 24 - FMF: Dare


Hey you, I  don't know if you know this but you are pretty brave.  Every day of your life is full of daring and death-defying feats.  Like getting out of bed and choosing to smile when you don't feel like it.  Like doing it all again just one more time.  Like driving to work and choosing to love those kids and those co-workers even if they make it hard.  Like putting one foot in front of the other and putting yourself out there and sharing ideas and trying to make a difference.  You may think we don't see it.  You may think that your life is boring, humdrum, anything but a grand adventure.  You're wrong.  You're shaking up this world because He's moving through you.  You're leaving a little bit of His grace everywhere you go and we need that so much.  Your prayers, they matter.  The things you dare to bring to His throne of grace and lay down?  The things you dare to cry out to Him?  Those things make a difference.  You make a difference because you dare to be here.
You're fighting battles with the enemy every moment of the day.  Don't you dare think you're not worth something.  The enemy doesn't bother with people who don't matter.  You are loved.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 23 - Just Stay (a re-post for TBT)

Okay, so this is kind of cheating, but it's program day (my first program ever as the ONLY music teacher!) so I can't even imagine sitting down to write.  Plus, I stumbled across this post as I was writing yesterday and it is so timely and it s TBT so I thought why not?  I'll be back with something new for Five Minute Friday tomorrow.

After picture day I find the proofs in my box.  Teaching year two and I look none the worse for the wear.  But yeah, you can see it in my smile, the tension all through my jaw line reflecting my clenched fists.  No wonder I'm feeling that old ache from the neck up then down into the shoulders.  I shake my head. 

I had been honest with him the night before.  "I am a hot mess.  No one wants to be around me right now."  He had responded with a wink, "I'd be willing to risk it."  So he came over because I asked him to, braved the puffy eyes and just-out-of-the-shower hair.  And on the tail end of one of my standard break-downs, we sat and talked. 

It's just that I don't ever tell people how hard it really is sometimes.  I live with this never-let-em-see-ya-sweat mentality.  I don't ever talk about how it's really not like the ideal I had pictured.  I don't ever talk about how I am striving to spend this one life well and really Live and be all here and pour it all out and scatter my gifts and sow seeds and love these kids and live a ministry and be the light of Jesus everywhere I go and make a radical difference and I always feel like I'm failing.  How somewhere I convinced myself it was supposed to be easy and it's not and I put so. much. pressure. on myself.  How it never feels like enough.  How life feels out of control and out of my reach and joy is fading fast with my strength.  And I am just. so. tired! 
And the thing is...

Ideals can become idols.  And idolatry can grip like a vise 'til you can't breathe.

Because, let's be honest.  Somewhere between lesson plans and crazy kids and roommates leaving dishes in the sink and trying to squeeze in a little time for coffee I forgot... again.  I stopped chasing after the Presence of God that leads to a radically abundant Life and started lunging for control.  I became less concerned with making a difference than with shaping my own image.  But today... today I am remembering.  I am remembering that I make this Life thing harder than it is.  That I need daily bread, well, daily and I can find it that often if I'll just step out of the tent.  That it is God's job to shape me into His image and my job to yield and surrender to the Holy Spirit.  That Christ lives in me and shines through me.  And no, it's not easy.  No, it's not comfortable.  But I'm remembering that living radical calls us out of our comfort zones and "the one who calls you is faithful and He will do it."  It is rehearsing the refrain.  Being faithful today.  Giving up and giving it over.  Gathering the manna.  Marveling in the mystery.  Believing I am Beloved before the first step.  Counting the gifts.  It's the Sanity Manifesto all over again.  And the words I have been struggling to write on my heart begin to rise up within: "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

And so it's back to this opening the hands each morning, breathing deep, and surrendering all.  Because that sliver of a moon and single star, that choir concert last night that made the breath catch in my throat, that pillow and blanket that keep me warm but make it a little hard to get up in the morning... These are the little gifts that remind me He is always good and I am always loved and Life is not as hard as I make it.  Just stay.  Open hands to receive Holy Spirit.  Open hands to pour out the overflow of grace.  And it is that.  Grace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 22 - A Matter of Focus

"Simplicity is never  a matter of circumstances.  Simplicity is always a matter of focus."  That's what Ann Voskamp says, and it's been swimming in my brain today.  Because sometimes life just runs so swiftly and it feels so chaotic and I'm struggling just to put two thoughts together and keep my head above water.  And we're all there.  In today's insta-culture, we're all feeling the crushing weight of a rushed life.  We talk about saying no and simplifying but it seems so impossible, so we keep on keeping on and we're running ragged and tired and hope and joy and Life?  They're all just hanging by a thread.  Or maybe it's just me....

But my circumstances aren't going to change.  As much as I'd like to, I can't run away to the mountains in the middle of the week and shut life out.  I can't run away from responsibilities and the demands of life.  And, honestly, I don't want to.  I just want things to slow down a little bit.  I just want life to be a little simpler, fewer moving parts, a few less spinning plates.  But that's not really the answer.  Really, I need to train my focus.  

We live in a world of 20 million windows open on our 30 million screens.  We live a life of division and fragmentation, and call it "multi-tasking," when really, the only task we're accomplishing is driving ourselves insane or at least into the ground.  What if I trained myself to focus on one thing at a time?  What if I trained myself to focus only on what is in front of me in that moment?  What if I prioritized my to-do lists and only tackled one item at a time, but gave that one item my full attention and energy?  What if I trusted grace enough to lay it down at the end of the day, or (and this is crazy, I know) for a few minutes in the middle of the day, and just took a breath and rested?  And it takes trust because I'm so afraid that if I don't tackle everything at once I'm going to miss something, but the truth is, it will be there tomorrow, and even if I miss something, it's not the end of the world.

