Living Love

This morning I woke up in awe about how well taken care of I am by my family and friends.

As you might have gathered in my previous posts, living my life with love – God’s love – is something I’m working on learning. Sometimes it’s simple and makes sense, and other times it’s harder to implement in my life as I wage an internal fight because I really want to do what want, rather than showing love.

Living out God’s love each day isn’t a loud and showy process – instead, I’ve found it’s a deep quietness where I put others above myself. Sometimes I think about it in the moment and choose to show love, other times I can look back at my day and realize I’ve softly been showing love without having to consciously choose. And then… Well, there are the times when I’m prompted to show love, and instead do my own thing because it’s easier and more fun.

Changing my nature – so my natural response is to serve others in love rather than serving others for selfish reasons, or to serve myself – isn’t easy. But thankfully I’m not doing it alone. I have the best example ever in the Creator of the Universe because He came down to serve us. To serve His creation. How amazing and awe-inspiring is that?

Recently I’ve been shown love as people have set aside time for deep conversations with me, made me special coffee, told me the truth in kindness to help me grow, and gotten up early in the morning to make me a delicious breakfast while I was visiting them.

Last week my brother took a task from me that had caused a bit of mental anguish and sweetly told me he’d take care of it – without me even asking him to. My family bought me special food while I was visiting them to go with a unique way I’m currently eating for health. A coworker gave me a bottle of kombucha after I mentioned I really liked it, but am budgeting so I’d have to wait until the end of the month to see if I could buy any. Another coworker bought games and we had a delightful time playing after a work party because I didn’t feel inclined to watch the movie the rest of the team was watching.

All of these examples are things that people could have easily not done and I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. In fact, I didn’t expect any of them. But they did do the things, and I feel so loved and taken care of because of them.

Today, I’m praying that God helps me live His love and be a light to those around me.

Is it All About​ Me?

I can be a pretty nice person. I do thoughtful things for others. I help people.

All too often though, I then spend the next couple minutes patting myself on the back, giving myself high-fives and self-centered-ly making it all about me. And when I make it into something about me, I’m no longer being thoughtful or kind to others, no matter how helpful I’m being.

See, it’s not supposed to be about me.

It seems like every day I’m bombarded by the message that I’m supposed to do what’s best for me. I’m supposed to do what need to cope. I’m told that if I don’t put myself first, then I can’t help others. I’m supposed to stay true to myself, no matter what that actually looks like.

And to a certain extent, there’s truth to that message – but in a far different way than how it’s normally taken.

IMG_3805Mostly though, the messages that tell me how important I am as I scroll through Instagram, read articles online, or see a commercial, get it totally wrong. My worth comes from the fact that I’m made in the image of God. I was created by Him and had purpose and meaning before I was even born.

When I serve someone else, I want it to be because they, too, are made in the image of God. That each and every person I come in contact with has a soul that is going to last for all of eternity. I want to serve because we are called to be like Jesus, and He is the best example of being a servant that we could ever have.

My self-worth doesn’t come from serving others. My self-worth doesn’t come from how many people recognize me as being helpful (although I will always appreciate a thank you). My self-worth is far greater than it could ever be if it was based on who I am and what I do. Because you see, my self-worth isn’t actually contingent on self at all. Instead, it’s based on the fact that when God sees me, He sees me washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

Recently I’ve been working at having my actions sprout from love rather than guilt, pride, or condemnation. I want everything I do to spill forth with God’s love because we have the immense privilege (and responsibility) of being God’s hands and feet in the world.

Dirty Dishes in my Fridge

Currently, my fridge is full of dirty dishes.

I bet you didn’t expect that opening sentence. To be fair, I never expected to write a sentence like that, so I guess we’re on equal ground here.

The last forty minutes were a scramble as I piled semi-dirty clothes into my laundry hamper, gathered empty water jugs, took out my trash, packed an overnight bag, and put Christmas presents into a gift bag. This is a refrain that plays itself out every few weeks when I have the opportunity to go back home to Ohio.

