Re-Opening: an internal reflection during an outward time of change

It’s a unique time. Some call August the beginning of the end of summer (only true if you have kids…), and while we look towards September and all the questions of the fall, we are still in the weeks of summer sunshine and freedom

Which, naturally, means that it is time for me to take some time and lean into this in-between time called August and think.

I don’t know if this is a me thing or everyone does this, but every so often I find myself longing to re-evaluate my life. I have an overwhelming need to look at where I’m at, what I’ve done, and where I’m going. Maybe it’s the list maker in me or the side of me obsessed with controlling my own future, or maybe it’s the part of me that is absolutely terrified to wake up one day and feel like I’ve wasted my life…whatever it is, these last 2 weeks have been the perfect catalyst for me to sit and think about the next few years.

Truthfully, I also probably find myself revisiting my lists and goals more often than I intend to because God has a sneaky way of nudging me (maybe shoving when I’m being particularly stubborn) towards the next right step forward. So I took some time and looked at my 30-by-30 list. If you’ve been around this blog for a few years, you might remember me talking about my 25-by-25 list on my 25th birthday. Making these time sensitive lists help me break down things I can try to do to move in the direction I want to go. They also force me to a. think bigger than I normally would, b. break out larger goals into smaller steps, and c. remind myself to do fun things, too.

Looking at the next 1.5 years before I turn 30, my main goal is that I want to be moving towards being a person who loves deeply, gives generously, and moves in wisdom, strength, integrity, and honesty to further the kingdom of God.

Getting there is … a little daunting. But I hope that I will move towards it with lots of grace, holding some of these things with open hands – if I’ve learned anything in the last 3.5 years it’s that anything can happen.

If you’d like to look at my updated 30-by-30 list you can find it here. One of my goals is to live a more open/transparent life which is why you’re getting this fairly short little post about it! 

Wishing you all the best as we run through the fields of August into everything the fall is holding for us.

Thoughts on Depression (hello, I am back)

Talking about what it’s like to come out of depression feels…harder in a way than talking about depression does. Let me explain. When you are depressed, you can just say that you’re not ok. We’ve sort of come to a place as a society to accept those sorts of statements, and we know what to say to someone. We are constantly getting better at accepting the role of therapy in our lives and we know that “it does get better” (and truly, it does, I promise).

The thing I’ve learned, though, is that healing is not linear (and oh, how I wish it was). Coming out of depression is starting to feel better and then realizing all the messes that you have around you because you weren’t taking care of them when you were taking care of you. Your house is probably a disaster. Your personal hygiene routines might need to be reset. Your physical body may not resemble what you thought it used to.

Oh, and the world? It kept going. Many of your friends are no longer as close as they used to be. Unreturned calls and texts, cancelled plans, and not talking divide those relationships you used to hold dear. You still hold dear. But to reach out and try to fix it still feels overwhelming.

Because it’s not linear. You don’t just get better. You start getting better. You are constantly learning new things about yourself and dealing with things that set you off. You are learning that some weekends will just destroy you – and your coping mechanisms won’t work perfectly 100% of the time.  Sadness is still a hue part of who you are and you wonder if people want to walk along side that as you keep trying to get better, even if you do slide backwards sometimes.

Meanwhile you are still sorting out everything you’ve worked through. New revelations about why you do things certain ways and trying to fix them (and being very aware when you still haven’t). Dealing with things that trigger overwhelming feelings – triggers you didn’t know you had. And you still have a pile of things to sift through. Thoughts, feelings, ideas … how has this impacted your faith? Your perception and understanding of yourself? How you express yourself?

And it is lonely.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

– Genesis 28:16 (ESV)

In this passage from Genesis, Jacob has had a dream about how his descendants will cover the earth. He awakes and knows that even though he couldn’t see it when he went to sleep, the LORD was present. He then builds an Ebenezer – a pillar of stones as a marker of where the LORD had spoken to him.

God hasn’t given me a special dream to show me why I have had to work through all of these things – why I am still feeling like I will never fully be whole. And yet I know that He is in this place. He is between the lines of my journals as I write out my thoughts. He is in the space between my ragged sobs on the darker nights. He is in the gentle words and hugs of dear friends holding me up.

I have been writing this post for weeks. I just couldn’t get it to come together. I think it’s because I wanted to be fully healed and done before I wrote it. I thought my pile of rocks (i.e. special blog post on the internet) couldn’t be built until I was done. But Jacob’s story wasn’t done after he built the alter at Bethel. And I want to remember this time – and I want to be able to look back and see the things I’m learning. That’s truly what this blog is for me – a record of where I’ve been. I’ve been so afraid to write anything for the last 2 or so years…but I’m back (I hope). It’s nice to see you again.

Ordinary Worship

It is 1am and I cannot sleep.

I don’t know if that’s a sentiment you can share – I’ve definitely been up this late on purpose before. But tonight I did not want to stay up until 1am. Far from it – in fact I’m hoping to wake up at 5am…

Tonight I can’t sleep because my mind is everywhere. Lately I’ve been trying to read or scroll through the internet until I get so tired I pass out – but that’s been taking longer and longer to happen and so here I am. 1am. Deciding that if I’m going to be awake I might as well try and write out some of my thoughts instead of letting them swirl in my head. I also took bread dough out of the fridge so now I’m committed to letting it finish proofing and then baking it. I’ve watched 6 seasons of the Great British Baking Show and if I’ve learned anything from Paul Hollywood it’s that you can’t renege on proofing your bread dough.

