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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Worthy imitation

I jotted down a few sentences.
I erased.
I read (and attempted to analyze) someone else's blog.

I scribbled down some more words.
Made adjustments.
Erased again.
Analyzed another blog.

As someone who really likes being relational and enjoys observing other people's writing styles, I regularly check in on multiple different blogs in a wide range of styles and purposes.  Honestly, I don't even know all of the blog authors that I read, yet I still enjoy reading what they have to say...and, most of all, how they say it.

I find it captivating that a personality can be so evident through word usage and even punctuation or emphases.  I am fascinated by the way that each individual arranges words and puts two very different pictures together to create a strangely relate-able concept or the way that a person can so accurately put to words a feeling that pulls on my heart, too, so that I want to say "that's what I've been wanting to communicate all along."  The words and ideas flow in perfect and unique smoothness, like a river of chocolate for the mind to drink up.

But sometimes I want to drink up their writing for the wrong reason: I want my writing style to become a flawless reflection of their writing style.  (I have no problem with studying other talented writers for the sake of self-improvement, but it isn't healthy when done in an obsessive way that searches for how to imitate without plagiarizing!)
I look at my own general attempt at writing and my blog and grow frustrated with myself.  I can think creatively and outside-the-boxy and I can even be funny sometimes, but it seems like my fingers, my pen, my computer keys can't be any of those things.

When I read my writing, it doesn't sound like the writers I admire.  My thoughts can't seem to be translated into written sentences in the way that I hear them in my head.  I know every piece of the struggle behind writing for myself, and I hate it.  I hate that writing comes to me so slowly and painfully when it used to be an extension of myself as a kid.  I hate that my writing--and the process itself--is filled with flaws, when it's really a work in progress for everyone.  We are just all at different stages.

In reality, I want my writing to become someone else's writing instead.

And it's not just writing.  I have a tendency, like many, many of us do, to make comparisons in numerous areas of my life.  I want to look like someone else, talk like someone else, and have brains like someone else.  I tell myself that being me isn't good enough.  It's not cutting the cake.  So life becomes a cycle of trying.  Trying harder to resemble whatever I am not.  And I'm wasting my time trying to resemble the wrong people and things.

Paul tells us "Be imitators of GOD," but when I view the world I habitually tell myself "be an imitator of her style, of his writing, of those passionate people."  All the while I forget that I'm wasting my time by not doing what God instructed in Ephesians.
What would life look like if I started spending that mental time figuring out how to imitate God as accurately as possible?  I bet it would be freeing.  It would be rewarding.  It would be a fulfillment of the highest calling that is offered.

Let's answer the higher calling together.  Imitate Christ's truly perfect example.

(Other resources: highly recommend my friend's blog, particularly her post on comparison)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Showing up with a secret message

Ever feel like God isn't listening?  Or like asking for something that sounds awfully close to impossible is just a waste of time?  Ever feel like giving up on trusting God to come through?  Like what you asked for or needed wasn't realistic anyway?  Like maybe amazing things happened in the Bible, but not for you?

Over here in Washington state, snow is a rare and beautiful thing (well, beautiful to most of us).  Maybe it's the Alaskan in me (where I was born) or maybe it's just the kid in me, but I am a big fan of the snow.  Every winter my family and I enter and endure the season with high hopes that it will snow at least once.  I'm always down for having the snow around and urging it to stay as long as possible.  Winter sports are among our favorites - skiing, snowboarding, sledding - and we will do these activities in any kinds of conditions as long as there is snow of some degree on the ground.

But I didn't even bother hoping for snow this year.

Back in November I looked ahead at the weather.  It wasn't promising, so I decided early on to not waste time hoping for snow.  Like many years in the past, my hopes would be high only to come crashing down when I was finally willing to admit that spring had really arrived.  

I don't think I released my hopefulness as entirely as I intended to, though.  January tends to be our coldest, stormiest month.  If it doesn't snow by the end of January, we're pretty well sunk in that department.  January of 2019 passed by with strange mixes of temperatures and even a disappointing lack of rain.  I resigned myself to the early onset of spring with a tinge of disappointment.

Then the first week of February brought with it wild and suspicious predictions for snow.  (That is, "wild" for where I live.)  Being the proficient pessimist that I am, I responded to these reports with "well, that's not really gonna happen."  After all, I had to stay true to my commitment to not get my hopes up.

Driving through snow actually does look like flying through space...
The first and then second day of the snow storm dates came and went.  We did get snow, but it amounted to less than an inch.  

Me: typical Washington report.  People are freaking out over a snowflake on the road.  So much for that "storm."  The pessimist in me was 100% active, voicing probabilities of rain starting any day now and washing away our faint dream.  I inwardly glared at myself for beginning to hope for a measurable snowfall when it started sticking to the ground.  I wasn't going to do that this year!

BAM. (Or, rather, the silent, white snowfall version of "bam.")  Two days later I was out sledding with neighbors in the deepest snow that has ever surrounded my own home.  I've seen snow like that on mountain passes and ski resorts, but it was quite a new marvel to have almost 2 feet of snow in Washington at my own house.  

That's when the message came through.  God used the snow to tell me that He wants to surprise me with His best when I least expect it.