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I’m going to be gone for four nights, so I also grabbed the already-made-food I had in my fridge and added that to the loads I carried out to the car. There were only a few dishes – two small pans (which I sometimes keep food in), a lid, a spoon, and two storage containers, and a bowl. Of course, I don’t want those things cluttering up my sink while I’m gone, but living in a camper has made me think outside the box.

Washing dishes is no longer a second-nature, automatic part of living. I have no running water. I can’t let the water I haul in go down the drain. And the water I do have access to is freezing cold since it sits by my door in all types of weather.

Therefore, washing dishes is somewhat of a process as I get water from the five-gallon buckets that my neighbors kindly fill up, heat it up in my electric kettle, then add cold water and soap to my little tub sink. Because of that, I let my dishes pile up (aka wait until there are about fifteen items, which is a couple days worth of dishes), before I wash them.

This morning I had enough other things I wanted to accomplish before I went to work that I went with the little hack of simply keeping the dishes in the fridge instead of taking the time to clean them. (Yes, you may judge me if you want.)

The reality is though that I do have clean water available to me. I could have taken the time to heat my water up and wash my dishes. If I really wanted, I could even move out of my camper during the winter because it is more work living here during the cold months.

And that makes me stop and think of the people who don’t have options. To those who live in refugee camps around the world. To the homeless here in my own country. To people who live in villages without wells.

Sure, I might run out of freshwater and have to carry a jug to work with me to fill it up or run to the store to buy a gallon, but I have a never-ending supply of water, even though it might be inconvenient to tap into it at times. There are people all over the world without this blessing. Who walk for eight hours a day simply to get enough water to survive – and that’s not an exaggeration. A few years back I went to a village in Ghana, West Africa where that was the case.

Today I’m challenging you not only to be thankful for the blessings you have – like clean water – but to also do something for someone who doesn’t have those blessings. There are so many easy, but incredibly helpful ways you can help, like praying, donating money, and being a voice.

You, my friend, can make a difference.

Check out World Vision if you want a practical way to get started with helping. Seriously, even five or ten dollars can make an impact in someone’s life.

These Lies

As it turns out, I’m super good at convincing myself of things.

Things that I would never outright say, or even acknowledge to myself, but when I stop and look at how I live, I see how these non-truths have influenced my life and helped shape me into who I am.

These things I’m talking about could also be called lies.

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Lies such as…

  • When I work hard I deserve glory and praise. Meanwhile, God’s Word says And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, ‘We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.’ (Luke 17:10)
  • That if I serve God, my life will have a minimal amount of pain. Meanwhile, God’s Word says, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
  • That I’m only human, so the sin I let creep into my life is expected. Meanwhile, God’s Word says No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)
  • As long as something isn’t outright sin, I’m justified in doing it. Meanwhile, God’s Word says Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
  • If I’m doing better than So-and-So I’m doing well. Meanwhile, God’s Word says For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 

There are truths in each of these lies.

For instance, it is nice when someone commends me for a good job, but that can’t be my driving force. And I’m not above the ability to sin, so I do need to keep a close watch on my life so when I do sin, I can repent right away and be forgiven. And yes, I might have a closer walk with God than someone else. But these partial-truths can be dangerous because they can make me justify my actions and thoughts instead of searching God’s Word for the full truth.

Would I lie to you?

Of course not, I’m an honest person. But am I really an honest person if I lie to myself on a continual basis? Today, I’m working at refuting the lies I’ve allowed into my life with the truth from God’s Word.

The External Act & Internal Reality

Recently I’ve been realizing over and over again how much patience and love God has with me, and how little internal patience and love I have with others.

Sure, I might act patient and loving with someone, but on the inside, I’ve become quite adept at giving a running commentary that doesn’t match the facial expressions I’m showing the world. And that’s not okay. In fact, I’m realizing more and more how a wrong attitude isn’t just not okay or something I need to work on – it’s actually sin that I need to repent of.