Tonight I am drifting between two topics: of grief and of worship. The former is due to the recent passing of my grandfather and the latter is similarly related but also just because I have been thinking about the next season of leading worship at church.

Part of why I’m sitting here is that I am of the mind that worship is much more than singing songs and playing instruments on a Sunday morning (or at any other church/parachurch meeting/alone/etc. I’m pretty sure I’m right because Paul backs me up in Romans 12:1.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Now, if you’re like me, you were probably super thrown off by the ESV translation of  λογικὴν λατρεία to “spiritual worship” – but no fear; they have a footnote that says it can also be translated to “rational service”. Why they picked spiritual worship I don’t know, since rational service is a much more direct translation (or reasonable worship), but if I took an exegesis class I might have a better idea.

Anyway, point being that by physically committing our lives and bodies to God we are worshiping him.

Now I’m going to back up one more step and get a quick dictionary definition of worship, because I think in the church the word “worship” is one of those weird words where we throw it around all the time but we never really define it very well/when put in the spot we can’t say what it really is (or maybe that’s just me?). So worship, according to my Google search is “to show reverence or adoration.”

We can easily see how singing praise songs shows reverence and/or adoration to God. That’s kind of what singing about/to someone IS. Going back to Paul & Romans, though, we see that we are to also show reverence and adoration by offering our lives to his service. A living sacrifice is a little bit of a weird oxymoron since a sacrifice is generally something that you kill. But God doesn’t ask us to kill our livestock, offspring, or selves for him. He asks us to live – and by living I’m pretty sure He’s just talking about doing our daily ordinary things in a way that shows him reverence and adoration.

I honestly don’t think either the ordinary or the extra-ordinary lend themselves perfectly to being able to “live for God.” In some ways the ordinary is easier – we can get into rhythms and routines that can easily be tailored to revere God. However, the ordinary is also very, well, ordinary. It can get boring and monotonous and become easy to forget to do the simple things as acts of worship – or just seem a bit pointless (brushing my teeth as worship does sound a little out there).

In contrast, sometimes extra-ordinary things are really easy to use as acts of worship. Weddings and births and other exciting things can easily lead to choices and actions as we consciously behave in reasonable worshipful ways. After all, it’s usually easier to adore someone who gives you a good thing. However, sometimes we just…forget. So caught up in the moment and the things that we forget who and what we’re actually living for. And then there is the opposite end of extra-ordinary, which can be equally as difficult or easy. Being worshipful in loss, hardship, and grief? I mean … it can be easy to rest in God’s peace but getting there and laying down your burdens can be so, so hard.

A friend recently asked me if I thought that leading worship the day after my grandpa passed away made my worship that morning more or less genuine. What followed was an extremely brief conversation that I wish had been longer. It’s got me thinking a lot about how worship is more than songs, and how if you are claiming to worship God, you ought to be committing to worship in happy and upsetting moments. You are committing to walk your entire life with Him and worship throughout all of it.

Romans 12 can say “therefore” because Paul just spent 11 chapters talking about how we are saved by Jesus and how this works with and fulfills “the law” so we can be saved by faith. So we are therefore, in response to this, choosing to give our bodies and lives (this is me performing my own exegesis – that by “body” they are talking about more than just the flesh I inhabit, but that it extends to the actions and things I do in this body) and that in doing so we are saying that regardless of what happens, we are choosing to turn to look at God. Choosing to seek him and his face despite our circumstances – in both the extra-ordinary and the ordinary.

And so this brings me to my now 2am thoughts: if worship is an outpouring based off of what God has done in our lives, then ordinary times ought to find us in a perpetual state of worship. Similarly, extra-ordinary moments, whether happy or sad, ought to lead us to deeper moments of worship. That worship might look like exuberant singing, but it might look like broken hallelujahs or silent sitting. Whatever it looks like, it is choosing to show reverence and adoration as we walk and wrestle through our thoughts and feelings.

It is now 3:30am. I don’t know when I will sleep, but I know that I can rest a little easier knowing that as I walk through each moment I am still seeking the face of God and resting on the sure hope of the promises being fulfilled one day. I am working out what it means to be a living sacrifice – and I’m trying my best to live my ordinary (and extra-ordinary) worship. And that’s good enough for 3:30am – and every other ordinary moment that will come.

Good Bones

WordPress nicely reminded me that I started this blog 7 years ago. Well, May 31 2012 was my first post – so a little over 7 years ago. When I started blogging, I had no information on here that identified me aside from the blog name – and only a few people in the world would have known to link that back to me. I would post things and privately send the link to a few friends so they could read what I had written. Fast forward to a year ago when I took a full plunge and updated my site, bought a domain, made a Facebook page, and decided I would wholly embrace being identified through this blog.

Upon this moment of reflecting on 7 years of blogging regularly (and also not-so-regularly — how do people have time or energy to post all the time???), I took a moment to go back and re-read some of my earliest posts. Reading my old thoughts is something else. I posted on here and other places during some really really high points in my spiritual walk, but also some really low ones. Each post is a little snapshot of where I was and what I was learning at the time. My style has changed over the years, as has my jargon, but also – most interestingly – my faith has morphed over the years.

There’s a song that’s been stuck in my head the week or so – the chorus in particular (which is always how it is???)

