This Place Called Peace

Denying reality is something I’ve been told I’m good (or is it bad?) at doing. I can get into my own little world and steadfastly convince myself that’s all there is.

This is probably a trait I picked up over the years of having thyroid and adrenal problems – when hearing about stressful/sad things could literally send me to bed for days. And while it can be a helpful coping mechanism, it isn’t always. And sometimes things happen that simply splash reality in my face like a bucket of iced tea.

But guess, what? Even during those times, God is good.

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Our reality doesn’t change the goodness and love of God. Isn’t that a beautiful thought to dwell on?

Sometimes it feels like the world is blowing up.
Or slowly spinning to a standstill.
Or going completely crazy.
Or being flippant.

Or throwing so many different emotions and feelings into the mix that it then spits out and covers everything so that it’s hard to know what to think, or even where to go to think, or if thinking is even an option when reacting is right there, begging to be a viable means of coping.

I’m not upset.
I’m not scared.
I’m not worried. 

But I do see the seriousness of what’s going on around me.
I am concerned.
I am saddened.
And I am praying for those who this is deeply affecting.
Lives are being changed for forever, all around the world. There are people who can’t protect themselves. There are countries full of villages that don’t have the means to take the measures that people in developing countries gripe about. There are people whose livelihoods are being threatened, and others whose very lives are going to be snatched.

On Sunday, while visiting my family back in Ohio, I found out that where I work is being closed for the next couple of weeks. While that wasn’t completely unexpected, it did rock my world. Suddenly my well-planned life was shot into unexplored territory and it hit hard.

It took a couple of hours for me to get past my selfish tendencies and focus on the bigger picture.

The picture that includes an abundant amount of God’s love and peace. The picture that reminds me that God is good, no matter what I’m feeling or experiencing. The picture that excites me because God is God and cares about the humans He’s created.

Nearly every morning for the last few weeks I’ve been reading Psalm twenty-seven. It’s beautiful. It’s peace-filled. And it reminds me of what’s really important in life.

One of the verses says When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” And that’s what I’m doing today. And what I’ll be doing tomorrow. And the next day. Because the denying of reality doesn’t solve anything, but dwelling on the truth of a never-changing God does.

Today I choose to rejoice.
And to pray for those whose lives are falling apart.
And to remember that although things are completely out of my control, nothing is ever out of God’s control.

Today is the day the Lord has made, and I’m thankful to be living it.

Having Everything Under Control (A Day in My Life at Work)

Sometimes I pat myself on the back – pretty thrilled that I have everything so under control. Take yesterday, for instance.

I woke up at 6:00 knowing I had a project to work on before leaving for my job. The morning started off well, I’d checked my work app several times and knew I had to be there at 8:30, which meant I should leave around 8:15. I had a good quiet time, ate my supper leftovers for breakfast, and was powering my way through the project when I heard my neighbor’s car starting.

My neighbor and I work at the same place, so I was like “Oh, I’d better check the time again to make sure I leave early enough.” The phone read 8:10 and that’s when it hit me – my boss had asked if I could come in at 8:00 to help with an extra project. Oh well.

About an hour later while attending a meeting I glanced around, looking for one of my coworkers that was pretty vital to have around in order for me to finish the project I’d been working on. She was a no-show. I sent off a quick text and she replied that she was sick at home. Thus prompted me to scurry around trying to get my work done while also talking to seven people in different locations to see if we could complete the project later in the week. They all agreed so I moved on with the day.

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Later I was working my way through some paperwork for the uniform department at work (which I’m in charge of) when I noticed the spreadsheet I’m supposed to keep updated for our HR office was missing a pretty important piece of information from back in January. I headed to the HR office to apologize and see if they could help me figure out what I’d done wrong.

That prompted a treasure hunt where I scoured six weeks’ worth of electronic and physical paperwork, looked through our uniform inventory, and talked to my manager. After a lot of piecing things together, praying that I’d find the correct information, and a helpful email, we finally figured out what happened, but the answer meant I had to call my contact where we get our uniforms to talk about the issue with him.

My day continued on until I got a notification that a uniform-related meeting was scheduled for the 11th of March. I’d already requested – and received – that time off from my manger. But back when I asked for the time off so I could visit my family back home for a special occasion, I hadn’t thought through everything. See, I work mainly as part of SET (Service Excellence Team), but I also work for another department, which is totally unrelated to being a SET member. Over the winter there’s not a ton of time-sensitive work that needs to be done with the second department, so it never even entered my mind to ask that manager if I could have the time off.