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Each morning before I jump into the activities of the day I’ve made it a habit to sit down with a warm drink (English Breakfast tea or black coffee) and spend time with God. This is something my parents instilled in me long ago, and I’ve found that it makes an incredible difference to how the rest of my day goes.

Every morning looks slightly different but generally starts with listening to the Bible as I get ready for the day, brew coffee, etc… Then I curl up with a cozy blanket and dig into God’s word, maybe work through a Bible study book, take some time to read a nonfiction book, and scribble out my thoughts, desires, and mistakes in a prayer journal.

This is when I take the time to search myself and reflect on what I do and don’t do, and how that lines up with who God has called me to be. For weeks I’ve been asking God to give me a servant’s heart at work, helping me to be a blessing. And for a while, I felt like I was doing pretty good with the task.

Until.

Until God showed me that while I often do the right thing, it’s not always with the right heart attitude. I mean, sure it is some of the time. I do genuinely care for those around me and want to serve them.

But at the same time…
I often have a prideful attitude as I work.
I often justify my thoughts and excuse them, instead of repenting of them.
I often amuse myself with internal monologues instead of having compassion.

And, although doing the right thing certainly is a helpful step toward becoming who God wants me to be, God sees my heart. He knows why I’m doing what I’m doing, and He isn’t impressed when I do things for my own glory, instead of His.

So, recently my prayer has changed.

Nowadays I pray that God will help me love Him more. That instead of seeking my own glory, I’ll seek His glory. That instead of comparing myself to others, I’ll only compare myself to His standard of holiness and love.

Because you know what? It’s a lot harder to for me to be prideful and feel like I’m amazing and have altogether when I’m looking to Him as an example instead of other fallen humans. Having Him as my standard reminds me that it is literally impossible for me to please Him on my own. It’s only through Jesus that I can come before Him in righteousness.

And in reality, that’s pretty amazing.

A Change In Perspective

It’s amazing to me how a dozen people can look at the same picture, place, opportunity, or problem, and each person can see something different.

With my teammates, it’s no secret that I’m not a detail-oriented person – my most infamous case of this was when I was out checking the playground for ice in December. I was waiting for my boss to come out to give me some pointers to make sure I would be able to successfully complete the task in the future. While waiting for him I did everything I could think of to check the equipment – I walked around the entire playground three times and everything looked good and clear to me.

Then my boss came out and instantly went over to the stairs leading up to the playground tower/slides and began clearing the snow off them. I stood there feeling very confused and informed him that I had just walked around the stairs three times and literally never saw them. (Not the ice. The stairs. I somehow never saw the stairs.)

I’m still not sure how that happened. I had checked the slides to make sure they weren’t too wet. I’d run through the little bits of snow and slush on the ground to see if it was slippery. I’d picked up a handful of trash. And yet, somehow, I’d completely and entirely missed the staircase, which logically should have been one of the first things I’d seen.

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With repeated stories like this over the years, it’s easy for me to come to the conclusion that I’m not an observant person. And yet, that’s not the case. I observe things that I later discover no one else saw or heard. But, at the same time, I often miss the thing that everyone else saw.

The concept of people seeing different things from each other is very intriguing to me. It reminds me to try and put myself in other people’s shoes so I don’t unintentionally hurt them. It reminds me to seek counsel from others before making big decisions. It helps me decide to speak up at times when I might have a helpful perspective to share. And, it makes me want to see the world through their eyes, too. After all, if I never learn to expand my perspective, then I’m going to miss out on a lot of what there is in life.

While hiking this week, I was incredibly intrigued by one of the friends I was hiking with. She has a degree in biology and a passion for moss. Throughout the day I snapped a lot of pictures from the top of cliffs, the bottom of ravines, and the big-picture beauty surrounding us. Meanwhile, my friend would be down on her knees, leaned close to the earth, capturing things so small that I probably would have never noticed the objects of her interest without her there to point them out.