When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it rain ’cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when the bones are good
– The Bones, Maren Morris

The song is written about her relationship with her husband, but as the words and melodic riff cycle through my head for the umpteenth day in a row, I started thinking about how they also remind me of a very familiar passage of scripture:

 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
– Matthew 7:24-27

I say my faith has morphed over the years – and I mean that in the best way possible. Originally I was anonymous on this blog because I was afraid of backlash or people getting mad/judging me based on what I was writing. part of growing in my faith was learning not to be ashamed of the seasons I go through – and there have been SEASONS.

As I re-read my old posts, though, I am also reminded of the constancy that is Christ. Sometimes as I walk through highs and lows I am presently aware of how He is still there, other times I have not been able to see Him, feel Him, or understand where He possibly could be, but I know that He is. My faith and thoughts on faith have changed as I grow, stretch and am stretched, and face various things in my life, but the weathering of the storm comes down to the fact that the base is there. As I test and explore things, the “home base” that I come back to remains the same.

My life  sometimes feels like paint is peeling, glass is shattering, and rain is leaking in everywhere…but the foundation is firm. God is clearly remodeling – much to my chagrin – but I know that with the little bit of faith I have, it will be ok. After all – the bones are good.

The Habit of Busyness

How many times have you heard someone say we live in a culture of busyness? It sounds so good to hear. And we all nod in agreement saying, “You betcha! We sure do!” And if it’s in a Sunday morning message, it’s usually followed by a well thought out sermon or statement that encourages us to maybe not be so busy.

I don’t know about you but I usually … don’t change anything after those moments. I think part of it is that it requires way more thought than I want to give in the moment, but I think another part of it is because I don’t want to admit that I’ve bought into the busyness culture – that being busy is almost a status symbol, that I too have many things on the go (not that I’m free most evenings – doesn’t that mean I “don’t have a life”?), and that it’s just soooo hard to make time for the things that matter when I have all this other stuff to do. Well, maybe I should say things that I CLAIM matter, but I’ll come back to that in a sec. First off, I want to dive into habits for a bit.

Habit (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

1: a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior (her habit of taking a morning walk)
2a: an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary (got up early from force of habit)
b: ADDICTION (a drug habit)
c: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance (the daily bowel habit)

Habits can be consciously created, but they typically refer to things that we subconsciously repeat over and over again. In the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, habit formations are explained as our subconscious response to different triggers. Duhigg invites the reader to examine their habits, and consider what is causing the action, and what the result of that action is (or rather, why that action is what the response is). For example, I have a bad habit of hitting the snooze button in the morning. The trigger is being tired when alarm goes off, and the habit is to hit the snooze….because I really want the extra sleep! To break that habit, I have to consciously make sure A. go to sleep at the right time so I don’t get woken up really tired by my alarm, and B. make a conscious effort to get up/out of bed the first time the alarm goes off instead of letting myself sleep in too late (and avoiding the mad rush to get out the door….which happens way too often…)

Our habits and what we spend time on point to what we care about. For example, I care about eating a healthy lunch every week, so every Sunday afternoon/evening without fail I will make time to meal prep. In fact, I value this so much that I eliminated the habit of putting off packing a lunch the night before/the morning of, because I knew that that habit was not working for me and often led to me either not eating, not eating well, or spending too much money on food.

Single decisions are easy. It’s when we fall into the habits that lead us to busyness that things start to get … sticky. We habitually look for things to do, things to fill our time with. And we very much value being able to say that we are doing things. And if we do have time to do things, we say that we “have no life” – why else would you *gasp* be free on Friday night AND Saturday night 3 weeks in a row?

I would argue that business has become a habit for a lot of us. We have “acquired this mode of behavior” where we sometimes involuntarily reject the idea of having nothing to do. We have settled into the norm of always being on the go, seeing the world and our lives through the window as we drive by (and bemoaning the fact that our lives are this fast train that we just can’t stop – a la John Mayer).

However, being “busy” isn’t necessarily bad! We can and should be doing things instead of sitting around doing absolutely nothing. But if having an open evening during the week is a problem for you and you feel like you have to always keep moving, doing things, and seeing people, then maybe it’s too much. Maybe you have fallen into the habit of busyness. The settled or regular tendency to fill all of your time with things. And it’s hard to give up. That feeling of adrenaline and accomplishment when you bounce from engagement to engagement and at the end can tell people you’re tired because you did x, y, AND z today (or is that just me?).

And this isn’t to say that different seasons of our lives are just crazier than others – sometimes different things just make for busier days! I’m talking about our choices to take on more and do more, for whatever reason, despite the current life-stage you find yourself in. Any life stage can be hectic and busy for different reasons – it’s the habits we form regardless of how we find ourselves that I’m more interested in.

So back to when I said “what I claim matter”. I believe that we make time for what we truly value. Sometimes it’s easy to blame our circumstance on not having enough time in the day, but I think God gave us 24 hours to be just enough for us. And if 24 hours isn’t enough, maybe we are doing too many things and expecting too much from the time allotted for us. Maybe the pace of life we are seeking isn’t the pace of life we ought to have.

In school I would use this example – if you have homework, church Sunday morning, and a few options for other things to do on the weekend, and you choose to leave all of your homework for Sunday morning, then you are basically saying that you value all those other things above going to church. Once is one thing – but if you habitually make that decision, perhaps your value is not really meeting with other believers routinely to worship corporately. It’s having fun with your friends and doing well in school.