When I finally did think to tell my second manager I’d be gone for several days (she doesn’t control my schedule at all), I assured her that I’d make sure everything got done correctly while I was gone. She was fine with that, but as time progressed I realized there was a lot more to be done while I was gone than I had thought. Thus, when I got the above-mentioned notification I wasn’t sure what to do.

I went to Mandy (who I’d received the notification from) and we brainstormed for a few minutes. She was already doing extra work to cover for me being gone, so I ended up offering to come back to work early so I could cover the meeting since she couldn’t. Mandy assured me that I shouldn’t do that and then hit on the idea ask Mark (who’s the only person besides me and my manager who knows how to do what needed to be done) if he could help out. The big issue is he’s in a completely different department and so we weren’t sure if he’d be able to – or if he was even working that day.

I hurried off to talk with Mark, who was scheduled for the 11th and was more than happy to take my place at the meeting if his manager could spare him. So I went to talk with his manager. After explaining the situation to her she looked at her department’s plans for the 11th and agreed she could free him up so he could take my place. Since everything was all worked out, I went and talked to my manager to make sure she was okay with the changes. She was, which meant I then had to go talk to Mandy and then Mark and let them know everything was a go.

So, as you can see, I’ve become a total pro at having everything under control.

And, while that’s obviously me joking, the truth of the matter is that yesterday wasn’t stressful. There were a few moments when I felt a niggling of stress and really wasn’t sure what to do in order to find an important piece of information, but then I was able to breathe deeply and go through the process logically.

I’ve been blessed to work with incredible people who give me the freedom to learn from my mistakes, and although they hold me accountable, I never feel shamed or put down by them.

This last year I’ve been really working on seeking to still my soul through remembering God’s goodness and praising Him instead of letting circumstances determine how I feel. And, although I still have a long way to go I can see I’ve come a long way and I’m very thankful for that.

Now, I’m off to work again where I can hopefully complete the aforementioned project.

(And I literally just received a text from that vital co-worker letting me know she wasn’t sure if she’ll be in today or not, so I guess we’ll see how the day goes…) 😉

The Expedition of Learning Change

During my early morning ponderings, I’ve come to a rather enlightening (and quite obvious) conclusion: Life is exceedingly full of change and transitions and therefore I must find a way to deal with them faster.

The last year and a half I’ve been working at learning how to embrace change instead of fighting it – to learn how to not just accept change, but eventually get excited about it. It’s not easy, and I fail quite often, but at least I’m on the right track and when I catch myself beginning to get uptight about change I remind myself to relax and go with the flow.

I spend my time leading up to a transition asking a lot of questions, feeling out the situation, praying about it, and preparing the best I can so that when the change takes place I’m ready to enter a new routine.

Changes have gotten a lot smoother for me as I follow that method. And that’s a good thing because the last two and a half years of my life have been full of non-stop change. Many of my family members have moved during that time, two of my sisters got married, moved out of state and started a completely new life…the list goes on.

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Recently it hit me that January is the only month in the last year when I didn’t feel like I was having change thrown at me from all directions – the only time when I could focus on the moment, on life, and on making sure my life is on track.

So much of my time is spent playing catch up and learning new routines. I get used to one aspect of life only to look up and find that another change is looming ahead of me and I scramble to prepare for more changes.

Y’all, I literally wrote my birthday thank you notes in January – my birthday is at the end of September. This isn’t because I forgot about writing them, no, I thought about them on a regular basis. This is because all my brain power felt like it was being used up on focusing on the day to day, change, and learning new routines.

January was an absolutely amazing month. Work was slower and there were no new changes, so I got caught up on tons of things. I felt like I was thriving. It was delightful and I felt like everything in life was falling into place. Then the second week of February hit me with another load of change and all at once I was in the mire again – focusing and learning more than thriving and doing.

And thus the pondering – the solution hunting – began.

I’m pretty happy with how I’m learning to deal with change. I just need to figure out a way to expedite the process, because at the rate I’m going I’ll nearly alwasy be in Mire-Mode, slogging through change and missing the feeling of freedom that accompanies thriving in the normal.

The other day I suddenly imagined myself as a mom barely getting used to having a baby before I have to get used to toddler mode, and that trend continuing for the rest of my life. Not cool, right?

Nowadays when I think about change, I also think and pray about how I can learn to get used to change faster. How I can process it in a healthy, but quick, way. How I can find routines that are versatile enough to sway with the ebb and flow of change, but solid enough to help my routine-loving soul thrive.

How are some ways that you deal with getting used to change faster?

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.

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.