Monday, February 22, 2016

Plans

Plans. I've been making them since I was three.

One day I'm going to marry a prince and live in a beautiful pink and purple castle...

One day I'm going to be a beautiful actress like Brooke Shields...

One day I'm going to be a beautiful model like Christie Brinkley...

One day I'm going to be a teacher...

One day I'm going to be the perfect mother who doesn't let her child scream in the middle of Target...

One day my children are going to listen to me...

One day I'm going to achieve Houzz-like perfection...

Some dreams and plans die a hard, slow, very painful death. Some stay alive, burning in my soul, aching to come alive yet never really realizing their full potential. It's these plans for my life that I have the firmest grip on, and a determination to make them succeed.

My plans for my day and my life are mostly made to benefit moi. I know it sounds selfish, and I would agree that it is. And ultimately, my plans, whether they are short-term goals to grow longer lashes (today's mental expenditure) or to organize the basement, or longer-term goals, like going back to school, they are made to make me look better and be better and do better. A better me. Who can argue with that?

Except that I believe that God also has plans for me; plans for peace and not evil, to give me a future and a hope (jeremiah 29:11). And in my finite, limited view of the world and my place in it, it is entirely possible for me to continue on with my plans--good as they may be-- and disregard His and still entirely miss the point.

I don't like chaos. It is perhaps because there tends to be so much going on in my head that I have trouble containing it, and in my younger years, saw that internal rumble spilling over as disorganization and a seeming inability to pull it together. An unholy mess of life all mixed up with me sitting in the middle, trying to plan my way out. As a result, 2016 brings on such a rigid organization (ahem...labeled cabinets) that I find myself inflexible and unmoving, seeking perfection and organization in everything I do.

God's plans for me, when investigated, come with promises that I could never dream up on my own. And even if I did, what power do I have to make absolutely certain that my promises to myself come true? A part of humanity that is true yet pushed aside as weak, I choose to see it as a part of life. I am limited. But for every weakness I have, His power and strength are revealed (2 corinthians 12:9), and His grace covers me. And even within the confines of humanity, I can lay claim to the promises that He gives, through His mercy and grace. I can roll the dice, but God decides what they will determine (proverbs 16:33).

So with (quite a bit of!) trepidation, I open my iron fist just enough to look at today. Yes, I have a plan in place. I believe that my plan is good for me. But what of God and His plan for this day? Should He have a say? Could I even begin to think that while my plan is good, His could be better? That, in fact, His plan for my day could be more than I ever could have asked or imagined? The thing is, I won't know until I'm willing to open up that iron fist and trust that He is, in the words of Margaret Feinburg, up to something good.

Thievery happens in all sorts of strange and unsuspecting ways; one minute, you think you have it all organized and figured out, and the next, you find yourself slave to your to-do lists and your busyness and your plans. Is there joy in organization? Certainly. In absolute rigidity? Maybe one could argue for some truth there, but the reality is, many forms of rigidity are fear in disguise, and fear is the opposite of joy and peace. Joy is stolen right out from under your nose. The ultimate scam.

What now? This is my thought for the day. Not just my singular thought, I should say, but my plural. Thoughts. Being open to God's plan means dying to my own. Hard as it may be for me, I crave that abundant, joyful life He promised in John 10:10, and on some days, it becomes an internal battle for what I crave more. For what I crave the most. My friend Erin tells a story (I won't get it exactly right but...) about two wolves, a good wolf and an evil wolf, both fighting for survival. Which one will live? The one you feed the most.

Cash is something most of us can relate to, and is definitely something many of us want.  But if we could stop for a minute and equate our minutes to our cash, an idea I got from Jennie Allen's study stuck, then we can say how are we spending our minutes just like we might say how am I spending my money? Are we wasting them, or saving them, or using them fully? I don't want to get to the end of my life full of apologies for how I chose to spend my minutes, knowing I don't have many left. And since none of us know exactly when the end of our lives may be...today is the day.

Let's live it well.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Less Traveled

Today I pondered over the question what do I really want out of this life.1 In my mind I could have answered the question two ways, but instead of quickly answering with peace, love, happiness, stuff, I forced myself to really assess what it is I want out of life. This life. Today. Because, see, I'm stuck, probably like a lot of people, in the I wish and One Day categories. I wish I was less distracted and more outgoing. I wish my sister lived closer. I wish my kids would listen. I wish I had horses. I wish...and one day I will deal with my anxiety and finally be happy. One day I will have less heartache. One day my kids will get it. One day I will be truly filled with joy. One day...

One day I will stop being stuck.

When I truly consider the things that I think I want out of this life, my list is shorter than I realize. It's simple, really. Peace. Joy. Less fear. Less heartache. To enjoy life. To live life to the fullest. And yet I find myself not able to attain those things, truly, because I hold back. I question. I wonder why. I let myself get distracted by the antidotes the world has to offer. My heart aches over the frustration of never being quite filled enough, never being quite content enough, always reaching yet never quite close enough to grasp. So I settle. I settle for good because I'm scared of what could be great. Can Great be trusted? Will Great follow through? Will Great really fulfill what my heart is searching for? Is contentment an idea or a reality?

Somewhere along the way we as a group must have decided that settling for the antidotes was better than truly searching for contentment, and we hold on tight to those things we know don't work and probably never will but we desperately wish would.

Don't you open up that window
Don't you let out that antidote...
I just want dinero...
{travis scott}

So what would it take to never be jealous or discontent again?2 I'm sure a list could be made, and it would look different for everyone. Friends. Love. Relief from addiction, anxiety, depression, anger, hopelessness, pain, loneliness, grief. More stuff. Nicer stuff. Beauty. Weight loss. Respect. Health. Those things that represent Contentment. Those things that are within sight but mostly out of reach. Those things that distract and dissolve into smoke and mirrors. Those things. How do you conquer a list that is constantly shifting underneath your feet?

I'll probably never, ever be content. Really. Even if I had it all. Truth. I have a beautiful life and while I have a want list, I also know that the happy it brings is fleeting. Even if I had All The Things (and I'm talking about non-material things, too, like friends, peace, wisdom, discernment), that yawning hole of discontentment would only temporarily be filled.

Life offers many paths. It's not a simple as Robert Frost makes it sound. A fork in the road with only two options would be a blessing to some people. But when all the options you think you have are exhausted and none of them have worked, the road less traveled is typically where one finds herself standing. While other grounds shift, this One remains steady and true.

Fear and distrust are merely choices, not permanent sentences. And we have been given the freedom to choose.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
{robert frost}


1,2 Questions taken from stuck by Jennie Allen