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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 17 - FMF: Long

Nothing too profound this week, or even very well written, but it's written and that's what matters.

It's been an long week, so this is a test to see how much I really trust that God can speak through me.  Because five minutes is not a very long time to try and hack out something profound out of nothing, but I'm going to put fingers to keys anyway.  I've got a million thoughts swimming in my head when I think about the word long.  "How long O Lord?"  "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you." And I guess that's actually it.  Yeah.  Maybe it's repetitive and totally expected for the word, but my heart longs after God.  The truth is, the only thing that can satisfy my deepest longing is the Presence of God.  I always think something else will work, it's not true.  Sleep doesn't mean rest.  Turning the brain off doesn't mean recuperation.  Happiness is not the same as joy and smooth sailing is not the same as peace.  I long for more rest.  I long for more consistent joy.  I long to walk in constant peace.  And what I'm really wanting is Him.  Every longing of my heart comes back to Him.  As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you.  Yes.  And deep cries out to deep.  In You I find all I need.  And one day, every longing will be completely filled as we stand in His presence and are never again separated.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 16 - 16 Things I'm learning

Well, it is Throwback Thursday, so I'm headed back to an entry I never got around to posting.  It was supposed to be called "24 Lessons I'm Soaking in at 24," and be posted on my 24th birthday, but I never could quite get to 24, so I gave up.  So today it's just a post about the things I'm learning (which just happened to total 16, and correspond to this day in the challenge.  I promise I didn't plan that!).  So here we go....

1.  You are never too old to get giddy-excited about seeing Mom and Dad.
2.  Hold everything in this life loosely to create space for what really matters.
3.  Google, Pinterest, and Facebook are gifts and tools the generations before us didn't have.  They're also a curse.
4.  It's never really about the work that we do as much as it is about God's work in and through us.
5.  There is no such thing as making the perfect decision.  All we can do is make a choice and trust God's sovereign will is bigger than us and always for our best.
6.  Make counting gifts and giving thanks a daily discipline.
7.  "You are rich when you are content with a life full of things that money can't buy" - Ann Voskamp
8.  Blogs are fantastic.  But nothing can replace turning off the screen and feeling paper between your fingers.
9.  NPR is so worth your time.
10.  The number of spaces filled in your day planner does not actually correspond to your level of fulfillment, purpose, or value.
11.  Never underestimate the power of these two phrases: "Thank you" and "I love you"
12.  Working out and eating right and living healthy isn't about a number on a scale or being seen as beautiful; it is about being a good steward of the body God has given you and being an effective vessel for His work through you.  Once you get that down, lasting motivation is much easier to find.
13.  "It is our imperfections that make us so perfect for each other." - Jane Austen, Emma.  Yeah, don't hide behind a mask.  Embrace vulnerability and imperfection.  That's where real connection happens.
14.  Tears don't mean weakness.  Tears mean surrender.  And if, "tomorrow's freedom is today's surrender," tears are where the healing begins.
15.  Introversion is not a flaw; it's just how some people are wired.  There are weaknesses that come with it.  There are also incredible gifts.  Once you simply own who you are -with all the strengths and weaknesses -  and give it over, God can use you in such powerful ways.  
16.  Perfection really is my enemy, because I've got to face the mistakes I've made and make every day, so I can see Redemption in progress.  And I've got to embrace my imperfections so that I can begin to fully receive the gift of Grace.  I miss so much when I get wrapped up in getting it all right.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31 Days of Trusting Grace - Day 15 - Visionary

She's got it written up there on one of those giant post-it pads.  All of our names under the title "strengths."  Then we start popcorning it out, all the strengths we see in each other.  They come around to me.  People say things.  We laugh.  I squirm in my seat.  But one thing someone says stands out to me: "She's a visionary."  Hmm... a visionary?  There's something weighty about that word to me.  And something incredibly empowering and affirming.  I like it.  So I look it up.

  1. 1.
    (especially of a person) thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom.
    "a visionary leader"

    1. 1.
      a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.

Imagination.  Wisdom.  Inspired.  Creative.  Will or could be like.  

I roll the words around in my head.  Yeah.  I'd like to be that.  And as Christ-followers, as people who have been given eternal life, as the Hope people, as the chosen Bride, we should be visionaries.  We should be inspired.  We should never be the ones bogged down by the here and now.  We should be the ones looking up and imagining what this world could be like... what this world will be like.

Because there is a day coming when all brokenness will be made whole.  There is a day coming when the relationships we've lost will be restored.  There is a day coming when the world and the universe will cease its groaning and all will be made right.  That's why we have the cross.  That's why we have the empty grave.  Because this is not the end.  There is a future.

Jesus was a visionary.  He looked at a ragged band of, well let's face it, fools and saw world-changers.  He looked at a torture device and saw redemption.  He looked at death and saw eternal life.  He looks at me and He sees a woman "clothed with strength and dignity," a beloved child.  Jesus was an expert at seeing things not as they are, but as they could be, as they will be one day.  

What if we all ran to Jesus and asked Him to teach us to see the same way?  What if we asked Him to make us a body of visionaries?  Oh, we could take the world by storm!  What joy we would experience if we looked at the world, at the people around us, and saw what will be, instead of what is!  I want that.  I want to be a visionary.