Five Minute Friday: Purpose

joy2017-1

On Friday’s I like to link up with a group of writers who take five minutes to simply sit and free write. No over thinking, no editing, no waiting for perfection before hitting publish.

Today’s Prompt: Purpose

GO

There is a lot of talk among women my age about “purpose.” I don’t know if the generations of women before us felt this way, but in this current internet age where we can be voyeurs into peoples lives via blogs, Instagram, and Facebook the sense of not having a larger purpose to fulfill seems to loom large. Just this past week in one of the Facebook groups I am in there were two different conversation threads started by women who felt like their lives were just ordinary and they weren’t doing anything meaningful.

Not too long ago I was crippled by the idea that I wasn’t living out my purpose for God in the way that He expected of me. My ordinary, safe, life seemed too simple and surely God wanted more from me.

The Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Meaning: what is your purpose?

And answers: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

How? How do we do this? There is no clear answer. We are all different and our lives and struggles are different. For me, I work hard to be present in the current moment. I try to do my best in the things that God has given me to do for today: schooling my children, loving my husband, working in our church office, being a reliable friend. I try to notice God’s presence in the most mundane and ordinary of moments; our breakfast conversation, the beauty of our neighborhood, even the moment when I am in the midst of dealing with sibling fights.

Ultimately my pre-occupation with my purpose led to anxiety and totally missing the joy and purpose that God had already given me. It’s not a mistake that He put me where I am and gave me the life I have. That knowledge brings freedom to enjoy life one moment at a time and trust that even my most mundane and ordinary of days will bring glory.

STOP

You can find other Five Minute Friday writers at

five-minute-friday-4

 

Finding joy in releasing control

 

joy-inreleasingcontrol-1

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?

joy2017-1

Joy 2017

img_6755

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?

joy2017-1