So that's what I'm doing.  I'm headed back to the Sanity Manifesto and I'm taking one thing at a time.  Training myself to focus, rather than fall prey to distraction (she typed as she came back from 5 minutes of Facebook distraction).  Simplicity is a matter of focus and focus always takes practice.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 21 - When You've Got Nothing Left to Give

Short and sweet today, because when you have nothing left to give... give thanks.

So here's the list:
-My "always be a music teacher" shirt - to remind me that, even on the hard days, I wouldn't want to do anything else.
-An amazing concert this weekend with some fantastic kids
-A visit from Mom and Dad
-Supportive co-workers who have my back
-Cool fall mornings
-Tiny Companion curled up by my side
-Left overs in the fridge
-Rocking chairs for the front porch
-Sneak attack hugs from the kids
-Surprising a sweet friend I haven't seen in forever
-Such fantastic memories from my first year teaching (how many people can say that?!)
-Sun setting on the day and a chance to start again tomorrow

Monday, October 20, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 20 - Why say yes?

So this is nothing new.  None of these thoughts are original, nor are they profound.  But they are important.  I need to learn to say NO.  Now, I always say this, but it's usually at the wrong time, like when I feel like I'm being buried under more and more stuff to do and I feel like I can't come up for air.  That's the moment I realize I should have said no, when realizing it before would have been much more helpful.

But maybe I'm going about this the wrong way.  Maybe it's not as much about learning to say no as it is about waiting before I say yes.  Because, if I stop and think about it, the things that are pushing me over the edge are the things I was quickest to say yes to, and the things I gave the least consideration.  I think I've stumbled onto something that will prove incredibly helpful... What if, before I give an answer for how I will spend my time and energy, I asked myself this one question: Why say yes?

If I'm honest, my answers to that question for my "quick yeses" aren't too great:
-It will make me look so... competent, valuable, reliable, needed, self-sacrificing, indispensable, impressive, you name it.
-They won't like me if I say no.
-If I were half the woman [insert name here] is, I would be able to handle it.
-If I don't do it, it won't be done well enough. (I am gagging on the pride in that statement!)
-I'm already so far in over my head, what's one more thing?
-This opportunity won't come around again.  I can't miss it!
-I feel so obligated/guilty.

I could go on, but I'm already making myself sick.  The root of my quick yeses is insecurity and pride.  I can't sugar coat it or pretend any differently.

Now, my answers to that question for my "slow yeses" are fewer, but so much better:
-This is a use of my gifts and it is mutually beneficial to us all (i.e. It feeds my soul too.)
-I actually do have space for that. (Not sure I ever give that answer)
-I truly feel Called to this and that is worth the sacrifice.
-This has long term benefits and is worth the sacrifice.
-This falls under my responsibility as a good steward of my time, energy, and other resources.

There are more but I think I'm seeing the pattern.  With every slow and healthy yes, I make myself aware that it is a sacrifice of time and energy and I make sure it's worth it.  And here's the other reason "Why say yes?" is such an important question - because, when I feel in over my head, I can ask myself again and be reminded that I deemed it a worthy sacrifice.  And if it is a worthy sacrifice, I can't really complain.  I can feel stretched.  I can cry out for extra grace, but I can't really complain.  And if I'm doing something that's not a worthy sacrifice, I can repent of pride and still cry out for grace.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 19 - A Prayer for the Week

Lord, sometimes it feels like we're just barely keeping our head above water.  Like no matter how hard we try not to, we always have more plates spinning than we can manage.  We try to live simply, to make space, but sometimes we find ourselves right in the middle of the rush, and it's hard to see from here, God.  It's hard to see how we can be like You.  It's hard to see the Beauty.  It's hard to see the opportunities to love.  It's hard to see the gifts.  It's hard to breathe.

So God, this week, will you breathe for us?  Will you breathe peace into our anxieties?  Will you breathe hope into our pain?  Will you breathe love into our fear?  Will you breathe strength into our weakness?  Lord, will you teach us how to stop, even just for a moment, and exhale?

That's all this week, God.  When we can't breathe, breathe for us.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 18 - The Only Thing that Matters

I'm standing outside, still in that dress.  I feel like I've been wearing dresses like this for most of my life.  Floor length black (well, at one point it was GREEN but we don't talk about that) with pearls.  All through middle school into college.  And I thought that when I graduated I would be done singing in choirs, done with the uniforms and the binders and the stages.  Apparently not.  I'm still singing, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Things are different now though.  I still sing and I still perform but now... now I get to conduct.  And I've found that there is nothing better than becoming a conductor.  Because, when I conduct and turn my back to the audience, it's like, just for a moment nothing is about me.  It's all about those children in front of me and drawing the Beauty out of them.  It's about setting them free to create something beautiful.  It's about setting them up for success and releasing them into the joy of the art.  It's about something that I can't take credit for.  It's humbling, and it's such an honor.  It makes me feel so small in the best way.  Like there is so much that is beyond me, beyond words, beyond here and now.  Like I'm just a tiny part of something much, much bigger, but it is pure grace just to be a part of it at all.  

I've been a performer my whole life, but nothing stirs my heart like this.  I love how Ann says it, "The only way to lead a symphony is to turn your back to the crowd, the critics, the court."  Yeah, maybe that's why I love it so much.  Because there are so many stages in life, but the Beauty being created is the only thing that matters.  

I can't believe I get to do this - live my life drawing Beauty out of little souls.  Such grace.