I’ve never been so thoroughly educated about moss, lichens, and spiders before. It was not only intriguing, but it also made me realize (once again) that there’s a whole, huge, gigantic world out there full of information I haven’t even begun to tap into.

And, it reminded me of how different we, as humans, are. The Bible talks about how we – as God’s children – are the Body of Christ, and we each have a different function. It’s so easy for us to either get caught up with how important or unimportant our place in the body feels. Yet, in reality, God didn’t create anyone with a worthless set of skills. He also didn’t over-populate the world with a certain set of skills, rending your skill ineffective.

Each and every one of us has been gifted a life that God has a plan and purpose for. You and I fit equally into God’s plan, no matter the level of your IQ, skill set, or personality. Now, that isn’t to say that everyone uses thier skills, talents, and gifts in the way that God intended us to, but it means we can. That there is no excuse. And that, my friends, is pretty exciting.

So, next time I think that I – or someone I come in contact with – doesn’t have a lot to add to the Body of Christ, I’m going to change my perspective from an earthly one to a heavenly one. Because, obviously, I miss things.

The Next Phase

Life is a little less crazy at work during the first few months of the year – that means I’m only working a normal 40 hours a week, and with consistent timings. I also feel like I’ve finally completely settled into life – both in my little home and with my position on SET.

It takes me a while to get into the rhythm of life, and I’m very much a routine person, so when my routine is being shaken up on a daily basis, it’s hard for me to keep up with all aspects of life.

Last summer I moved (as you know), and living on my own took me a couple of months to get used to. Plus, my job was new, and that took even more getting used to. Then I settled in, and I was good. Then I changed positions at work (as you know) and once again I was thrown into a tailspin of trying to get my footing in a new way of life.

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When I was confident in my role as a SET member, Christmas Town was looming ahead of us, and the hours of operation at the Museum changed, as did the tasks of all the SET members. So, once again I had to learn a new set of activities to participate in, plus having my hours all over the map which was exceedingly fun, but rather disruptive to my precious routine.

And then January arrived, and I have that elusive and alluring consistency back within my sights. During the last week and a half, I got caught up on things that I’ve literally been wanting to do since I joined SET on September 30th. It feels so good to be able to sit down and cross things off my mental to-do list and feel the freedom of knowing I’m catching up with life.

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I know it takes me longer than average to settle into a new workplace, lifestyle, or routine, and I’ve been working at not balking at that, but rather going at a steady pace. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone is something I do on a daily basis, not necessarily because what I do is so crazy, but because my comfort zone isn’t exceedingly large to start out with. This is something I’ve pondered a lot – I think it’s partly because of my personality, and partly because I spent so many years with health issues so that daily living was outside my comfort zone.

Each morning I wake up feeling grateful and thanking God for my life. I’m so thankful I can work. I can live. I can breathe, stand, and move without the crushing weight of exhaustion and pain dogging my every moment.

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Now that I’m finally feeling settled in with living on my own, work, and my no-longer-new position at work, I’m turning my focus towards the next big thing: Mainly, finding a life outside of work.

The common refrain among my boss and teammates is that I really need to get a life and stop offering to work so much overtime and hanging out at work off the clock. So I’m trying.

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Last week one of my coworkers posted on Facebook, asking if anyone wanted to go on a hike – I was free the day they were talking about for the excursion, so I commented that I’d like to join them. It sounded like fun, and although it was totally outside my comfort zone to join an adventure when I really wasn’t sure what it would be like, I was determined to just go with the flow and not second guess my decision.

And do you know what? It was tons of fun. We went to Red River Gorge – two hours away from where I live – and the carpooling time was as much fun as the hike itself. We had delightful, stimulating conversations, shared healthy snacks, tired our legs out hiking up and down and the hills, and sat enjoying fantastic views.

This new phase of life – the phase when I bust my comfort zone walls into bitty little pieces doing “unnecessary” things – has arrived. And, although it’s not always easy, it is rewarding, and I’m thankful for the people in my life who make it exceedingly fun.