God seems to work on a totally different timeline than I do.  For a person who revels in being on top of things and ahead of schedule, I can get pretty easily frustrated with God's "last minute" answers.  I say, "God, I really need You to come through, like, a week ago."  Or I begin to settle for something a little less because maybe my request was too big anyway.

This time...well, this time I have to agree that God's secret message to me was very timely.  I needed Him to tell me that He's going to give me His best.  I needed to be reminded that, though my deadline may have passed, He's going to show up on schedule according to His sovereignty with exactly what I need.  I needed to remember that, whatever waiting I go through for provision in housing, finances, or other decisions, is not going to end in "return to sender."  It's going to come to a climax with the best surprise God can think of.

Whatever you may be praying for or waiting on, keep hanging in there.  He's listening to you and caring for you just like He did for our Biblical heroes.  Keep trusting because He's going to show up with a marvelously fitting answer.

A week later, the rain is still valiantly attempting to wash away the snow with very slow progress.  (I have to say that having no expectations for snow sure makes it a whole lot more fun when it does show up.)  I was definitely ok with being home-bound for 6 days, stomping around in snow up to my knees.  And I'm always ok with God sending me secret messages in unique forms, too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Notes from a single

I seem to be suffering from a serious case of "blog about topics I never intended to blog on."  Maybe I should start a series....
A few weeks ago I shared an article on social media about singleness and the church's response to people who don't fit into the neat categories of children's ministry, youth group, or married/family boxes, and I think my post was probably misunderstood.  (I highly encourage you to read the original article.  It's a wonderful read for people in all phases of life!)  I personally avoid beginning a public discussion on such issues for fear that people will conclude that I'm discontent or feeling neglected.  So, naturally, I decided to turn the topic into a blog post to bring clarity to my direct violation of a personal policy.  ツ  Besides, it's almost Valentine's, which is always a great time to acknowledge singles.

There is an older Christian man I know who is very sweet and theologically sound.  However, every time he approaches me, I can expect that the topic will somehow (whether immediately or not) land on the fact that I am single (and shouldn't be).
One time he asked about my college plans, which topic he often uses to lead into my need for Mr. Sharon.  At the time I had recently made some adjustments to my college and career path, and I was actually pretty excited about these changes and about sharing my goals with others.  Then he stopped me mid-way and said "have you considered going to ____ Christian College?"  (The underlying idea, made quite clear, was that I needed to put myself in situations where getting married would become a near future probability.)  I have to admit that this kind of hurt.  Not only was he not really listening out of undivided interest; he was also wanting to insert an advertisement for what he thought I should do with my life.  I left the situation thinking does he not trust my relationship with God?  And the fact that I've prayed over these decisions and battled long hours over what (and where) GOD wants to do with my life?  I know that, in reality, he probably does not distrust my relationship with God as a Christian and that he only wants to show concern for my future.  But it becomes burdensome when the only interest he and others know how to show toward my life is consumed by the topic of getting married.

He is not the only one like this.  There are others, and probably for you as well (assuming you're single), who can't seem to get past the assumption that they should help me move toward a married life.  (I find that these people are usually senior citizens...maybe they are just feeling the shortness of life.)  And you know what it feels like after so many repeated encounters?  It feels like they're trying to plant seeds of discontentment in my life...that they want to applaud a sense of uneasiness over my singleness.  It's as if they are confirming the thought that "life starts when you get married" rather than affirming where I feel led right now.

But if I'm not content with God's plan for my life as it is today, how can I expect to be perfectly at peace in His next phase for me?  And does God really want me to be initiating and chasing after guys just so I can be married?  Honestly, I'm not interested in wasting my time like that, and I'm not interested in being married just to check that off a to-do list.

These people give little reinforcement or even interest toward my life where God has put me now...and I think that's really sad.  It's sad to me that so many people are so focused on either kids or couples that they miss the in-between group.  It's sad that people are more interested in pressing me toward finding a life partner than in hearing about what God has been teaching me or what makes me excited about life as it is right now or what my current goals are.

I wish these people could see that, while marriage is a gift, singleness is also a gift of its own.  I am not missing out on God's blessings just because I'm not married!  The blessings are just going to be different.  And that is perfectly ok.  God makes it pretty clear with Adam and Eve at the very beginning of time that marriage is a gift.  But Paul also makes it very clear in 1 Corinthians that being single has a benefits package all of its own as well.  I want to be free to rest in the opportunities and gifts that God has put in my present life instead of pining over what I may want my life to look like or what I expected it to be like by now.

The fact is that I'm very content and grateful in the present stage of singleness, and I feel like God has me in this phase for a reason.  I don't feel out of place, and God has provided me with wonderful supporters and friends through couples and singles alike.  Contrary to the opinion of many Christians I know, my life goal is not to get married and raise those 20 kids I wanted as an 8-year-old.  My life goal is to honor God and follow His leading in any and every phase of life that He gives...and to be completely content in doing just that.


So if you are single, too, I encourage you to recognize the benefits in that and use the benefits to their full potential.  Be thankful for where you're at because that's probably exactly where God wants you to be.
And if you're married, don't forget to show genuine interest and friendship with singles and encourage them in the journey that God has written for them...not the one you think should be written.  We already get a good dose of that from other people.  😏