We want to be transformed by the constant renewal of our minds (Romans 12) – and yet we do not (and least I do not!) find ourselves routinely in a space where we can be renewed. Being too busy means that we miss out on what God is doing around us, it doesn’t leave space for the spirit to work in our lives, and it makes it so we have a lot harder of a time responding to the calls God places on our lives.

If I am a disciple of Christ and I want my life to be shaped around Him, and the things I do are a living worship – an overflow of what wells up in me as a response to his love – then the things I am participating in, saying, and filling my time with ought to point towards what I value, that being my regenerated and continually sanctified – transformed – life.

If we value shaping our lives around Christ and seeing his transformative work, then our out to show that we value that by out time commitments and our activities. How many times have you tried to plan to meet up with someone only to find that neither of your schedules line up for the next two months? How many times have you responded to an invitation with “sorry, we’re already busy that day!” or, to a request for action, “I don’t have time to do that!”? What do those things point to as our values? Sometimes they’re good things! But those good things can get in the way of greater things.

If we expect to see transformation and change in our life, then maybe we ought to have space to do that. If I want to get to know Jesus and become more like him, then I need to spend time getting to know him. And taking the time to shape my life to be more like his.

In a forest, new life begins when old life dies. Sometimes I think that’s the way we have to view our spiritual growth and development as well. There is no way for us to possibly get to do everything we want. As the saying goes – you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want ( or as I like to say, I can choose to eat all the cake all the time or have abs – I really can’t have both!)

Simply, if we want to see the transformative work of God in our lives, we need to sacrifice space and time for him to do that. If you don’t have time to see that happen, what are you doing that you don’t need to be doing? Where can you simplify and breathe more? Where can you say “no” so you can say “yes” to something more?

It isn’t going to be easy – taking inventory of our lives rarely is. But I’m sure it will be worth it.

On Singleness

If you’re reading this I sincerely hope that you are not single. Not because I hate it and wouldn’t wish it on anyone – not at all. I hope that you are not single because I want you to understand me just a little bit more, and maybe remember what it was like for you. To know what it is like now. And if your’e single, I’m glad you’re here, too. I don’t know if my experience will fully resonate with yours, but I hope you can find comfort or challenge in these reflections. And fullest of disclosures – I’m mostly talking about singleness in the church 😉

So singleness. Singleness is coming home to my apartment and finding every single thing exactly where I left it – for better or worse. It is deciding to do things on a whim and being able to drop everything (if you want) to hang out with a friend or help out with a church event/ministry. It is staying up all night on Friday night on your couch with a pizza and wine and going to bed when you fall asleep because no one told you it was 1am. Singleness is also walking into a work Christmas party and losing count of the numerous confused faces when the answer to “where is your boyfriend” is “I don’t have one”. It is awkwardly smiling and shiftily looking side to side when they talk about marriage or children at church, or trying to steady yourself in your car before you walk through Ikea alone, again, or even better, preparing yourself mentally for you next large family gathering where everyone wants to know (with the absolute best intentions, I might add) if you’re seeing anyone now. It is talking to yourself in the grocery store as you try to decide if you can really COMMIT to eating an entire cucumber and a whole container of ripe peaches this week.

Singleness is great. And it is hard. Just like any other relationship status. And I feel like we definitely have it figured out with how to relate to single people…until they don’t fit into our box of what it looks like. Or until they reach their mid-to-late twenties and we realize they don’t want to only hang out with all the other young singles, they want to still be with their peers. Particularly in the church in general. What do you do with us? What do you think of when you see us? I confess I wonder this sometimes as I sit in my seat – especially when marriage or children come up. Do you look at me standing by myself and pity me? Do you wonder what is wrong with me? Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me – if I’m statistically supposed to get married then why am I not?

Singleness is hard. Singleness is also great. I can pull an all nighter to get the church newsletter out on time if I want. I can say yes to more time commitments and ministries purely because the only time I have to schedule is my own – so I can choose to eat takeout for dinner and volunteer after work instead of cooking a meal. Or last minute say I’ll go away all weekend on a youth retreat because I don’t have kids to worry about or a significant-other to reconcile calendars with. I can unabashedly say yes! Yes I will watch your kids tonight I’ll be there in 5! Yes, I will help you clean the sanctuary after work tomorrow. Yes, I will wait until the last minute to step in and take a new responsibility when you cannot find anyone else who has the time to fill that role. Yes.

But it is lonely out here trying to be in your community. I want to get together with you. I want to be your friend. In fact, I want to be friends with your 8-year-old daughter, the 53 year old couple who just became new grandparents, the 70 year old woman who still organizes the Sunday morning coffee. I want to be invited into the messiness of raising toddlers, the craziness of pre-teen hormones, and the loneliness of empty nesting. I want to share with you my baking and crafting adventures, my career highs and lows, and have coffee or tea or dinner together – in our homes or out. Literally whatever you want.

One thing I did during lent this year was try to invite more people over to my home. And it was terrifying. I’ve always wanted to have an open home where people feel comfortable and where I can have hosting opportunities. But then I got here and suddenly I didn’t know if it was ok for me to invite a couple over if I didn’t have a partner to entertain my girlfriend’s husband. Is it ok for me to invite over the parent’s of my young adult friends because I want to know them, too? Is it ok for me to invite a family over? I don’t want to invite myself into other people’s lives, but I also want to offer this different way of existing among you. This idea that hey – maybe I can be a valid part of your family. And maybe it’s scary because it’s all in my head – but I don’t see too many of “me” out there.

