Five Minute Friday: Control & A Challenge

It’s time for Five Minute Friday. I really was hoping to write more often in this new year, but I just haven’t made myself do it. So I fall back to Friday’s when I know I can set aside five minutes to just free write. It’s something.

This weeks prompt: Control

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It’s a Friday morning and I curl up on my couch with steaming cup of coffee, computer, books, and journal at hand. I cherish my Friday mornings because they are the one free day we have, a whole blank day on the calendar. I am guaranteed some solitude before the kids get up and our day begins. I can stay comfy in my pjs under my favorite blanket and spend a few quiet morning hours as I please.

At 7 am I hear talking from the kids room. I groan inwardly. At 7:20 I hear thumping and banging. I gear myself up for the inevitable. At 7:45 there are raised voices as an argument breaks out and I know I have to intervene.

This was not how I wanted my morning to go. So, I do the mature thing and go in with righteous indignation. I berate and scold and raise my voice a few notches. I point out my kids selfishness and lack of self control. I throw out accusations between teeth clenched with anger.

Control. I battle it every day. I want what I want, how I want, when I want. The tighter I grip on to my control the more I lose the battle with my self-control.

I am challenging myself to a week of holding my tongue when the lectures want to spill out. I am challenging myself to a week of noticing the good things my kids do instead of harping on the things that need improvement. If I desire to encourage self-control in my kids, then I need to set the example. I’ll check back in next Friday!

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Check out the other Five Minute Friday writers at the link up below!

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Five Minute Friday: Middle

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On Friday I link up with other writers who write for five minutes flat. Not too much thinking, no editing, just letting the thoughts flow.

Today’s prompt: Middle

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I have seen the world from many angles. I have been the person on the outside, the person who couldn’t understand the language, the person who was completely different from all the people around her. I have always been the person on the outside trying to size up a situation and shifting myself to fit within it. I have always been the person who wanted to be average and normal. But I am not.

As I age I am realizing that this constant state of discomfort is a gift. It helps me see the middle. It keeps me from extremes. It has given me the skill of being able to see situations from multiple perspectives. I can compromise. I can see that there can be multiple ways to come to the same outcome. I can play devil’s advocate and delve beneath the surface of an issue. I can change my mind. I can form friendships with people who are different than me.

The problem is that this skill set has sometimes been viewed as negative in the Christian circles that I am in. The drumbeat of “truth” and “right” is loud and lock-step. Questioning or dissent have not always been encouraged. Varying perspective has not been welcomed. The ability to see grey instead of black and white has not always been seen as an asset. Some of my most uncomfortable moments have been in the place that is also my most loved and secure place.

Yet, I love Christ and His church. I cannot walk away. I believe my life experiences and skills are no mistake. So I continue to try and navigate the middle with grace and love because I believe that my perspective from the middle is needed, and also because I suspect I am not alone.

STOP

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Finding joy in releasing control

 

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than TO BE JOYFUL and to do good as long as they live, also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been been, and God seeks what has been driven away.

– Ecclesiastes 3:11-15

When I first read this passage this morning I admit I felt that it seemed kind of patronizing of God. The Message words it like this, “True, God made everything beautiful in itself and it its time – but he’s left us in the dark so we can never know what God is up to, whether he is coming or going.” Well, thanks for that God. It seems so condescending of him.

We demand answers. We try to unravel mysteries. We want to know “why?!” We search for meaning beyond ourselves, and purpose to the events that unfold around us. We lose sleep over our choices and our options and the details. Or is this all just an INFJ thing? I can’t even count how many hours of lost sleep I have spent anxiously trying to figure out if I was following God’s call, or doing the right thing, or seeing what God was doing.

As I continued to ponder these verses I began to see the actual peace that can come from surrendering to God’s control. If God is in control, then how can we not be joyful? We, his creation, cannot fathom what he is doing – in us, in the world – so why not rest in that instead of rail against it? We drive ourselves crazy trying to pick apart the weaving of the tapestry, instead of enjoying the beauty of it.

Right here it says that there is nothing better to do than to “be joyful and do good.” If I truly believe that God is in control, that He is at work in the world, that what He does endures forever – then that should translate into my actions in the way I live my life. How simple and refreshing it sounds to know that the best thing I can do is be joyful and do good. Why do I complicate it?

When my kids are bickering and frustrating me – can I trust that God is ultimately doing His work in their hearts and approach my discipline of them with joy instead of frustration? When my husband and I disagree – can I trust that God knows the outcome of our marriage and move toward reconciliation with joy? When I am overwhelmed with the things I need to do for my job – can I trust that God’s work is being done, what will be will be, and joyfully move on to doing the next task in front of me.

I like to control things. I like for things to work the way that I imagine is best. Here’s the thing – thinking that I control things doesn’t bring joy. It brings stress, anxiety, and the need to manipulate others to get the outcome I desire. It also creates a need to worship myself and my efforts rather than God. Trust in God’s control brings rest and joy. The outcome doesn’t depend on me. If I trust in God’s control than I can do my part to the best of my ability and then let – it – go. I can celebrate other’s accomplishments instead of being jealous or self-pitying. I can do the work that I know that God has given me to do with passion instead of comparing myself to others and working out of insecurity.