Singleness is supposed to be a gift – Paul tells us so. But it’s a really hard gift to use sometimes. I feel like an unwrapped present sometimes. We are all so busy – we blame our kids, our spouses, our commitments to (too many?) things for our busyness. But we are so busy. But maybe we can find a way to un-busi-fy ourselves and make time for each other instead. Because isn’t that what we are? Single, married, dating, way too young to be thinking about that? (I’m looking at you, 18 year old looking for love).

We believe that we are all in different stages to be able to learn from each other and grow with each other, and that we are all able to serve and give differently as we grow through those stages. So maybe, instead of segregating ourselves all the time based on our marital and offspring status, we instead viewed ourselves as all part of a huge family where we are able to interact and grow deep relationships? We can be in relationship with those that are our peers, but I also want to be in a church where I am in relationship with other people too. Where a single woman feels free and comfortable to invite an older couple over, and where a family with babies feels free to spend time with a couple with teens and doesn’t worry about the state of their house (I genuinely would rather you have a bit of a messy house when I show up than you be exhausted from cleaning everything before I walk over the threshold – REALLY). Where we truly allow our self-imposed barriers to break free and embrace the differences that make us who we are. Because we are all people who are loved by God and trying to become more like him. And, arguably, you have as much to learn from me as I do from you. And I can’t wait.

Living Redeemed pt III

If you’re new-ish around here, you can check out my original post on “living redeemed” from 2016 here, and my follow up post from 2017 here.

Anyway…onto my *new* thoughts about living redeemed. In my previous posts I tended to emphasize more on the living part — going out and doing things, making actions while considering God’s role in them, making life choices while considering how they might bring God the most glory etc. However, I feel like in the midst of doing those things I forgot to ponder the meaning of redemption. Or rather, I lost sight of the fact that doing these things was meant to come out of a “redeemed attitude,” not in an effort to redeem my actions myself.

I am not a very good goal setter — often I will look to others to get inspiration or ideas and feed off of their creativity. However, once I know what a goal is or an achievable end is, figuring out the means to get there is a piece of cake. I can do the things, I like doing the things. I’ll give you a list of all the things to do with itemized sub tasks and due dates, if you’d like.

But this isn’t about “doing things” – this is about the place from which I begin to do the things. Let’s bring this back to 2016 and recap what “redeemed” is defined as (or rather the present transitive verb, “redeem”, as defined by our good friends, Merriam-Webster.

  1. a: to buy back (repurchase)
    b: to get or win back
  2. to free from what distress or harms: such as
    a: to free from captivity by payment of ransom
    b: to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental
    c: to release from blame or debt (clear)
    d: to free from the consequences of sin
  3. to change for the better (reform)
  4. repair, restore
  5. a: to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby
    b(1): to remove the obligation of by payment the U.S. Treasury redeems savings bonds on demand
    (2): to exchange for something of value redeem trading stamps
    c: to make good (fulfill)
  6. a: to atone for (expiate), redeem an error
    b(1): to offset the bad effect of
    (2): to make worthwhile (retrieve)

A key piece in all aspects of “redemption” is that there is a purchasing or paying back of something. By rights, then, there must be something that needs to be bought back, brought back to good standing, repaid, etc. This is easy to apply when we consider objects or more extreme situations of depravity. It is more difficult to apply when we pause to consider out own lives – particularly when we haven’t run into any extreme difficulties or situations which we overtly need redemption from.

To accept redemption, we first have to accept that we were once in good standing, and that we then fell from that good standing. So, if we once were in a good financial state, and then ended up with a loan, we could be redeemed from that loan by paying it off/having it forgiven. Similarly, when we sin against another person, we can redeem/atone for that error and seek reconciliation with the person we sinned against by offering our condolences and (often) by offering to make things right/change/fix something that requires effort from us. Further, we can be redeemed out of a situation in which we are enslaved/indebted to someone by repaying our debt or being freed/purchased out of slavery. Again … I end up using more extreme examples because we just don’t see our regular lives as ones in need of redemption.

So. If I want to live my life redeemed, I need to accept the fact that it needed to be redeemed. I know I can often forget that my life needs redemption especially at the start of a new year – with resolutions & intentions & goals for the year, I am striving to make a part of my life I know needs “work” by changing my habits and/or adding new ones. Which is totally fine. I can redeem my own healthy eating habits. I don’t think realizing we need to exercise or have a better budget means that we have understood our need for redemption. More often than not those are things we can probably fix on our own…but that doesn’t mean that the reasons we need to fix them are not a way to lead us there, and sometimes it is the combination of the big and the little things that lead us to a point of realizing we need to be saved from where we are.

Also, we tend to fall into a headspace in which we are not “bad” people, and we are able to rely on our own self-righteousness for justification. I don’t participate in

sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; … dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like,”
(Galatians 5: parts of 19, 20, and 21)

then I am CLEARLY fine. And yet…I can’t skip the words in the ellipsis

“hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,”
(the rest of Galatians 5:20)

because those ones….some of those ones I do. I cannot selectively look at my sins and decide that because I don’t do “the big ones” I am totally fine. Besides, if I look at the list of the fruits of the spirit (vs the fruits of the flesh listed above),

love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control,
(Galatians 5:22)

can I honestly say that I am exuding these things without restraint? Any non-display indicates, again, my failings and falling short. If I really see the sorry state of affairs that so many areas of my life are in, and honestly look at my own abilities as the human being that I am, then I will never be able to fully redeem my own self.

And if you’re saying “I can save myself” – I get it. I TOTALLY get it. It is sometimes SO much easier to say that we are in control of our lives and that we want to do what we want and if it ends badly, we’ll own that too. It was our own making and we will accept the fall. Some of the stuff that we’re not supposed to do FEELS good and is FUN. And sometimes it doesn’t lead to overt negative impacts on our lives – and if it does, we’re fine to accept them. And it is a lot nicer and comforting sometimes to feel like we can rely on our good deeds to get us somewhere than to have to place trust in someone/something we cannot see.

But in the end, if we are relying on ourselves for things, I think we eventually have to accept that we cannot reverse ALL the things in our lives. At some point, if we truly understand the weight of any sin

For the wages of sin is death

Not “the wage of 500 sins when not outweighted by good”

Our self-righteousness (MY self-righteousness) gets in the way of us being able to accept the pure and simple fact that Jesus came to save us from our sins. Right here. Right now. Redemption and renewal IN our current lives — not just so that we might get to go to heaven with him. N.T. Wright puts is nicely in his book The Day the Repemption Began:

 

They [the Jews in this period] were hoping, longing, and praying for what the prophets had sketched, what the Psalms had sung, what the ancient promises to the patriarchs had held out in prospect: not rescue from the present world, but rescue and renewal within the present world” (page 113)

When I take stock of my life — truly take stock of where I am, what I’ve done, and the ways that I have failed – I know that I need to be saved from myself.

However, I have ALREADY been redeemed from those things. I have already been saved from my weaknesses, my falling shorts, my missing the marks, my times I am selfish, the times I do not act in love, when I don’t treat others as the image-bearers they are, when I do not honour my God above all else.

Already done. Paid for. Wiped away.

To say we are forgiven is to say that the errs we have done are no longer counted against us — to say we are redeemed is to go further and to say that we have been bought back with a price, not just having our debts cast aside for nothing in return. And if I am redeemed already,  then I can move forward into action from a place of knowing that I am already enough, saved, and worthy. It is then much easier, as I continue to fail, to grant myself grace every day to be better than I was the day before. It is from here that I can extend the same mercy to myself, to forgive myself, and to strive to be more like Christ not because I need to to prove myself to him, but because I am moved with thankfulness and want to better reflect what he has done for me to the world. Moving into a redeemed mindset and carrying less of the worry, weight, and fear of failing on myself.

It is not that we do not strive to be better, nor is it that we are striving to be better so that God might like us again – we strive for better-ness because we have already been set free and we are free to take steps towards becoming all that God has designed us to be. It isn’t easy, nor is it always simple … but it is so much easier when we know that we are starting from a clean spot every day, every hour, every moment. Yes, I have failed, but YES, I am redeemed!

Forgiveness

Generally speaking, I have a really hard time holding a grudge. I mean this in that I can’t seem to harbour negative feelings towards someone for very long. I’ve definitely tried, but I always find myself back in a neutral emotional space after a little it. Sometimes it isn’t even much more than a minute.

Sounds like a great trait, I know. Who doesn’t like someone who can’t be mad?

The downside is that in larger issues that out to require seeking reconciliation as well as forgiving, I can find it hard to find the motivation because I just … don’t feel the anger/upset/unresolved feelings anymore. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my bursts of emotion, you know that within 5 minutes my caps lock rage is gone and I’m overly agreeable and possibly regret the all caps message I sent 2 minutes ago (Yea, I usually can’t even verbalize it).

But this post isn’t about my 2 second rages and my inability to hold a grudge. It’s about how recently, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that forgiveness, sometimes, when the hurt is deep enough, takes a long time to give. Particularly when the one you need to forgive is yourself.

This fall I started learning about the difference between guilt and shame. Essentially that guilt is feeling bad about an action you’ve done, but shame is feeling as though you are a bad person because of what you’ve done. I don’t think I had ever separated those feelings/concepts in my entire life! I’m definitely a bit of a perfectionist (ok fine a big one), and not doing well at something or not meeting someone’s expectations/feeling like I’ve fallen short really, really cuts me deeply. I hadn’t realized it but I felt this way every time someone asked me questions (sometimes even jokingly) like “Why do you still live with your parents? Can’t you just move out?” or “Why are you doing it that way?” or “Isn’t crossfit bad for you and expensive? Why don’t you do something else?” or “Why are you eating that way? It’s so complicated – are you sure it’s healthy to eat that much protein AND that many carbs?” or “Ew, you listen to country music?”…missing deadlines that I would set arbitrarily for myself, feeling like I was never going to reach the goals I had for myself, and feeling like I was failing at being “healthy” and “fit” (that’s a whole other rant). Which is ridiculous because half those things aren’t even worthy of guilt! And then in situations of conflict or miscommunication, I would take the entirety of the blame internally, and instead of feeling bad about the action, I just assumed it was something wrong with the way I was.

Every stumble felt like a faceplant, every slight detour felt like falling off the side of the road in that Mario Kart race where it’s just a rainbow in the sky and you die every time.