I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it is going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. (The Message)

In short, trusting that God has done what He will do means that I can stop needing to perform for approval or acceptance either from Him or from others. Being freed from the need to perform brings rest and joy.

I realize that this is all easier said than done. I am a person who holds on to control pretty tightly, sometimes at the cost of relationships. Sometimes at the cost of my health. Definitely at the cost of enjoying and delighting in life. But I think I am seeing growth in this area. Over the past few years I have experienced peace and a greater enjoyment of life when certain circumstances were out of my control and I practiced just doing what I could do one day at a time. It felt completely counter-intuitive to me at the time, and it was a definite spiritual muscle that needed to be strengthened. God is maturing me in this area little by little.

In what areas of your life would a deeper acceptance of God’s control bring joy?

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Five Minute Friday: Connect

In an attempt to get myself writing more I am re-joining Five Minute Friday. A weekly chance to set my timer and just write – no editing, no over thinking. You can head over to Katie’s Heading Home blog to check out writing on this week’s prompt:

Connect

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You want to know something about me? Connecting frightens me. Well, that is a bit melodramatic. My growing up life was rich and wonderful and full of interesting things. But, there was a lot of coming and going. People came and went. Connections happened quickly and went deeply and then were just as suddenly gone. Connection means great joy and fun but also great pain. This is a fact of missionary life.

So, I love to connect. I do. People are fascinating and interesting (and irritating). But, I am also pretty fiercely¬†self-reliant and independent. So staying connected for the long haul is more of a challenge. It doesn’t come naturally to me to help out, lean in, show up on your door step. I don’t want to intrude. I don’t want to be a bother. I have my own life to get on with. Sometimes it is easier to keep connections shallow and tenuous.

I have now lived in the same area and been in the same community for 20 years. This surprises me every time I think about it because I still feel transient. But, I have friends that I have known, in daily life, for 20 years now. Our children are growing up together. We are in the stage of life where really difficult things have and are happening and we are learning how to love each other well through those things. Our bonds are getting stronger through the long term sharing of daily life. The seasons, the changes, the cycles are all connecting us as they mature us. I feel rich. I am grateful. And maybe I don’t need to fear connecting any more.

Stop

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Joy 2017

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A year comes and goes. 2016 has flown by in a flurry of fun and activities and work and responsibilities. The kids have sprouted up and I have felt the shift of our parenting and family culture changing with kids growing in independence and maturity. Which honestly, is mostly just plain fun.

I turned 40. It felt good and natural and comfortable. I can use 40 as an excuse to care less about what other people think and embrace the person I know myself to be. Or to put it more accurately, embrace the person I am discovering myself to be.

The past year did bring many thoughts about how to spend my time. A beginning of a rediscovering of myself now that I have time to spend in whatever way I chose. (Mama’s of young ones, I know this seems like a dream but it happens quickly!) I admit to using a bulk of that time in binge-watching Netflix and generally wasting time. But I am feeling a shift, a desire to learn and grow and explore. Who am I now that my kids aren’t taking up every extra minute of my spare time? What things inspire me? What do I want to do?

I chose a word for last year. But I didn’t really pay much attention to it. I didn’t really live very intentionally last year, mostly just letting events happen as life washed over me. And that’s okay. I obviously needed that, a year to exist and enjoy without putting too much deep meaning and thought into it as I am usually prone to do. There is a good lesson in taking one day at a time without picking everything apart and worrying about every motive, outcome, or long-term consequence to every choice I make.

However, the past few weeks have been challenging me as the word JOY has been coming up again and again. I have fallen into habits of complaining and being easily irritated and frustrated lately. I told a friend “everyone is irritating me!” Not cool. I have also been very judgmental lately. I have been quick to see the negative, and assume the worst.¬†I am not a naturally joyful person. I am a combination of Eyore and Rabbit – which does not a joyful person make. In fact, that combination makes an irritating person. And I don’t like that about myself.

I don’t know why I struggle to be joyful. And by joyful, I don’t mean fake happy, or always laughing, or irritatingly positive. I mean peacefully and purposely the kind of person that lives present in the moment, wants what is best for others, and builds up. The kind of joy that smiles and sees the best instead of picking apart the negative. The kind of joy that is comfortable and confident in the person that I am and what I have to offer the people around me. I don’t know why that kind of joy is a struggle for me, but it is, and I would like to

I don’t know how to “find” joy, but I feel in my bones that this is my word for the year. I feel strongly that God has something to teach me in this area this year.

I struggle with the idea of blogging. It seems self-indulgent and self-important. And yet, I like to document my thoughts, I like to read through my past blog posts and remember what I was learning. I like to write and I would like to make more time to write. Writing might be something that brings me joy. But really, what do I have to say that hasn’t been said already? See, my Eyore and Rabbit thoughts right there!

A new year lays fresh before me. I think I am ready to stretch and grow and maybe even practice some disciplines. I am hoping to process some of the journey through writing in a way that will edify and uplift.

So, help me out. What books or resources do you have for me on the topic of Joy?

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