Forgiving myself started with realizing I had a problem – and that problem was that I was allowing myself to carry the weight of every issue, conflict, and misstep. They all had to be my fault, at least in some part, but I let myself take the weight of 100% of all of them. I’d been carrying this deep hurt and grudge against no one but myself.

Forgiveness is learning to separate who I am from the things I do, and letting the feelings shame and guilt separate…and learning to not feel ashamed, but instead to let the proper feelings of guilt lead to the necessary actions. It’s also approaching the people who I’ve wronged and the ones who have wronged me and seeking forgiveness/forgiving them as I ought to (which is really, really hard for me).

Forgiveness is also accepting the forgiveness of God that I tell other people about all the time but somehow forget to apply to myself! (How messed up is that???) And it is surrounding myself with people who can build me up, encourage me intentionally, and point me back to that initial forgiveness (thank you).

I’m still learning, still forgiving, still becoming un-ashamed, and still crying about some of it…but I’m getting there. Ever so slowly I am learning to forgive myself just as I make myself forgive others, and as I have already been forgiven.

The Newness

If you’re familiar with retail, you will likely have heard about the golden quarter. If you haven’t heard of it, it is the 4th fiscal-quarter of the year (October – December) and it is “golden” because you’ve got some pretty major holidays in there which means big dollars for pretty much anyone who sells anything you can give as a gift, eat, wear, or decorate with. Which is basically everyone in the goods industry and a large majority of the service industry.

I like getting new things. New haircuts, new pens, new shirts, new glasses, new shoes, even new socks or underwear – and I’m sure you do too. Even new-old things (used car, thrift store finds, not-brand-new houses, etc.) seem to brighten and lift our moods. They can signify changes, or sometimes are ways we cope with a changes or circumstances we can’t control.

Newness and pushing forward have almost been synonymous for me lately with forgetting what is behind me and not having to worry about that anymore – I would rather forget and not slow down, if you would. Chasing this newness is easy – its tangible, usually transaction based, and has near instant gratification. Often it works to get out of a bit of a rut – I have a friend who, when things get difficult, shaves his beard and that helps him move forward and leave things behind him – and that works for him most of the time. (How, I don’t know, but, apparently, it’s magical?) But sometimes there aren’t enough haircuts, beard trims, and new things that can cover up the hurt that we feel. The newness of things and appearances and outer changes are not enough to make us new.

We can go for months and years ignoring the base issue of what is actually making us feel bad or in a rut or depressed, covering it up with new things, but at some point those new things are not new anymore, we run out of the newness, and we begin feeling the normalcy, the boring, the old, …

Jeremiah writes:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
– Lamentations 3:22-23

God is this weird fusion of oldness and newness. God is the I AM (Exodus 3:14), the unchanging one (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17), and faithful and constant (Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13), ever present (Psalm 46:1), beginning and end (Isaiah 44:6, Revelations 22:13), etc. Yet this ancient, omnipotent one, makes us new (1 Corinthians 5:17), has new mercies every morning (see above), does new things (Isaiah 43:18-19) and is constantly revealing new things to us and to others. Even though he is old, he never gets old.

John writes:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
– Revelations 21:5

“I am making” is ποιῶ in Greek. To break it down a bit, this phrase is a fancy (and shorter) way of saying the singular subject (God) is currently in the process of (as opposed to finished or not started), of doing something to the indirect subject (all things = us!).

Paul writes:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:4)

The Greek word ἐναρξάμενος (enarxamenos) is a middle participle of the verb “ἐνάρχομαι” which means to begin. In Greek you can add a participle (he, she, it) to a participle (-ing verbs) to make it mean “the one who is ____ing”, which is why your translation reads “he who began”. However, I also said this was a “middle” participle. In Greek, they can say things are being done by the subject of the sentence, being done too the object of the sentence, or that it is being done both by and too/is not yet completely finished – a passive voice would indicate that God did it to you, active would be you doing it to God, but middle? The middle means that in Paul’s perspective, both of us are involved in the making-new process.

So. God is old, he is making things new now, and he is working with us to create new things in us. A lot of songs use the idea or phrase of being made new/God making things new as a comforting refrain, but sometimes it isn’t that comforting. Being made new isn’t always the easiest process – it can require painful removal, refining, or “pruning” as we like to say in Christian culture-isms (unless I’m way behind the times and we’ve got a new saying?)

That newness isn’t something that shows up immediately – like a haircut or a pair of shoes. It isn’t something that is over and done with. It is a constant renewing of self (sort of like those PC updates they download for weeks before actually updating) much more like how we are called as new creations to cast off our old selves and put on our new ones. The white robes & clean clothes, the self-examination, the pruning and tempering and refinement of precious metals. That kind of knew takes time and shows up in little ways – and it takes work. It takes reminding ourselves daily of the truths about how we are loved and are being made new – we are not done! It isn’t a haircut that we have to go back and have redone or shoes that wear out and need to be replaced. It is all of us being renewed and refreshed every morning, every hour of the day.

Being called to become a new thing different from our old selves, and to trust that as we are made new, in joy and in pain, we become more of who he wants us to be.

Rejoice – he is making us new!

30 by 30

When I was 23 and a half-ish, I made a list of 25 things I wanted to do/accomplish by the time I turned 25. It was the end of the summer of 2013, I was still pretty fresh out of university, and I was super motivated by the fact that I had recently discovered bullet journaling and that pens were on sale because back to school sales are the actual best sales (think about it — not only is stationary and pens and computers/tech etc. on sale, but so are, like, half the things you need around your house because #collegedorms).

Here’s a little pic of my list…spoiler: I didn’t finish all 25!

IMG_9495.jpg

BUT, I did check off quite a number of them – which was great! I knew when I wrote the list that I would not be able to do all 25 things – I purposefully had things on there that I knew I probably wouldn’t do, but threw on for kicks. However, interestingly enough i didn’t do some of the things I totally thought I would (scrapbooking through 2005, learning Greek), , but I did accomplish things that I didn’t think I would actually do (memorizing Philippians and getting 50 views on a blog post).

I bring this up because I find that when I tell people I did this, they are amazed that someone would put that much thought into themselves and being 25. And as I share that I’m looking towards 30 they are still surprised that someone “so young” would be thinking about that.

Here are 5 things I learned when I was reflecting on my 25 by 25 list and making my 30 by 30:

1. I am not a big dreamer!

So here’s a confession…half the things on my list were things I already knew I was going to do. For example, I already had a trip to Europe in the works, and I had already bought tickets to see Relient K in concert — I knew those things were going to happen. And run 5km? Honestly, I knew I could probably do it if I got back into running? Then I started Crossfit and while it was a great fitness goal at the time, I realized that I am capable of so so much more than simply cardio, even if the cardio thing is safer. This is true in my life as well – I’m not a huge risk taker, and I don’t often think of big lofty dreams to attain – they’re usually teeny tiny ones that like, maybe involve me sticking my little toe outside of my comfort zone. Which is ok because they’re more achievable in the short-term, but they’re safe. I need other dreamers and pushers in my life to encourage me to try harder and new things, and to push me to do more and better instead of staying in my little box.

2. Tangible goals are easier to know you’ve accomplished them, but sometimes abstract goals are more realistic

I wanted to lose weight when I was 23-and-a-half-ish. So it was on my list. I didn’t lose the amount on my list…But I did start eating better and working out. I couldn’t really check it off, despite my best intentions. In fact it was one of the most discouraging things to not be able to check off. A more abstract goal like “make healthy lifestyle choices into habits”, while super ambiguous, would have been a more achievable and realistic goal, particularly when it was involving something that required me to drastically change a lot of my regular habits (eating, sleeping, water intake, exercise, etc.). One of my changes for my 30 by 30 list is to leave a few open-ended goals to give myself space to blow it out of the water/just make some progress on it. And it allows me room to grow and develop the goals over the next 4.5 years because things can change! (I still have some very quantifiable things, don’t worry).

3. Setting goals makes you actually get stuff done

I wrote “do a mohawk on my left foot” (I meant a 3 turn in my head, though…skating fan fail), and to be honest if I hadn’t I would not have skated at all any winter. But it was and I did. Quite often! Having something to work towards gave me the extra boost I needed to do certain things. You can’t do a mohawk OR 3 turn unless you’re comfortable on your skates, and you won’t be able to do that unless you skate! Same thing with running – I had to start doing other things so that I could someday be able to run 5k (like, um, running period?). Setting long-term goals can be a step towards setting short-term ones, and maybe it’s the work breakdown structure lover inside of me, but I think it helps us be better stewards of our time and push us towards greater success to have small things we are able to accomplish!

4. Goals and you can change, and that’s ok!

Part of why I never finished my full list is because I, quite honestly, stopped caring about some of the things on my list. I was super into scrapbooking for a long time … but I haven’t been for a long time now, too! That isn’t to say I won’t get back into it, but I’m not going to beat myself up over not doing a certain creative thing when I did other creative things instead, like getting way more into journal making and hand lettering. I even dabbled in painting again. And as I’ve mentioned, I did Crossfit, and now doing a bunch of push ups in a row or being able to do a pull up is way more motivating of a goal than running a long distance. But that could change in 3 years. And that’s ok. I am not less of a list-making-and-achieving-enneagram-6 if I change my mind and accomplish something of equal value to me.

5. Time caps make you realize things

In Crossfit there are time caps on a lot of workouts which are awesome because then you have a. a goal, and b. a salvation point when you get to stop working. In life we don’t really have time caps unless they are self-imposed. We all have them – even if you’re reading this saying “lol Christy I just live my life I don’t have time caps for achievements” I say “uh, yes you probably do, if you think about it.” Anyway … after a crossfit workout time-cap I usually lay there sweating for a while, and then when my brain turns on again I think about how it went, how I feel about it, and what, if anything, I would do differently next time. These are the types of pause-time caps I think we should be taking moments to have. Without them we may not realize that we actually don’t care if we scrapbook our entire lives but we REALLY DO care about learning Greek.

And they teach us that our moments are precious. I found that having this list encouraged me to “take life by the horns” as it were, and try to do things – which is against my lazy tendencies and more in line with living a fulfilling and abundant life. It’s not about getting caught up in the grind, but more about walking through each day with grace and expectancy that there are good things and there is hope in that day.

As I think towards my 30th birthday – which is 4 and a half years away right now – I am still tweaking my list (I had it made shortly after I turned 25 but I, as a not-big-dreamer, have really struggled with thinking of 5-year worthy goals). And so, I have decided to post my 30 by 30 list on an alternate page here. Some of them are blank – yes. But I have no idea what I want 30 to look like, save that when I get there I hope I can say that I lived the last 5 years, and be proud of the successes and mistakes that got me there.